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BREC Begins Booking More Shows

BSU Student Surveying to Help Determine Prospective Performances

Amy Borgman | Guest Writer | 01/19/2011

The Sanford Center (formerly the BREC) has been completed for several months now, and many college students and residents are anticipating the upcoming concerts it will host.

So far, the event center has hosted multiple men’s hockey games and a few successful performances including one by Larry the Cable Guy. In charge of booking talent is Bob LeBarron, executive director for Venuworks, a national management and consulting firm in charge of contacting promoters and talent to fill the event center’s needs.

LeBarron has worked for talent agencies in Minneapolis, at the University of Massachusetts, San Jose State University and the University of New Hampshire. Now, he is using that experience to provide an entertainment outlet for Bemidji residents.

As future talents are beginning to take shape, Bemidji State students have been questioning the variety of events available at the center. Will they all be country? Will they all be family-oriented, like the upcoming Sesame Street On Ice?

LeBarron said he plans to craft a survey for students to participate in either on Facebook or on-campus that would indicate what type of music college students are interested in and how much they would be willing to pay for a ticket. LeBarron would even attach an incentive to taking the surveys, like the chance to win free tickets to a show or a hockey game. His goal is to host acts at the event center that everyone can enjoy seeing at some point.

Right now, the main focus is still men’s hockey, but before the one-year anniversary mark, LeBarron hopes that everyone has had an opportunity to see a performance that appeals to them.

“Excluding the hockey games, [Venuworks] work with outside promoters to bring in events,” said LeBarron. “We’re not talent buyers – we don’t buy shows. We utilize promoters to help mitigate the risk of booking certain shows. The building is almost like a rental.”

Lebarron’s job entails working with local and national promoters that may be interested in doing performances at the event center. The shows need to fit the approximate size of audience they’re expecting, and fit the approximate price range that is comfortable for the people of the area.

For example, Blake Shelton, a modern country music singer, is performing at the event center on January 29, and is paying a much smaller fee to rent the building than he would for a larger venue, such as New York.

LeBarron has worked in the entertainment business for 15 years and has connections with independent promoting companies like Police Productions, Outback Concerts and Rose Productions. The small size and population in Bemidji is not enough to attract shows from larger national promoters like Live Nation and AEG, which host concerts for artists like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber.

Also, due to Venuworks research, country is a seemingly well-received genre of music in Bemidji, which makes it wise for LeBarron to book independent upcoming country musicians like Shelton.

Since Venuworks is still very new to Bemidji, it is still trying to find that main demographic, and college students are definitely in the running.

“I’ve worked on college campuses before, and whether it’s the University of Massachusetts or Bemidji State,” LeBarron said, “it’s difficult because, generally, college students have very eclectic music tastes, so it’s hard to reach everyone in mass for a concert.”

His experience on colleges and working with campus organizations is advantageous for reaching the students at Bemidji State and understanding their desires.

Venuworks has, however, began to dabble in certain online media like Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to show college students what’s available. Until they receive some more feedback and plant their feet in Bemidji-related social media outlets, the shows will continue to be promoted with posters around town and word-of-mouth.

Price is also a major factor in the process of acquiring certain talent. The large price of construction for the event center was a major deterrent for some residents. The entire South Shore development cost around $85 million and the arena itself cost around $45 million.

Residents are left wondering, will the profit from events ever pay back the tremendous amount of money it cost to build the facility? LeBarron’s guess is yes. Two to four years down the line he assumes the profits will surpass the initial construction cost and begin to bring profit into the community.

LeBarron is hopeful that he and Venuworks will book some exciting, new talent for Bemidji.

“Bemidji is an untapped market, unlike Minneapolis, so it’s going to take some chances for new musicians to want to perform here,” said LeBarron.

He also understands that college students make a large part of the population in Bemidji and that they are getting income and willing to go out and spend their income. Venuworks pledges to do its best to book acts that will entertain college students and local Bemidji residents alike.