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Ryan Stadther, John Okeefe and Adam Carpenter of United Rentals in Fargo erect a tent behind the field stage Tuesday afternoon in preparation of the 10,000 Lakes Festival at the Soo Pass Ranch.

Booking the perfect bands at 10KLF starts now

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It starts now: even before the 2009 festival season begins, organizers are looking for bands to book for next year.

"We start as early as we can," said Randy Levy, an executive at Rose Presents, a partner company and booking agency for 10,000 Lakes Festival and WE-Fest.

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It can take months to nail down headliners for these big music events, between scheduling and compensation negotiations -- "It's not like going to Macy's and looking at the price tag," Levy said.

Country books further in advance than contemporary rock, though, he said, so they've already got Kenny Chesney lined up for WE Fest next year, but are still in the preliminary process when it comes to next years' 10KLF.

They'll hope to have the major acts for next year squared away by October or November.

It starts with a list of ideas, mainly compiled by him and business partner Gene Hollister, which gets whittled down.

On that list for a few years that hasn't worked include the likes of Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys, Santana, Radiohead and the Dave Matthews Band -- but that last one, of course, was able to come this year after a few go-rounds of asking.

Levy said it's a process of simply calling up the bands' agents and inquiring about plans for the next summer.

"Like, if we ask Kings of Leon and they say they're going to be in Europe during that time, well that knocks them out," he said. "But nine out of 10 bands that we ask want to come and play the show, because it's known to be a good one."

Then it all becomes about price negotiations.

"They'll say, 'Well, we only want to do about five or six festivals, and there are only so many Saturday nights,'" he explained. "We know what our budget is, so we'll put out a number, and they might turn around and say, 'Yeah make us that offer.' Wilco is a good example. They were only going to do two or three shows this summer. We talked money, and we made an offer."

Levy wouldn't put any specifics on how much they pay to get bands like Widespread Panic and Dave Matthews Band to come up to northern Minnesota, only that "they're doing it for a living."

"The spirit of it is that it has to be an attractive enough offer that they can say, 'We'll take the time and it's worth it to come up there,'" he said.

The amount of money they can offer a certain caliber of band, though, he said, is all relative on how many tickets they think they can sell.

"If we buy these certain bands, we think we'll get about this many people," Levy said, hypothetically. "If we do, that's good, if we don't, we fail."

It's all about combining the right bands for the right experience, too, he said.

"If it's reuniting the Beatles or getting the Rolling Stones, they sell a lot of tickets, but it's also about picking bands that we think that curate well and work well with other bands," he said. "All these bands combine to make a heck of a show. It's not like we're going to throw Britney Spears in there."

This year, for example, there are numerous Minnesota-based bands that will be playing at 10KLF, including Trampled By Turtles, Atmosphere, the Honeydogs, Cloud Cult and others.

"That was very deliberate," Levy said. "There are a lot of good bands with many fans around here so we went out to do that. We like the local bands."

After clearing the dates and concert compensation, the nitty-gritty details in the contract get nailed down: things like how long they'll play, any equipment they need on stage, and transportation.

"Sometimes they'll say, 'The only way we can get there is to fly in.' We don't pay airfare. They'll ask, though, and sometimes we'll account for that in payment," Levy said.

Most of the time, he said, they'll take care of any stage needs so the band members just have to show up with their favorite guitar or a "tricky keyboard."

One other stipulation in contracts, especially for major acts like Dave Matthews Band, is that they agree not to play any concerts nearby for a certain time period.

"We say, 'Hey, stay out of Western Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa,'" Levy said. "We draw a crowd from 38 to 40 states, but the biggest number comes from this area, so we want to keep that spirit. If he was playing a concert in Minneapolis a few days ago, we wouldn't get as many people up here."

Levy said they'll take any suggestions for next year, and he's got a few ideas in mind, although he didn't say whom.

"We'll just go down the list, and we'll see what pans out," he said.

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