News Column

Vicente Fernandez Show Sold Out at Stockton Arena

Oct. 25, 2012

Tony Sauro

Vicente Fernandez

In the concert business, financial details are the rough equivalent of CIA dossiers.

Entertainers, promoters, agents and facility managers almost uniformly decline to comment when it comes to cash and customers.

They're trying to protect competitive bidding, contractual riders, secrecy about financial guarantees and egos.

For Fred C. Godinez III, though, it's more a matter of family pride. Especially when it involves Vicente Fernandez.

The Stockton-born promoter is openly excited that Fernandez's Nov. 17 show at Stockton Arena -- part of "El Rey's" 26-city "farewell" tour -- is sold out.

"We're gonna gross $1 million," Godinez said. "That hasn't been done before for a single (arena) show."

A spokesperson for SMG, which manages the arena, couldn't confirm that: "My formal answer is I won't deny what he's saying."

Receipts from Fernandez's show, being staged by Godinez's Latin Entertainment, will improve the facility's profile, too.

The seven-year-old venue ranks 113th in the world in ticket sales for the first three-quarters of 2012, according to Pollstar, a Fresno-based publication that monitors the concert industry. That ranks the arena 61st in the U.S. with 73,031 tickets sold.

The seven Cirque du Soleil shows (Oct. 17 to 21) should combine with Fernandez's sell-out to elevate the arena's Pollstar ranking.

"We're excited," said Mike Cera, the building's general manager. "It's the first time we broke into the top 200. That's pretty solid. We hope to finish strong."

For Godinez, the Fernandez thing gets personal.

He's carrying on the tradition of his father, Fred Jr., who passed away in 2010. His dad first brought Fernandez -- "El Rey," an icon of traditional Mexican ranchera music -- to Stockton in 1977.

He promoted nine Fernandez shows at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds and two at University of the Pacific's Spanos Center.

Godinez, 43, worked on his first Vicente show in 2005 at San Francisco's Cow Palace. He since has helped promote and stage 67 of them.

He's proudest of the sold-out Stockton series: Mother's Day shows in 2007 (9,300), 2008 (11,600) and 2009 (9,200). The 2012 full house is 11,786.

A Stockton native who graduated from Franklin High School and California State University, Stanislaus, Godinez knows his turf. He's been meticulous about arranging "exclusive" regional dates and promoting them properly.

"I learned very early," he said. "My father had a saying: 'Even if you bring me the Pope, if nobody knows he's coming nobody's gonna go.'

"People think I'm crazy announcing in Chico, but we sold 1,013 tickets in Yuba County."

He sold 700 tickets in Fresno, though Fernandez performs there a day before his Stockton show.

Then there was 2010, when LiveNation "bought" Fernandez's tour, offering a reported guarantee of $150,000 more per show. Godinez and other regional promoters were bypassed.

"It was an interesting experience to be shunned out by such a large company," Godinez said. "A lot of opinions were formed on how major conglomerates operate."

None were very positive. Fernandez's Stockton show -- not on Mother's Day and competing with other Northern California dates -- flopped to 5,500.

Godinez said LiveNation -- a Beverly Hills-based conglomerate that merged with Ticketmaster in 2010 -- jacked up ticket prices to offset the guarantee.

"The whole tour flopped," Godinez said. "They took him to all the places where he'd had tremendous success and raised ticket prices 40 percent.

"We always brought Vicente to California, regardless of where -- the Bay Area, L.A. Fresno, Stockton -- and had a few thousand tickets at $50. LiveNation started at $80."

While "high-end" seats sold by Godinez cost $175 or $185, LiveNation bumped that to $250.

"They tried Las Vegas-style pricing all over country," Godinez said. "It didn't work."

This year, the price range at Stockton Arena is $49 to $175 (before surcharges).

Despite his demonstrated record of success with Fernandez, Godinez wasn't certain Stockton would be included on the 74-year-old legend's final tour. Especially with his son, Vicente Fernandez Jr., opening: "I didn't think there was a chance in hell I'd get Stockton and Fresno" -- two of the tour's least-populous cities -- "but I knew I had a chance.

"It's due to his close ties with the public. Stockton always has treated him well. He wanted to prove that 2010 was a fluke. It wasn't of his doing. It was the ticket prices."

Godinez said it's good for the city's economic base. It'll also help the arena and city's public image.

"What it showcases is the attendance we're bringing in," Cera said of the Pollstar ranking, which doesn't include sports or competitive events. "If we bring people into the venue, we can bring in shows and the people will come."

"For a single show, bringing that much revenue to the city, it's not just ticket sales," Godinez said. "Try to find a hotel room in Stockton that weekend. A lot of people are coming in because it's a Saturday night. That's unheard of. It's always expected to be a Sunday.

"We're happy. Ecstatic. The public's gonna have a great show. Vicente has family in Tracy. He knows his fan base."

For his "farewell" tour, Fernandez also is rewarding the savvy and loyalty of Godinez and independent promoters proud to say their show is a $1 million sell-out. Unofficially, that is.



Source: (c)2012 The Record (Stockton, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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