The crumbling state of the American economy hadn’t really connected with me until recently–squatters are largely immune to changes in the home-mortgage industry, after all–but today, it finally hit home: The New York State Fair has announced that it’ll be cutting back on big-name acts in 2009. This year’s run–headliners included Jonas Brothers, Daughtry, Def Leppard, Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift–was competitive with any shed stuck in the suburbs of a major city. Despite record ticket sales, it turns out the big time rock and roll wasn’t much of a draw for the average fair going consumer.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker and New York State Fair Director Dan O’Hara today announced a new Request for Proposals (RFP) for entertainment at the 2009 New York State Fair. The RFP requests the booking and promoting of entertainment, as done last year. But in an effort to create even greater value for fairgoers, the State Fair is seeking to increase and diversify its free entertainment offered at Chevy Court, while reducing the nights of national entertainment at the Grandstand.
“The New York State Fair has been one of the few fair venues in the nation to offer eleven consecutive nights of national entertainment,” the Commissioner said. “With only ten percent of fairgoers attending these concerts and the state of the national economy, it makes sense to provide more high quality, free acts at Chevy Court, even if it means offering fewer nights of paid entertainment at the Grandstand. This scenario will create greater value for fairgoers and will enable us to better fulfill our mission of providing a fun and affordable family atmosphere.”…
New York State Fair Director Dan O’Hara said, “Since 2007, we have been looking for ways to streamline costs and reduce financial risks associated with the State Fair’s concert series. Escalating concert costs, and the possibilities of inclement weather, low concert attendance and insurance liabilities all threaten the financial well-being of the State Fair enterprise as a whole. This new RFP reprioritizes funds, which lessens the Fair’s financial exposure, but continues to provide top national acts, as well as more and better free entertainment for the nearly one million people that visit the New York State Fair.”
The only organization to submit a proposal under the previous guidelines was Live Nation, who booked last year’s Fair–although their submission didn’t meet the state’s requirements.
Still, how will this affect state fairs like my own Arizona State Fair, which ended its run last week? The level of talent seemed somewhat off this year, with Weezer and Larry the Cable Guy as the top offerings. Even more daunting, what will this say for the country fair circuit? Will fair staples like “Lowriders Oldies Shows” survive the economic crunch? While it remains to be seen if a budget reduction at one temporary venue means much for the concert biz as a whole, the increase in funding for acts playing for free in the Chevy Court means a welcome boon for New York-area tribute acts. Beginnings, a tribute to Chicago, looks like you got yourself another gig!