For Southern California’s county fairs, the music scene has become a battlefield.
Carnival rides and deep-fried goodies lure children and teenagers, but music acts such as Benatar are key to drawing adults with spending money to the county fairs.
This summer, for instance, the Orange County Fair will host Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, the B52s and ZZ Top. The San Diego County Fair will feature Donna Summer, KC and the Sunshine Band, Kenny Loggins and Blue Oyster Cult. The L.A. County Fair won’t reveal its entertainment list until July.
In the last decade or so, county fair operators in Southern California have faced increased competition from tribal casinos and other concert venues that hope to cash in on the continued popularity of ’70s and ’80s classic rock and pop bands.
“The marketplace has changed because there are so many venues,” said Dale Coleman, vice president of sales and marketing for the Fairplex in Pomona, home of the L.A. County Fair…
…As a result of the added competition, county fairs must often pay higher rates to book musical acts or face the risk of losing out to a nearby competitor. According to fair officials, bands that earned as little as $30,000 for a performance in the past can now take in more than $100,000 per show.
But fair officials have less flexibility than other concert venues because the fairs have only three or four weeks of dates to fill in the summer…
…And money isn’t always the deciding factor…”Sometimes it is dictated by the capacity of the venue and sometimes on what serves the career of the musician best,” said Alex Hodges, chief operating officer for Nederlander Concerts, which operates the Greek Theatre, the Grove of Anaheim and the Pantages Theatre, among other venues…
…For fair operators, the payoff comes when a band draws large crowds of fans who come for the concert but stay to spend money on food, drinks and carnival attractions. Last year, Three Dog Night, a band that has not had a pop-chart hit in decades, drew about 7,000 fans at the Orange County Fair.
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