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Sit-downs carve out national niche

Vegas Strip venues a popular choice for tours

Booking agents say that tour stops at casino venues are changing the live-event landscape, especially since Indian casinos arrived on the scene.

“We actually have more people that want to play there than we have nights available,” promoter John Meglan of AEG Concerts West says of booking the Colisseum at Caesars Palace.

The big-name sit-down on the Strip is every promoter’s dream right now, according to Keith Sarkisian, vice president of contemporary music at William Morris Agency.

Sarkisian ushers his biggest touring acts through the city. “Vegas is one of the markets people put down on their tour now,” he says of the new map. He recently booked Nine Inch Nails, Journey, Eminem and Megadeth into venues on the Strip.

The booking agreements in Vegas now mirror deals at noncasino venues around the country. “The old days of the casino just buying talent to lure people into the hotel and pay well beyond what they would ever gross at the box office are nonexistent. A lot of the properties are having to justify what they’re paying the artist based on the gross. It’s a typical four-wall scenario,” Sarkisian says.

About 90% of his clients have played casinos, in Vegas and around the country, he says. “You make comparable money or you can make better money. These casinos are spending a lot of money on marketing.

“Most of my clients, we do a lot of business with (Indian) casinos. They’ve been really good working relationships. I can count on one hand the number of casinos we’ve had problems with.”

These casinos also help round out routes. “The attractive thing is to be able to get into areas like Tunica, (Miss.), where you can play markets where you don’t normally play a show,” Sarkisian says.

“We do a ton,” says Howie Silverman, co-owner and booking agent with Paradise Artists, Ojai, Calif., of casino gigs.

Silverman reps a roster of classic acts that appeal to the casino demographic, such as the Temptations featuring Dennis Edwards, Herman’s Hermits featuring Peter Noone, Foghat, and Chubby Checker and the Wildcats.

These seasoned acts have been touring for a long time, playing fairs and festivals, clubs and corporate events, but the boom in casinos has added a significant number of higher-quality dates to itineraries. The casino stops add up to about 20% of Paradise dates overall, Silverman says.

“It’s not like playing the seafood festival in a tertiary market where you don’t have a roof over the stage and your dressing room is an RV,” he adds.

The smaller casinos, on the whole, are paying more for acts than they might have in the past. But, more importantly, the money is less risky than some other events because the venues are usually run by a corporation that will pay the band no matter what happens.

“It’s not like an independent guy who’s taking money out from under his mattress to do a show,” Silverman says.

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