Big Deals at the San Diego County Fair

Switchfoot commands big bucks from their hometown county fair.
  • Switchfoot commands big bucks from their hometown county fair.

When the San Diego County Fair paid $80,000 to Gym Class Heroes to be a Grandstand headliner in 2007, one talent buyer said the New York hip-hop quartet was paid $45,000 more than they would normally get for a local show.

“The only way a fair can get a big-name band is to make them a ridiculously huge offer,” the talent buyer said. “Fairs way overpay their headliners.”

So, did the fair overpay Matisyahu when it agreed to host him July 3 for $55,000?

Is Switchfoot getting a bro deal when they get paid $50,000 to headline June 15?

And will Creedence Clearwater Revisited (a remnant of Creedence Clearwater Revival that tours with its original drummer and bassist but without its singer/songwriter/guitarist John Fogerty) be given a windfall when they get $45,000 to play June 28?

What major names get paid is not usually disclosed. But because the San Diego County Fair is on state property and is overseen by a board appointed by the governor, its contracts are made public.

One talent buyer associated with local casinos says that the Creedence Clearwater Revisited payday is actually the going rate for that classic-rock act.

North County–based Switchfoot was paid $50,000 when they first played the fair five years ago.

“[Switchfoot] may not be worth that much in other markets,” says the talent buyer, “but they certainly are here. Besides, you have to remember how much extra the fair gets for preferred seats.”

The Switchfoot, CCR, and Matisyahu shows are free with the $13 fair admission. But the fair also sells reserved seats for an extra fee. All three shows have about 200 premium seats in the terrace area available for an extra $20, and there are about 2000 reserved seats in another preferred area for an extra $14.

“Although he just had one hit, Matisyahu is this very unique artist who taps into Jewish, reggae, and hip-hop all at once. He has a big all-ages following.” According to the source, the $55,000 fee is in line with what he got last year when he played Humphrey’s, selling 1450 tickets at $37 and up.

The San Diego County Fair seems to have backed away from Grandstand shows that were paid-admission only, where fair admission did not guarantee a seat.

“Last year, they had Lenny Kravitz at the Grandstand as a separate, free-standing concert, where you had to buy a ticket to even get in,” says the insider. “That show was mysteriously canceled. I heard it was because ticket sales were so slow that they just pulled the plug.”

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