Pioneering Music Agent Frank Barsalona Dies at 74
Frank Barsalona, the legendary music agent who represented a long list of artists that included Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty, and Van Halen — and was widely credited with revolutionizing the rock concert business along the way — has passed away at the age of 74.
Barsalona’s death (first reported at the Steve Hoffman Music Forum) comes after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Billboard reports that representatives for his family have confirmed that Barsalona passed on Thursday (Nov. 22).
As a young booking agent for the GAC agency, Barsalona brought the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Yardbirds to North America for the first time, helping the British Invasion broach North American shores and earning himself enough notoriety to start his own agency in 1964. Dubbed Premier Talent, Barsalona’s company started with a gaudy client list that included the Who, and quickly moved to change rock concerts from an industry afterthought into the billion-dollar business they are today.
Barsalona saw a demand for an experience that wasn’t being met by the quickly assembled package tours of the day, and had the foresight to focus on longer shows in bigger venues. But more importantly — especially from his artists’ point of view — he demanded higher pay and better treatment for musicians, as well as superior sound quality, thus helping usher in the era of the rock tour as a full-on spectacle.
Barsalona’s efforts were widely acknowledged in the industry, to the extent that he was actually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. In his induction speech, E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt lauded Barsalona’s contributions, summing up his life’s work by saying, “You gotta be great live first. And that combination created something that allowed the industry to breathe for a minute. It wasn’t gonna be just about short-term gain anymore.”
Barsalona’s passing creates a void acknowledged by his fellow concert promotion kingpin Barry Fey, who took to Facebook to acknowledge that “the world, and the world of music lost a great man last night … may he rest in the arms of God and may peace come to his wife June and daughter Nicole. Gone, but never forgotten.”