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Booking talent for Vail’s events

Sarah MausolfVail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
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If Vail wanted to, it could do some serious name dropping.It could brag that Kid Rock, Matisyahu and Blues Traveler rocked its stages in recent months. Or it could boast that Ludacris, B.B.King and The Roots plan on dropping by this year.However, Vail is far too modest for that. The town just quietly hooks nationally acclaimed acts year after year, leaving grateful fans to wonder: How does a town with fewer than 5,000 people convince the nations gliteratti to swing by?Securing Vails all-star entertainment line-up is a massive public relations feat for sure and the result of some serious networking on the part of area booking professionals. Heres the scoop on how they do it.

When James Deighan enlisted Kid Rock as the headliner for Aprils Spring Back To Vail concert, he didnt just send out a brain wave he flew to Detroit.He used his connections with Kid Rocks manager to score a backstage pass to Kid Rock concert and finagled a private audience with the performers management.The stars basically aligned, Deighan, a partner with Highline Sports and Entertainment in Vail, explained.For two hours, Deighan delivered his pitch, stressing the breadth of Kid Rocks following in Colorado and detailing why the high-energy concert fit his style.Three weeks later, Kid Rock performed before thousands of screaming fans in Vail.When it comes to booking stars in the valley, area experts say its all about who you know. Professionals here work hard to establish a rapport with agents and other industry players.The music industry is 99.9 percent about connections, said Diane Moudy, owner of Resort Events and Resort Entertainment in Edwards.For instance, Moudy booked reggae artist Matisyahu for this months concert in the valley by reaching out to two friends Matisyahus agent and his tour manager.Likewise, Jill Alfond, co-founder of the Millennium Society, secured Blues Traveler for a charity concert in Vail by dialing a friend in California who once served as the bands manager.Schmoozing greases the wheels for countless performances in Vail and is responsible for the hot acts on tap this year. Ludacris and The Roots are coming here because area professionals spent years cultivating a relationship with their people at nationwide agency Live Nation.We had to cross a lot of different barriers to gain the trust and confidence with these booking agents, and ultimately the artists as well, Deighan said.

Celebrities are able to swaddle themselves in bling for a reason: They demand big bucks for performances.Exactly how much stars charge to play Vail remains a matter of speculation, though. Area bookers declined to dish on how much they spent to lure specific artists here, citing nondisclosure agreements and industry etiquette, but some gave out price ranges. Moudy said star performers have charged anywhere from $10,000 to $350,000. Kris Sabel, executive director of the Vilar Center for the Arts Center at Beaver Creek, said nationally renowned artists typically require anywhere between $15,000 and $80,000.

A star can wind up on a local booking experts radar in a variety of ways. Professionals scout talent by attending festivals, surfing Web sites like Pollstar and building relationships with agents.Youre looking to find out: OK, whos going out on tour? Does that fit? Is it the right act? Does it make sense financially? Sabel of the Vilar Center said.Once local bookers set their sights on a star, its time to contact them. Rarely do the artists themselves partake in scheduling. Wheeling and dealing takes place between Vail booking professionals and artists agents while they hammer out contracts and negotiate compensation.A surprising amount of business goes down over instant messanging programs online.Im on instant messenger with a majority of agents across the country, Moudy said.Often, local public relations gurus dont come face to face with the artist until they arrive in Vail to perform.

Vail might not be a no-brainer stop on a tour, like New York and other highly-populated cities. But it has its perks. World class skiing, fishing and hiking in scenic mountains serve as powerful attractants to performers who spend their lives on a tour bus.But while Vails allure as a vacation destination has drawn stars, their decision to stop in and play usually boils down to logistics. Vails close proximity to I-70 often appeals to bands that are passing through Colorado, experts say.Proximity to 70 is crucial, said Crawford Byers, talent buyer for the Sandbar, a nightclub in Vail, and former talent buyer for 8150. You get more acts than Telluride or Crested Butte because were right on the corridor.Vails proximity to a hub of potential tour stops also adds appeal.I would say Colorado as a whole is a great market because you have all these mountain towns and ski towns and you have Boulder and you have Denver and Fort Collins. Anyone who comes into town can play 10 different markets while in one state, said Peter Blick, talent buyer for Samana Lounge on Bridge Street and formerly State Bridge River Resort in Bond.

Sometimes, Vails sheer ruggedness can turnoff talent agents. They fret blizzards or rockslides on the highway will quash their visits, experts say.Direct flights into Vail are troublingly sparse and some tour planners are skittish about connecting flights. Even arriving by bus can be dicey if snow closes the passes between Vail and Denver. For performers willing to brave the elements, Vail might lack a big enough venue for their taste. The town offers a few outdoor and indoor facilities, including the 8,000-capacity Ford Park, but they are still dwarfed by big city arenas. Two recent closings dealt a blow to the local entertainment scene: A fire destroyed the main building at State Bridge River Resort in Bond and 8150, Vails biggest nightclub, closed in April.For entrepreneurs looking to open new venues, there are challenges, experts say.Theres very limited real estate, Byers said. Whats available is obscenely priced.Despite those challenges, Vail continues to attract some of the brightest stars in the music cosmos.Arts & Entertainment Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


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