Feedback: No Kanye, no show

Rap show promised big names, doesn't deliver

By Ben Salmon / The Bulletin / @frequencyblog

Pages 4 and 5 of GO! Magazine were in a bit of flux this week.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course. But the fact of the matter is that if someone tells you that Kanye West and a host of other nationally touring rappers are coming to Bend for a show at the Domino Room, you have to at least have a plan to cover it, just in case this pie-in-the-sky idea actually falls to Earth.

Even if your better judgment is jumping up and down, waving its hands at you and shouting, “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? THIS IS NOT HAPPENING!”

Here's the short version of the story: On Jan. 17, the local radio station Power 94 claimed on Facebook and Twitter that it would be bringing “the biggest hip hop star in the world” to Bend.

If you set aside the fact that the station could've been engaging in hyperbole for hype's sake, to me, that means Jay-Z or Kanye West.

And if you know even a little bit about the concert-promotion business — and believe me, I only know a little bit — then you assume a Jay-Z or Kanye West show in Central Oregon would happen at Les Schwab Amphitheater or the event center at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center. And you assume we'd know about it a couple months or more in advance. At least.

Right? These are things that make sense.

Naturally, my curiosity was piqued by Power 94's tease, so I sent out a couple emails and began to hear Kanye's name.

More specifically, I heard Kanye's name from a couple people, and enough skepticism from others to feed the Kardashian family for a year.

I started poking around. Power 94's Facebook linked to an event page promoting an “Underground Rap Event” at the Domino Room on Jan. 26 that promised a rap battle among local artists followed by performances by big names like Soulja Boy, YG, Iamsu! and ... yeah ... a super-secret surprise special guest!

Click. Read the comments. Find the organizer of the show battling her own skeptics by dropping Kanye's name.

So I messaged her, and she said he'd be there to judge the battle, alongside another guy who was sponsoring the show. So I wrote him. And he said he and West would be there.

I knew that if this was true, it couldn't be a simple matter of paying Kanye West's presumably ungodly appearance fee. So I asked how this was happening and was told he's close friends with one of the rappers on the bill, a guy named Young Sam.

Friendship and a favor is the only way Kanye West would show up at the Domino Room to judge a rap battle, and even then I'd guess it's a loooongshot.

I emailed West's publicist, didn't hear back, and wrote a post on The Bulletin's music blog, Frequency, detailing what I'd learned. I tried to inject that post with as much skepticism as I could.

That published Monday. On Tuesday, the wheels came off this whole thing.

First, Young Sam posted on Facebook that he would not be in Oregon and didn't know about the show. On Twitter, Iamsu! replied to a tweet heralding the lineup with one word: false.


So, we called West's publicist's office to try to confirm his appearance. A receptionist there was quite certain he would not be in Bend this weekend.

Soulja Boy's publicist said the same thing. So did YG's management company. Power 94 removed any mention of the show from its Facebook and website.

And on Wednesday, organizers told The Bulletin the show was “postponed,” though they blamed the problems on online hackers and negative comments surrounding the event. Ticket purchasers were apparently being reimbursed.

There are details here that are too murky to get into. It's Thursday morning as I write this, and I've decided I don't even want to try to ferret out what happened.

But let's talk for just a minute about one of the oldest adages in the book: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Kanye West appearing at the Domino Room to judge a rap battle falls squarely into this category.

Late this week, I asked Les Schwab Amphitheater manager Marney Smith if even her venue could (a) afford a West show, and (b) accommodate his production needs.

She called back and gave me some estimates based on LSA's experience booking big-name acts. If you want West in your building, you can figure on:

• a simple appearance fee between $400,000 and $750,000. (LSA generally books shows that cost in the range of $25,000 to $200,000.)

• production costs (crew, security, backstage) of $100,000 to $150,000. (LSA generally spends $30,000 per show on production.)

• an agreement to hand over 75 to 95 percent of vendor sales to the artist.

• needing around 70 feet of stage clearance for lighting and other equipment. (LSA has 28 feet of stage clearance.)

LSA also can sell 7,000 to 8,000 tickets to a show. The Domino Room holds around 500.

Granted, Kanye West was not advertised as performing in Bend this weekend, but his alleged appearance, plus performances by hit-making MCs like Soulja Boy and Tyga (the “Rack City” rapper was a late addition to the mythical lineup), clearly put this show so far outside the realm of reality, it's a wonder that this thing even gained steam in the first place.

A side bummer about this whole situation is that it casts aspersions on legitimate concert venues and promoters who already have to work hard to get artists to venture off the interstate and over the Bend, Oregon.

We don't need that.

So folks, when you see or hear something about a show, do a little digging to make sure it's the real deal. Take time to notice the name of the promoter. Have you heard of them? Note the size of the venue and the lead time to the show. Do they make sense for the artist involved?

These are things we haven't had to deal with much of in Bend, if at all. But as someone on Facebook said (I'm paraphrasing): “Bend is big enough for a rap-show scam now!”

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. So be careful out there.

I'm talking to myself, too.