By Brian F. Johnson
There are female artists, female agents, female publicists and female venue owners in the local and national music scene, but for some odd reason there is a complete dearth in female talent buyers — particularly throughout Colorado.
But the Fox Theatre — long heralded as a breeding ground for new talent and a trendsetter in the business — may be changing all of that.
Late this past summer, head talent buyer Eric Pirritt left his long-held seat at the Fox to make a move to Live Nation, and with that move came an internal promotion that has been years in the making. Sarah Finger, who worked alongside Pirritt as the assistant talent buyer at the Fox, was chosen to fill the large shoes left by Pirritt and in doing so it made her one of the only female talent buyers in the state, and definitely the most powerful female talent buyer along the Front Range.
As the assistant talent buyer, Finger was responsible for booking local bands and opening acts, but as she takes over the head talent buyer post, she is now responsible for the Fox’s entire line-up each month and thusly, she’s a major player in helping to shape the Colorado music scene.
Marquee: What was the first concert you ever attended?
Finger: In sixth grade I saw Tom Petty with my dad at Riverbend in Ohio. We went with his business partner and it was me and like three 45-year-old dudes. I loved it. But my first concert without my parents, where I actually went with my friends, was the HORDE fest in Cincinnati in 1995.
Marquee: What was the first album you ever bought?
Finger: The Black Crowes’ Amorica.
Marquee: How did you get into the business?
Finger: Well, I graduated from Ohio University with a degree in journalism and I applied to newspapers out here. I came out here without a job, and was looking at papers like the Rocky Mountain News and the Boulder Weekly and nothing happened. Then I got a job as the office manager for Chuck Morris. I really didn’t know anything about the music business, but I needed a job and he needed an office manager so I figured it’s a paycheck. And then I got in with Don (Strasburg) and Eric Pirritt and it all happened. In an office as big as Chuck’s all I did was answer phones and make copies and do the mail and Fed Ex, so while I was in it, I still had no idea what was going on. Then I came over to the Fox as office manager and when you’re the office manager here you do everything. You do promotions and ticket counts and just all sorts of things that I never learned there.
Marquee: And you’ve had several jobs at the Fox, right?
Finger: Yeah. I was the office manager. Then I was Eric’s assistant — not the assistant talent buyer, but just his assistant. Then Rob Thomas left and John Caprio moved up to the general manager spot and I took over as the assistant G.M. and then I came back as Eric’s assistant and became the assistant talent buyer and now I’m the head talent buyer.
Marquee: So what’s the biggest difference between being the assistant talent buyer and the head talent buyer?
Finger: There is a huge difference, for sure. When Eric was here there was not as much stress or pressure on me because he always had the final word, so if there was something I couldn’t figure out he could step in. And since he had been here for so long he had a really good grip on that.
Marquee: You’ve only had this job for a couple months, but what have some of your successes been?
Finger: In June (even before Eric left) we had two nights of The Faint and that was big. It was June 4 and 5 and school wasn’t in and it was a Monday and Tuesday, so we didn’t even have the weekend draw. They had really only wanted one night and I got them for two, so I was excited. But five days before the show we had only sold like 100 tickets. We were paying them so much that if we didn’t sell out we were going to lose a lot of money, which in the summer is really hard because we don’t have as many shows to make up for it. I thought it was going to be awful. This was supposed to be my big success and we were going to lose thousands and thousands of dollars. But we ended up having huge sales over the weekend and a huge walk-up and both shows sold out.
Marquee: You talk about being nervous to lose money, but as a talent buyer aren’t you playing with house money? You still get a paycheck.
Finger: Yeah, but it effects me a lot. I’m emotionally attached to the Fox, so when we lose money I take it very personally. This place is like a family to me.
Marquee: What’s the biggest asset you have?
Finger: It’s definitely huge to have the Fox name because people want to play here, even if they’re bigger than the Fox. It’s small and intimate and it has this rich history that Don (Strasburg) really created.
Marquee: What’s the biggest challenge?
Finger: The competition. There are so many venues in the Denver/Boulder market, especially for its size, and it’s really heart-breaking when you’re trying for a show and you don’t get it and then the Gothic or someone gets them for two nights.
Marquee: So what are some of the goals you have in this position?
Finger: Well, I hope to keep the legacy going that Eric and Don built, but I’m an indie rock girl and I hope to bring in more of that.
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