Being a talent buyer for a music venue is harder than it looks. In between negotiating with talent managers and ensuring all the concerts are sold out—or at least selling plenty of tickets—talent buyers have to be the eyes and ears of the local music scene. They have to determine what locals will pay to see and attempt to book quality acts for an affordable price.
Baton Rouge is home to well-established music venues like The Varsity, L’Auberge Casino & Hotel’s concert hall and the Raising Cane’s River Center, plus newer small venues like The Basin Music Hall, Mid City Ballroom and Squeaky Pete’s.
So, what’s it like to book concerts in Baton Rouge—and how does it differ for the big venues versus the more intimate spaces? We talked with the owner of local entertainment business Green Frog Music and The Basin Music Hall talent buyer Scott Gaskin and Penn National Gaming and L’Auberge Casino & Hotel talent buyer Chris Lundgren to learn more.
What’s your process like for booking talent?
Gaskin of The Basin Music Hall: We dig deep in research. I look for artists that would be good to see for a wide variety of people. I want to be able to cover all those demographics, from young to old, and not get pigeonholed into one type of music.
Lundgren of L’Auberge Casino & Hotel: A lot of times it’s based off of historical data that we collect. From there, we can determine what’s a good fit for our brand. If the price is right and we think that we can make it a profitable show for the property, then we’ll move forward.
How far in advance do you have to book the shows?
Basin: You don’t just open the doors to a new music hall and book 20 bands of quality. It takes months to set up the right kind of action.
L’Auberge: We have offers pending or shows confirmed through December of next year. We like to be at least six months out.
Who are some of the largest artists you’ve ever booked at your venue?
L’Auberge: Off the top of my head: Harry Connick Jr., Al Green, Tim Allen, Ron White and Huey Lewis and the News.
What concert sold out the fastest?
L’Auberge: Tim Allen sold out in three hours.
What’s one of the biggest challenges with booking artists at Baton Rouge venues?
Basin: It’s hard when you’re trying to bring in new or creative stuff in a town like Baton Rouge that is lacking the initiative to go see something new. In New Orleans or Austin, you’ll get more of that. They’re kind of wandering the streets going, “Hey, I heard of this band. Let’s go check them out,” and they’ll go see the band. There’s a flavor for certain cities that draw people to look and listen to the new stuff. Here it’s like, if it’s not LSU or this particular band, then we’re not going. It’s a bit harder to get people to step out of their comfort zones.
How do you determine what local artists to book?
Basin: Baton Rouge has become more of a safety net. It’s like everybody books kind of the same thing. We try to dig deep and find those local bands that either haven’t played here before or played in the area a long time ago.
What genres do you typically aim to book?
Basin: Jazz, rock, a comedy act, blues, soul and maybe some country acts. The idea is to focus on up-and-coming music artists rather than the bands that play in the cover circuit.
What genres have historically been most successful at your venue?
L’Auberge: Comedy and country are pretty much no brainers.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
Basin: I’m probably one of the few guys doing this in town that loves music. And I love the art of what my team does when they’re behind the desk trying to figure out what band is going to work at which venue. They call it talent buying, but there’s also a talent to the buying.
The Basin Music Hall
Check its Facebook page for information on upcoming events.
L’Auberge Casino & Hotel
Jan. 17: Robert Cray
Jan. 25: Aaron Lewis
This article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.