By Aaron Stiles
The Pan American Center at NMSU is the City of Las Cruces’ biggest event center, and has been the site of hugely popular nationwide concert tours, such as George Strait, Jeff Dunham, and Jason Aldean, who will be performing there tonight at 7:30.
Many members of the community most likely are not familiar with what factors go into booking performers at the Pan Am. So The Round Up/Oncore Magazine spoke with Scott Breckner, director of the Office of Special Events and Facilities Management, to find out.
Breckner has been director for the past eight years. He says the office manages all athletic game-day activities, as well as organizes special events, such as major nationwide concert tours. In the past, these have included Gabriel Iglesias and Rascal Flatts.
“First, we poll students to find out what people are interested in,” says Breckner regarding how Pan Am performers are chosen.
Based on the results, Breckner and his office then consider what sort of tours are interested in markets such as NMSU has.
“Our market is Las Cruces, Juárez, and El Paso,” Breckner says. “For a concert ticket-buyer, our market is somewhere between 1 and 2 million people.”
Which is very small, Breckner says, too small for most major tours.
“We are known as a country market,” Breckner says.
Previous country tours at the Pan Am include Alabama and Brad Paisley.
The Office of Special Events prices tickets based on the market population and the economy. So Pan Am’s ticket prices will be lower than in New York City.
Once the office has an idea of what students are interested and what the market can afford, Breckner and his team will consult magazines such as Pollstar and Billboard to find out what average prices are for major shows like Amy Schumer and Pentatonix.
Then they are able to compare prices in smaller markets similar to ours, in order to set the Pan Am prices. Price is also based on things performers need, from catering, advertising, lighting, and other equipment.
Another option is to travel to tour-origin cities, Breckner says.
“I travel twice a year to Nashville,” he says. “We have the reputation in Nashville of accommodating large country tours, like Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean.”
In Nashville, Breckner will meet with performers’ agents from such talent agencies as Creative Artists Agency, William Morris, Paradigm, and Triad.
“Then we attend Pollstar International to see what other acts are doing or we will occasionally go to Billboard in New York,” Breckner says.
The office then sends NMSU’s prices to these organizations, to share with talent agencies and hopefully arouse interest in performing at Pan Am.
“Country tours are booked one to two years out,” Breckner says, regarding difficulties in arranging shows. “Classic rock, alternative, and some of that stuff is about a year out, but most (shows) these days are booked at about four to six months, though we have gotten some calls about shows in the spring. But it is a matter of what is touring and what’s routing through our market.”
Routing and tour travel are major variables that have to be considered. Concert tours typically have a rule that they will play shows that are within 10-hour travel times from a previous stop. As most concert tours do 40 to 80 cities, the hours on the road quickly add up and take tolls on performers.
Breckner says NMSU is lucky in this regard, as Las Cruces is located about 10 hours from San Diego, and six and a half from Phoenix, Dallas, and San Antonio, all major- tour hotspots.
“We sometimes have agents call and tell us that they have an artist who will just do a three-day weekend coming from another place such as Oklahoma,” Breckner says.
Once a performer is set to perform at Pan Am, the Office of Special Events will often partner with concert promoters, such as Livenation or AEG Live, which helped promote last year’s Brad Paisley concert.
As might be expected, Breckner and his office often face difficulties in arranging shows.
“We have tried to put on shows for students only to find that they had limited availability,” Breckner says. “So the price jumped from $75,000 on a Monday to $150,000 on a Friday.”
Breckner says it’s extremely rare for an artist to cancel a show, which has happened only three times in his eight years as director. These were cancelled because they weren’t making enough money.
But usually, instead of cancelling, the office and the performers’ management will negotiate.
“Instead of giving (the performer) the full guarantee, we can give them a smaller guarantee,” Breckner says. “We went from a $40,000 guarantee (down to) a $15,000 or a $20,000 guarantee.”
Breckner says the office has requested Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, and Garth Brooks for future Pan Am performances.
The office is also interested in featuring local Hispanic/Latino artists in the future, and is currently corresponding with these.