Barry Fey: Cutting a Deal With the Rolling Stones

Wheeling and dealing like a pro, and not forgetting the bologna.

Mick Jagger performs during a concert at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado in October 1981. Credit: John Kelly/Getty Images

Barry Fey, head of the Denver-based Feyline Productions, first presented the Rolling Stones in concert on November 6th, 1969, in Fort Collins, Colorado. Since then, he's sold 476,000 tickets for twenty-one Stones shows. When the band began contemplating a tour late last year, Fey wanted to promote the entire set of dates. He met with Keith Richards last December, then with Mick Jagger a few months later. Eventually, however, the band decided to make Bill Graham tour coordinator and use different promoters in different areas. As a result, Fey presented two shows at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado, on October 3rd and 4th. After those performances, we talked to Fey about what it's like to promote a concert by the Rolling Stones.

What kind of negotiations took place for these shows?
We got into areas we'd never dealt with before, like merchandising. We had to get the band a better break on that. We also had to get them a better break on rent. It was probably the tightest deal ever.

What kind of deal was made for the merchandising?
The hall owns the rights to the concessions and gives the group a percentage of the sales. In negotiating, the bands try to lean on the hall to get a better deal. At McNichols Arena [a major Denver hall], the group usually gets sixty percent and the hall gets forty percent. In this case, the Stones got a better deal – they got more money.

I've heard that the fans are spending a lot of money on concessions.
Supposedly, they've gotten four to six dollars per person for every show on the tour so far.

The Stones don't pull any punches with souvenir bootleggers, either, do they?
They got a Boulder court order prohibiting the sale of unauthorized Stones products, and I hear they've rounded up hundreds of T-shirts. Bootleggers don't like us.

What about backstage? Was there anything special in the catering rider?
They specifically asked for American cheese and bologna. And they wanted coffee and some dry French red wine. Very simple fare.

Were there any security problems?
Nothing unusual for a stage show. Actually, everything ran as smooth as silk. It was like doing a show in a theater.

It seemed so efficient and methodical, it was almost . . .
. . . boring. You're a hundred percent right. It's because we've done them so many times.

No surprises? Nothing left to spontaneity?
Not a thing.

What did the band have to say about the Boulder dates?
When Ronnie Wood came offstage Saturday, he just grabbed me, and I'll never forget what he said: "It was just another simple day in paradise. I don't think any of us will ever do a better outdoor show." The rest of them couldn't stop talking about it. They were thrilled.

It seems that Jagger keeps close track of the business matters.
You bet. When we saw where the stage was going to be placed, we put an additional 3,000 tickets on sale. Before the second show, he asked me if they'd been sold yet. He oversees everything.

There were persistent rumors that the group would play a small club in Denver. Why didn't that happen?
We had tickets printed up for Monday at the Rainbow Music Hall, but the band changed its travel plans and left Sunday night. We would have sold 1,400 tickets starting at 5 p.m. the night of the show, apportioned around the metro area to give everyone a chance.

Who chose the opening acts?
The Stones asked us about George Thorogood, and we said okay, and we chose Heart.

Do you think this will be the last Rolling Stones tour?
Obviously, they'll have an audience for as long as they want. People say, "Look at George Burns – he's in his eighties – and look at Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra." But each of them is only one person. Keeping five people doing a show is something else. This tour was supposed to start at the end of May; that ought to tell you something. With the money they'll make this time, there'll be no financial reason for them to ever go back on the road again.

This story is from the November 12th, 1981 issue of Rolling Stone.