Frank Barsalona, a pioneering music agent whose Premier Talent agency changed the concert business, died early Thursday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, a rep for his family confirmed to Billboard.biz. His passing was first reported in the Steve Hoffman Music Forum.
Barsalona is credited with no less than revolutionizing the rock concert business, which he told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was considered "lower than the rodeo" before he founded Premier Talent.
Barsalona, who was born in 1938, began his career at GAC, a New York-based talent agency where he booked the first U.S. appearances by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds. He launched his own agency in 1964 with the Who, Herman's Hermits and Mitch Ryder and moved the shows to larger venues with full-length shows. Before then, many rock shows were presented as package tours and variety shows with short 15-minute sets.
Premier would go on to represent rock superstars, including as Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk, J. Geils Band, Tom Petty, Van Halen and U2.
One of Barsalona's lasting legacies was to see that musicians' compensation and treatment improved whereby they could earn a good portion of their living through touring and beyond selling records. He is also credited with vastly improving the fan experience upgrading the quality of live rock performances.
Through his agency Barsalona developed a national network of promoters which included the likes of Bill Graham in San Francisco, Ron Delsener in New York and Don Law in Boston.
Barsalona was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Steven Van Zandt in 2005 and in 2002 he won the Silver Clef from the Nordoff-Robbins Foundation. He won Billboard's Legends of Live award in 2007.
In March 2002, Barsalona merged his Premier with the William Morris Agency, and after serving as a WMA consultant, he retired from the business. Premier brought to WMA such acts as Roger Waters, the Who, Keith Richards, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Pretenders, Sinead O'Connor, Pete Townshend, Bob Geldof, Marianne Faithful, Sebastian Bach, Greg Lake, and Suzanne Vega.
In his Rock Hall induction speech, Van Zandt put Barsalona's lasting impact on live music in perspective: "....he had the vision to realize in this new era - it wasn't that radio and records weren't going to matter, because they're always gonna matter, but he said, "You know what? What's most important in this new era is how good a band is live." And that was a radical thought. He said, before the hits - excuse the expression, before the records, before the radio, let's have the band be good live first. And he proved the point over and over with bands like the Who, and Jeff Beck Group, and Led Zeppelin, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, and the Ramones, and the Clash, and the Pretenders, and U2, and Van Halen, and on and on and on and on. 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."
A rep for his family told Billboard.biz they are planning a memorial for January to "celebrate his life and legacy in a very rock 'n' roll way, as he would have wanted."