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There are times that I get a burr in a place that really irritates me, and when I do, I write about it.  I have been booking artists on package shows for many years, and I always try to get what is a fair pricing for who they are and the great careers that they have enjoyed.  Some of these artists no longer have #1 song’s on the music charts, they are not the most recognizable names in the current music industry, and their demands for “big money” have gone by the wayside, but there are those that still think that they can demand top dollar, and if they do not get it, then they will turn an offer down. Lately, several of these artists have let their ego’s run away with the reality of the times we live in.  I understand that our economy is not good, but when an artist is not working dates as they once were, you would think they would adjust their fee’s accordingly.  I have never asked any artist to take a fee that was embarrassing, but I do know for a fact that they worked many years for certain people for embarrassing fees, and they knew they were being taken advantage of, but it was “take it or leave it,” and most of them took it.
I treat all of the artists that I have on our shows with respect, because most of them are good friends, and I respect them for their careers and what they have accomplished in the country music industry, and many of them have etched their names in the history of country music through the years of hardships of helping make country music what it is today.  But when I offer an artist a good fee and he says he needs more, or he says he has raised his fee, and will not negotiate, then that is when that burr begins to really irritate me.  I don’t mind any artist raising his fee when I know it is necessary, but when I know that it is coming out of my pocket, I do not like that, especially when I paid an artist a set amount that they accepted on previous personal appearances, that is when I am not happy.
I was on the road performing for more than 25 years, so I think I know what pleases an artist and his band.  A fair price, good lodging, food when available, their merchandise with no percentages paid to the venue, great production, and those artists who are single artists, providing them with a great back-up band.  I have always done that for each of the artists.  There are some artists that are never happy, because they cannot forget the way it once was back when they were having #1 songs, people catering to their every wish, high-price lodging, etc.  There are some of these artists that have been a pain in my rump for many years, but I still use some of them because they sell tickets for the venue, and their fans are still out there wanting to see them.  Now package shows are the wave of the present and the future, even with the newer artists.  ALL THAT BEING SAID, with my shows, the most they have to work is 20-30 minutes and they are with other artists friends, their fans, a great venue to perform at, and still some of them continue to gripe. 
Those artists who live in another state, well that is their problem, not the buyers, not the venues, or mine.  There is a budget and I have to adhere to it.  There are some artists who are not worth what they ask, but still they keep asking for high dollar, and there is no one at most venue’s who run their business on a budget, who will pay an artist who does not sell tickets on their own anymore, but these artist continue to stick by their ego’s, that will eventually lead them to their local bank to get a loan, because they think they are still worth it in today’s entertainment market.  The only way for some of these artists to work is to not let their past run away with what they think they should get. 
There is a special grouping of veteran’s that I know who never fail to work with me on pricing, and they always give a great performance on all of their appearances.  They know who they are, and those artists that read this article will know who the ones are that I am talking about that irritate me.  Those are the ones who are nice to your face then will stab you in the back when your looking them straight in the eye.  I could give names, but no need to embarrass them.  Many venue’s cannot afford to have them back as single artists because they have lost money on them in previous shows.  Some of these artists who I know well, realize that I will never use them because of their non-compliance with the venue’s show rules, their demands, and their inconsistency on stage.  They either talk too much, play too loud, go over the agreed time on stage, gripe all the time about free food, have the same demanding rider they had 20 years ago, and the list goes on and on, and on.  They are near the end of their careers and they know that it will not be long until retirement slaps them right in the face.
Then there are those artists who never complain.  They always arrive on time, do their job, never gripe about the food or lodging, merchandise percentage, the crowd, or the venue.  I will always try to book Jean Shepard, Jan Howard. Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, Stonewall Jackson, Jack Greene, David Frizzell, Shelly West, Dickey Lee, Freddy Weller, Charlie McCoy, Jett Williams, Lorrie Morgan, Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds, Rhonda Vincent, and there are a few more, but the list has grown shorter.  I know I can depend of these legendary giants when I call them for a potential personal appearance.  I might have missed a few but not intentionally. These are the real true veterans of our business, and my list of these greats is not as large as it once was, but there is a special group of artists who are good for every talent agent that books dates on them.  THEY ARE ALWAYS PREPARED TO DO THEIR JOB, AND IF THERE IS ANY COMPLAINING, THEY MUST DO IT AT HOME, BECAUSE I NEVER HEAR ABOUT IT.  If they have something to say, they tell me to my face.  I wish I could list the names of those I would like to tell to their face that they do not sell tickets, and that they better start thinking about their future, because time is slowly closing in on them.  Someday I would like to write a book about those artists that have been irritating talent agents, promoters, buyers, venues, and no doubt we irritate them also, because we do not walk around with blinders, and we tell them what others are afraid to say to them.
It is great to remember the past and our memories, but we cannot LIVE IN THE PAST.

Marty Martel©

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