September 6-15, 2019 198 days until the fair

Booking an Act is NOT as Easy as Ordering Fast Food

February 1, 2019

Since we have announced four of the concerts for the Grandstand of Stars at the 2019 York Fair, I thought February’s update would be a good time to explain what all goes into the selection and booking of the various artists that we bring to the Fair each year.

Over the last few weeks we have received several questions and comments related to the concerts that we have revealed so far, and I think the easiest way to explain how the process works is to answer some of those actual questions that you have submitted through social media and email.

 

Question:  How do you choose the acts that play the Grandstand Stage each year at the Fair?

Answer:  We start by talking with our Booking Agent to find out what artists might be available during our Fair dates.   A lot depends on the routing of the artist, if they are on a major tour with other artists or if they are even performing during our Fair dates. Just like me and you, they all take vacation time and have lives outside of their work. Once we determine who is available we begin looking at the dollar amount or “guarantee” that each act will require. Once we find out that the routing works and the guarantee money is within our budget we will look at a tour history which provides us information regarding ticket sales and when the last time an artist played our area. When everything lines up, we submit an offer through our Booking Agent. Sometimes we get an answer right away, and sometimes it takes two or three months for everything to get ironed out. There are a lot of moving pieces to getting everything in place.

 

Question:  Why don’t you bring “(insert artist name here”) to the York Fair?

Answer:  There may be several reasons as to why we don’t have your favorite artist. Typically, it starts with the dollar amount “guarantee”. Each artists/act has their own guarantee which can range from five figures to seven figures. We need to produce 6 to 7 concerts per Fair and that means we must work within a budget to do so. With the acts we try to book we try to keep our ticket prices reasonable for our market and our Fair guests. If we were to book the higher priced acts, we would need to sell our tickets starting at $100 to $200 each to just give ourselves a chance to pay for the act with ticket sales. We really try to keep ticket prices in the $25-$60 range for each show although we may occasionally need to go a bit higher in certain circumstances. There may also be other reasons besides the guarantee.  Some artists do not play Fairs; some may have large scale production shows that travel in more than a dozen semi-tractor trailers which we just don’t have the capacity to unload and some artists that we’d like are on a national level tour with their dates already scheduled or have scheduled time off.

Another reason that we sometimes can’t get certain acts is because of market demand/competition. There are multiple venues within 100 miles of us and we all are after the same acts.  Add to that the radius clause that most acts will have in their contracts which require there to be so many miles of separation before and after a concert and it sometimes becomes impossible to fit into a tour schedule.

 

Question:  Why do you have more country concerts at the Fair than any other type of music?  Why aren’t there more rock concerts?

Answer:  We always try to bring a variety of concerts to the Fair or have something for everyone.  But with that said, the demographics at fairs across the United States shows that the majority of people who will come to a concert at the Fair are country music fans. That’s not to say that there aren’t rock concerts or other types of music that don’t sell tickets as well. We look through our records to see what types of bands/artists that we’ve been successful with and what types we have not been successful with as far as ticket sales and attendance.  Next to country music, classic rock is the second most popular concert choice at fairs. However, it seems like there are fewer options every year that are within our budget and once we get past the ten to twelve artists in our price range, we start finding acts that have more segmented fan followings. We are working on a couple of rock concerts right now and trying to get everything finalized so that we can announce them, but as I explained earlier it’s a fairly long process.

 

Question:  Besides country and rock what other types of concerts do you try to find?

Answer:  In 2018 we had great success with both stand up comedy and Christian music so this year we decided to try to build upon that. Going forward, should we continue to do well with those categories we will try to include them in our concert lineup every year. Providing a variety of entertainment options is something that is very important to the Fair and our fair guests. We are also looking into future opportunities to have a Latino concert at the Fair as well since that is a growing population segment of this area of Pennsylvania.

 

As you can see, selecting and booking a concert is not as simple as you might have thought.   I once had a booking agent make the statement to me that “this isn’t like driving up to the fast food restaurant, placing an order, pulling up to window #1 and paying, pulling up to window #2 and getting your signed contract and driving away”. It truly is a complex process with several people at several levels involved.  Oftentimes the offer has to be approved by the artists agency, the artist management and others. Even when these approvals are all given and we have a contract then we work with the artist marketing and publicity people to get a wide array of approvals on advertising, and photos we can use and all of the publicity we can release surrounding the concert.

 

There is no doubt it’s a challenging process but when it all comes together and thousands of fans are in the grandstand enjoying a concert, it’s all worth the effort. Rest assured that I am committed to continuing the tradition of bringing a wide variety of outstanding concert opportunities to the York Fair each year.

 

Until March, may all your days be Fair days!
Bryan Blair
CEO
York Fair/York Expo Center

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