Page 19


petition for good bookings is stiff, a band usually has to develop a word-of-mouth reputation to attract the attention of promoters beyond its home base. This informal process can take a year or more to bear fruit in a city like Austin, Dallas or Houston. But even when a desirable gig is lined up, it may turn out to pay no more than union scale until the act proves it has a following sufficient to warrant a higher percentage of ticket sales. Occasionally, a club operator will come across a band he thinks has significant potential; if he’s smart and adventurous, he may help the group develop a following to the benefit of both club and band. An unusually large number of clubs and ballrooms give Texas musicians access to a wide range of popular music audiences. Though clubs come and go, there always seem to be good gigs for both regional and national bands. Places est dancehall in Texas,” founded in 1878, Longview’s Rio Palm Isle \(opened durin Lubbock, and Austin’s eight-year-old Armadillo World Headquarters come quickly to mind. An act’s share of the gate can vary greatly. If a club seats a small audience but sells mixed drinks, a band may get all of the admission charge, with the club making money from the bar concession; a larger, beer-only hall may incur greater production expenses and depend on ticket sales to recoup part of its overhead costs. As emphasis moves toward live performance and bigger audiences, the more divided becomes the ticket dollar, with talent usually averaging about 60 percent of the ticket gross and the production company about 40 percent. As a band grows in popularity, its the point where its manager can set up a nationwide tour of large-capacity auditoriums \(with seating for 10,000 or going ticket price of, say, $8 breaks down 4 APRIL 14, 1978 90/10 between, respectively, the band and promoter. 4 A hard-working Texas band without a record out may gross from $50,000 to $100,000 a year, or from $200,000 on up if it has a regional following \(the Texas club circuit takes in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Colorado and New All of this notwithstanding, the Texas music audience spends most of its live performance dollar on national touring rock acts. The biggest winner in this crap shoot usually turns out to be the agency that books the big concert gigs. Commanding a 10 to 15 percent share of an act’s gross revenue, the agency in New York or Los Angeles which is the exclusive U.S. representative for top-draw acts like Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart or James Taylor can count its money before a tour begins. The few agents controlling the industry’s major acts are the most powerful individuals in the music business. The three largest national talent booking firms, the William Morris Agency, IFA and CMA, dominate the Hollywood-New York film-television business. They each average billings of $100 million yearly, perhaps 40 percent of which comes from rock music deals. But the Main Man of rock ‘n’ roll is Frank Barsalona, whose Premier Talent Associates books well over $50 million of rock ‘n’ roll entertainment each year with 10 percent of gross sales going straight to Frank. Premier emerged in the mid-’60s after the Beatles invasion convinced Barsalona of rock’s commercial promise. He quickly moved to lock up the big name British acts and has 4. Here’s a peek at one of Waylon Jennings’s recent road trips: March 6, Omaha, 6,775 people, $6.50-7.50 ticket, gross $48,872 / March 11, Johnson City, Tennessee, 5,643 people, $6.50-7.50 ticket, gross $42,301 / March 12, Knoxville, 4,072 people, $6.50-7.50 ticket, gross $28,982. Waylon and the boys climb in those buses and airplanes and do this virtually all the timeat least 12 shows a month. `You need a piranha’ By Steven Fromholz You take your average music business deal. Now there’s a fullblown disaster on the order of an oil well fireout of control from the very start. If someone had called Red Adair the first time Hank Williams sang “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It,” we might have gotten it capped and saved musicians a lot of grief. Every singer/ songwriter needs a piranhaan agent or manager or both. It really doesn’t matter which as long as they can talk fast. Trouble is, they sometimes feed on you piranhas specialize in Rock ‘n’ Roll Lies, which go like this: “Listen, man, we can take it out in the mix.” “I know a place down the road that has a great chicken-fried steak.” “Fromholz, your check is in the mail.” Piranhas are supposed to keep singers/songwriters from dying broke and alone in some home for itinerant pickers. Through business connections and expertise, your piranha finds a record executive who believes you can be commercially exploited. Together, they pick a record producer, send you and the producer into a studio and hope against hope that the two of you emerge with “THE HIT.” For the singer/songwriter, a slot in the Top Ten is a slice of Heavenly Pie, not to mention regular trips to the bank. How many slices and trips largely depend on the quality of your piranha and his or her proficiency in dealing with all the other piranhas encountered on the road to stardom, or even the road to Hutto. Learning to read, write and speak pidgin piranha is also helpful for understanding contracts and letters from piranhas. I have found that the most difficult part of staying in the business is staying in the business. Show Biz takes a heavy toll on those who are timid or rigid and merely want to play the music. I guess that making it in this business is largely a matter of luckyou’re lucky to have talent and timing, and you’re lucky if, by the time you figure out how to use these things, you’re not too jaded, tainted, old, tired and ugly to enjoy them. In b rief In the burgeoning music business, market concentration serves to cut down variety, but Texas remains a bastion of regional roots. Aspiring musicians typically try to make a deal with middlemen and record companies and run the attendant risks. Some Texas-based performers sidestep this process by aiming first for success on the state’s robust club circuit, then rising from it in their own good time. If the rewards of national exposure prove too tempting, the artist who succumbs may end up plying his trade to a tune called by the industry’s ten giant conglomerates, whose managers measure the value of music by its contribution to gross annual profits.