Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives
Jeanne Sager | Democrat

BRUCE WEINSTEIN, LEFT, and Rudi Schlegel, are the men behind the scenes booking the acts that go front and center at Bethel Woods.

The men who
bring the music to
Bethel Woods

By Jeanne Sager
BETHEL — July 1, 2008 — Without them, there is no music. And without music, Bethel Woods is just a stage and a field.
Bruce Weinstein, executive producer, and Rudi Schlegel, senior director of programming, are the men behind the main events – the guys who book the acts at Bethel Woods.
“To a large extent, the guests do determine who performs here,” Weinstein said. “We try to be fairly well diversified.”
If you’ve noticed a trend toward the classic rock genre, you’re right. The center is, after all, built on the history of the Woodstock Festival.
It’s demographic is largely based in the baby boomer generation – and baby boomers love their music.
Keyword here being “their” music.
“We do have a lot of classic rock because a lot of our constituents want that,” Weinstein explained. “But we are also trying to hit the younger generations. We’re trying to find a little something for everyone.”
The rest of the season – stretched from Memorial Day to Labor Day – is interspersed with artists who appeal to the young, to the young at heart, to Generation X and to everyone in between.
This year one of the most-talked about acts on the slate is the Jonas Brothers, the tween dream team that will launch its Burning Up Tour later this week.
The brothers will pull into Bethel in August for one of the venue’s rare mid-week concerts – the day after a Counting Crows, Maroon 5 and Sara Bareilles show that’s expected to draw the older teens and 20- and 30-year-olds in droves.
Although the center tries to stick to Friday, Saturday and Sunday night shows, the chance to bring mega-watt stars and their youthful fans onto the grounds was enough to convince Weinstein and Schlegel to broker the deal.
“It brings new people into the venue,” Weinstein explained. “They’re going to be the future. They’re going to be the ones coming here long after I’m gone!”
Weinstein spent two years wooing the Jonas Brothers, working on information from inside the music business that guaranteed the boys from New Jersey as the act to get.
Two years ago, they were still behind the wings, opening for stars like Miley Cyrus and Avril Lavigne. Now they’re the headliners, and Bethel Woods has got them.
They’ve got Tony Bennett. They’ve got Rascal Flatts. They’ve got the Allman Brothers.
The list is long – the longest yet in the center’s three season history.
Bethel Woods is still considered an infant on the national stage. It’s still building the kind of track record that will draw big names, that will convince agents this is where their stars can make big money attracting big crowds.
Weinstein and Schlegel have to work twice as hard to get the Bethel Woods name out there – because it’s still building its stage presence.
They’re building on the Woodstock name. And they’re building on a facility that lends itself to performing.
A musician and conductor who moved from center stage to back office, Schlegel said Bethel Woods is a place musicians want to play for their own experience.
“This is a 4,000 seat theatre with a lawn,” he said. “Even the lawn is an intimate experience. It’s right up close to you, and artists get that.”
But artists have schedules. And to bring them to Bethel, the schedules have to make sense.
“Between Memorial Day and Labor Day is 115 days,” Schlegel explains. “For acts, you’ve got 60 dates, 70 dates if the act really tours, really works.
“Nationwide, you’ve got 300 venues,” he continued. “It’s like shopping at Zabar’s. You’ve got to keep pushing yourself to the front of the line!”
Now add to the mix the mercurial nature of the music business. Some acts like to tour. Some want to stay at home.
“This year for some reason, a huge number of artists decided to work,” Schlegel said with a laugh. “Next year, they may not!”
And they won’t know until spring. With the exception of classical acts, most artists wait to make their touring decision.
That means Weinstein and Schlegel wait too.
“We get accused of being secretive,” Weinstein said. “It’s not that we’re being secretive. It’s that we don’t know either!”
They’re waiting to see if their lobbying work has paid off. But they’re also waiting to see if marketing research is on the money.
Although the duo calls themselves the “court of last resort” when it comes to booking, they’re quick to point out there’s a huge team working on the project.
Marketing, for one, has to come up with a product to sell. They’re looking at who’s hot and who’s going to sell tickets.
“The number one genre of music that I hear people say is their favorite is country,” Weinstein said.
This year, that translated into a booking for Rascal Flatts – the biggest act of the summer if you’re going by sheer number of semis and buses expected to pull into the Bethel Woods lot in late July.
But big names means big ticket prices.
And that’s something that Bethel Woods has to balance.
“We want to try to get the best of the best,” Schlegel admitted.
But they want workable dates, and workable prices.
“In a business where 85 to 95 percent of that ticket price goes to the artist – and rightly so – it can be difficult,” Schlegel explained.
“You go with a major name player like a Rascal Flatts, and he’s got 18 semis, 13 tour buses,” Weinstein added. “His costs are so high, so he charges a lot of money.”
In the end, Weinstein and Schlegel are trying to put into play the mission of Bethel Woods – to boost the economic vitality of Sullivan County.
They want to attract people who will spend their money at the gas stations, the beds and breakfasts.
“As we brand ourselves, more and more people come,” Weinstein said. “More hotels would help! But we get a lot of people. It’s easier to get here from Manhattan than it is to get to Jones Beach or PNC!”
They want local people to be happy too.
“There are really only two moving parts here,” Schlegel said. “There’s the event and there’s the experience of the event.”
Take a look at the literature, and you’ll notice the word “guest” is used a lot. There’s no reference to ticketholders, buyers or even fans.
People who contribute to the foundation become “friends.”
It speaks to the way Bethel Woods works, where two guys with easy smiles and a matching – albeit quirky – sense of humor sit down to hammer out the details on 50-page contracts with some of the biggest names in music today.
Bethel Woods founder and chief financier Alan Gerry is aware of every move the duo makes, but he’s not hovering over their shoulders.
“It’s not a big corporate conglomerate here,” Schlegel pointed out. “We’re a small family.”
And when you walk onto the grounds of Bethel Woods, you’re the next best thing – you’re their guest..

top of page  |  home  |  archives