Frank Barsalona with Patti Smith
© Bob Gruen

Frank Barsalona

Ahmet Ertegun Award

You can thank Frank Barsalona for that awesome show you went to.

He revolutionized the concertgoing experience. Frank Barsalona elevated rock to an art worthy of resources, earning artists more money, better treatment and better venues.


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Frank Barsalona revolutionized the rock concert business and the very notion of a rock concert itself.

In the mid-Sixties, Barsalona founded Premier Talent—the first booking agency to work exclusively with rock artists. He started out at GAC, a New York-based talent agency. As the company’s youngest agent, he booked the first U.S. appearances by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and others.

Before Barsalona came along, rock was, in his words, “lower than the rodeo” on the entertainment totem pole. After he founded Premier Talent in 1964—starting with a small stable of acts that included the Who, Herman’s Hermits and Mitch Ryder—rock moved into bigger and better venues, and musicians’ compensation and treatment improved considerably. Premier was the first contemporary music agency in the U.S. Barsalona envisioned something bigger for rock music than the shoddy package tours and fifteen-minute sets that were typical of the day. He worked with some of the more farsighted promoters who were coming along, including Bill Graham, to engineer a new kind of rock concert experience.

Premier went on to represent such rock superstars as Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk, J. Geils Band, Tom Petty, Van Halen and U2, as well as continuing to represent the Who. Barsalona brought a principled ethicality to an area of the business that was not theretofore renowned for it. As a result, Premier Talent was able to amass a classy client list that numbered in the hundreds. Barsalona has received the Performance Touring Hall of Fame Award. He is also a founding member and serves on the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Frank Barsalona had a vision: acts and promoters and record companies working in coordination to build careers,” wrote music journalist Dave March in 2002, when Barsalona received the Silver Clef award from the Nordoff-Robbins Foundation, a music-industry charitable organization. As a result, “Rock performers now had an economic base outside of the record companies,” Marsh continued. “They had the time and money and facilities to upgrade the quality of their shows.”

The ultimate beneficiary of Barsalona’s vision was the concertgoer. Rock music thrives in a live setting, and one major reason it’s done that so well over the last forty years is Frank Barsalona. Barsalona died on Thursday, November 22, 2012 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Inductee: Frank Barsalona (born March 31, 1938, died November 22, 2012)

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