Deep Pockets

One promoter trying to book a certain headliner for an upcoming summer date says he probably won’t succeed. He says he is in a bidding war against the Viejas casino and its deep pockets.

“They will pay 25 to 50 percent more for an act because they have casino money.”

The promoter maintains that Viejas enjoys an edge over promoters who are subjected to normal market realities. “It’s not a level playing field. They will lose money on a show just to get people there to spend money on gambling, food, and drinks. Sometimes they double any rational offer.”

So far Viejas has announced some 22 headliners for its 2008 Concerts in the Park series. By booking Seether, Rilo Kiley, and Unwritten Law, Viejas shows it wants to bring modern rock names to its series.

Viejas uses L.A.-based Nederlander Concerts to book artists for its Concerts in the Park venue, which has a 2500 capacity.

Alex Hodges, chief executive officer for Nederlander Concerts, admits that the concert industry has changed drastically since gambling centers outside of Las Vegas entered the picture. “These are real venues with real stages, not just lounges.”

Regarding the other promoter’s contention that Viejas and other casinos pay touring headliners more than what they are worth, he says, “Occasionally a business will step up and make an offer on something they think is important.”

But he also says that what promoters and agents say is not always on the up and up.

“Sometimes competitors speak out of school. They might twist things around a bit.”

He says the music industry is filled with agents and promoters who don’t disclose real figures and real offers because open communication is not a part of the business.

“If we get a call from an agent who says he has an offer for $250,000 when our last offer was $175,000, what are we going to do? Call the competitor and talk to them about it? I don’t think so. That’s the mysterious part of this business.”

Hodges would not give any financial specifics, but he did say that Viejas approves or rejects all talent contracts brought to them by Nederlander.

The other promoter maintains that some headliners, such as Creedence Clearwater Revisited and Styx, are enjoying new careers thanks to the presence of talent-hungry casinos. “These are bands that may not even have been touring in 2008 if it wasn’t for the casinos,” says the promoter. “They might get $25,000 or $50,000 for a casino show, but if it wasn’t for the casinos, they probably wouldn’t have a career now.”

Hodges agrees. “I used to be an agent. I see many of these agents licking their chops nowadays. These last eight years have brought a new-market economy for some of those bands.”

While Viejas’s Concerts in the Park series may be hurt by its location 40 minutes from downtown, Hodges admits that Viejas does have one big ace in the hole as it competes for modern-rock headliners: it is an all-age venue that also serves liquor. “Yes, some managers and agents like all ages.”

Hodges expects Nederlander to book the new Viejas 13,000-seat outdoor concert venue that he expects will be completed next year.

– Ken Leighton

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