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State Fair booking big time acts, but face challenges

Nebraska State Fair outdoor concert (NTV News)

When it comes to livestock, the Nebraska State Fair is major league. But they’re learning there’s a lot of competition for big name concerts.

The fair again plans to book two “A list” acts for opening weekend, and fair leaders say people don't realize how hard that is.

Executive Director Joseph McDermott said, “The process is becoming more and more difficult every year, quite honestly. We actually started booking concerts last June, so we're about 9 months down the road and we're going to be start making announcements here.”

The fair works with Romeo Entertainment.

They told the Fair Board on Thursday that the live music business is dominated by two companies – Live Nation and AEG.

Those two companies also own or manage many venues and festivals, and schedule their artists for the places they control first.

After that, they look at where else to play.

McDermott said, “They have to be on tour, they have to be working. The agents for these acts try to build routes, so they could be on the west coast or east coast during the state fair. They're not going to make a run to the Midwest to Nebraska for one show.”

And it's complicated because the fair's trying to book 7 or 8 concerts in 11 days all around Labor Day.

“Most venues don't have that as a schedule. That also makes it difficult,” McDermott said.

And while the fair makes inroads in the big time concert circuit, fair leaders continue to play to their strengths.

Just a few weeks after the fair ends, they'll host Aksarben -- the nation's largest 4-H stock show.

The fair board's newest member, himself a cattleman, says it's the perfect venue.

Denny Hoffman of Thedford said, “This one was really done right. The great thing about it, it was done with livestock first. Most facilities are built for multipurpose and are not as appropriately fit for livestock but this one is.”

One last note on concerts -- if an artist plays at CenturyLink Center in Omaha or Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, the contract usually says they can't play any other shows within 150 miles, which rules out the fair.

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