The state fair circuit is a punchline of the touring industry, like a transient Branson that moves to wherever the midway is. But why?
The money is fantastic, even for Vanilla Ice, who has been little more than a laughing stock for two decades. At this year's N.C. State Fair, he'll be the second-lowest paid musician, and he'll still take home 50 percent more in one night than a minimum wager in North Carolina after working 40 hours a week for 52 weeks.
For the last two years, Scotty McCreery has been the fair's cash cow, playing sold-out two-night stands in Dorton Arena. This year, there's no Garner Idol, meaning the fair's entertainment budget—and its potential revenue—has returned to its pre-McCreery levels. Here's a look at how the N.C. State Fair is spending its $420,000 entertainment budget (about $200,000 less than during the McCreery reign), and how much the state might earn if every one of each show's 5,100 tickets are sold.
THURSDAY OCT. 16: Vanilla Ice, the rap dude turned real estate agent turned punk rocker turned reality TV star turned guy still trying to revive his career. Guaranteed $22,500, with state eligible to net $3,000 based on sell-out with $5 tickets.
FRIDAY, OCT. 17: Tamela Mann, a multimedia franchise artist who acts, sings and even released her high-charting gospel album through her own label. Guaranteed: $42,500. Possible profit: $8,500 with sell-out of $10 tickets.
SATURDAY, OCT. 18: Clay Walker, the '90s country heartthrob who hasn't faded like some of his peers, scoring radio hits as recently as 2010. Guaranteed: $50,000. Possible profit: $11,200 with sell-out of $12 tickets.
SUNDAY, OCT. 19: Parmalee, North Carolina-based melodramatic country band with a triumphant story and one maudlin mega-hit, "Carolina." Guarantee: $25,000. Possible profit: $26,000 with sell-out of $10 tickets.
MONDAY, OCT. 20: Love and Theft, a crossover country act whose chart power has faded quickly in recent years. Guaranteed: $25,000. Possible profit: $26,000 with sell-out of $10 tickets.
TUESDAY, OCT. 21: James Gregory, a genial Southern comedian whose contract demands he be billed as "The Funniest Man in America," which is funny. Guaranteed: $14,000. Possible profit: $11,500 with sell-out of $5 tickets.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 22: Brandy Clark, a gifted country songwriter for other artists who has, to date, struggled to shape that into a star of her own. Guaranteed: $15,000. Possible profit: $10,500 with sell-out of $5 tickets.
THURSDAY, OCT. 23: McClain and Before You Exit, two groups of three siblings with big pop aspirations. Guaranteed: $40,000. Possible profit: $11,000 with sell-out of $10 tickets.
FRIDAY, OCT. 24: Newsboys, an incredibly popular and resilient Christian rock institution that loses and gains members as if compelled by Christ. Guaranteed: $45,000. Profit: $6,000 already earned for advance sell-out of $10 tickets.
SATURDAY, OCT. 25: Trace Adkins (with Aaron Parker), a mountain of a country singer and actor whose popularity is slipping, despite recent collaborations meant to boost his cred. Guaranteed: $76,000. Possible profit: $10,700 with sell-out of $17 tickets.
SUNDAY, OCT. 26: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, who are still vying for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though Jett did front Nirvana for one song at their induction earlier this year. Guaranteed: $65,000. Possible profit: $11,500 with sell-out of $15 tickets.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Another dime in the jukebox."