Frank Barsalona, a pioneering music agent who is often credited with helping create the modern American rock touring circuit, died last week after losing a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Born in 1938, Barsalona first worked at a New York-based talent agency called GAC where he booked the first US appearances for British rock bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds. He set up his own agency, Premier Talent, in 1964, and began pushing for the acts he represented to play longer sets, rather than short fifteen minute stints alongside a number of other bands as part of a rock n roll package, as was standard at the time. He also worked hard to improve the pay and conditions of rock acts playing live, in an era where most of the money was in the record industry, and in the live entertainment space rock music was not especially respected.
Over the years Premier represented the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Tom Petty, Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen, Marianne Faithful, Sinead O’Connor, Suzanne Vega and U2. Barsalona ultimately merged his company with the William Morris Agency in 2002, staying on as a consultant for a time before retiring from the industry.
Paying tribute to Barsalona via Billboard, U2 manager Paul McGuiness recalled yesterday how the great agent helped his band become such a successful live act, saying: “Over many late nights sitting in his office as he told me his stories, after everyone had gone home, he gave me my education in the business. He taught U2 and myself something that has stood us in good stead ever since – that an artist has two parallel careers: one on record and one live. The fact that record success came later for U2 was compensated for by their much quicker rise to fame as one of the great live attractions.
A rep for the Barsalona family has told Billboard that a memorial show is being planned for January to
“celebrate his life and legacy in a very rock n roll way, as he would have wanted”.