Across every genre of music, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, just outside of Morrison, CO, is hallowed ground in music. The list of performers who have etched their names on its rock wall roster is a trek through culture as much as through music, and most of their performances become available on DVD and are movie releases for posterity.

The property marks the pinnacle for any artist, and everyone from Eric Church to U2 and Mumford & Sons has shared memorable nights with fans under the marvelous natural acoustics. It takes more than just artistry, name, and a solid following to reserve a place on the Red Rocks performance calendar.

It takes cash, and some artists just can't compete.

Selling out still not enough

Many bands who have maintained strong followings for years still find it a battle to book themselves into Red Rocks. A May 24 feature in Variety describes the struggle of playful rock duo, Ween, and securing a date. Fresh off the fervor of a reunion, a Denver promoter reminded their management that now was the time to start challenging dates “if you want to play Red Rocks next year.” The manager did just as advised, but lost out on all the dates he suggested, because another act paid Red Rocks $15,000 to keep its date and other acts away. Ultimately, Ween was able to secure a date for July 12 this year, which sold out in a day.

The “reserve payment” issue is not the only daunting problem in looking at Red Rocks. Willing artists must book long in advance and work the rest of their touring schedule around their Red Rock performances. For new artists or newly reunited bands like Ween, this can be frightening. In today's music industry, artists make a living from performing on the road.

Discuss this news on Eunomia

Predicting the fate of sales, following, and future far down that road is a gamble. Huge names and acts don't suffer in those ways, but many bands and artists just below the top rung do.

Worth it in the end

Red Rocks denotes its own booking policy as “complicated and evolving,” and there has definitely been a surge in those bookings in recent years.

There were 73 paid acts in 2010, and 155 in 2016. The intimate size of the striking venue of just over 9500 and its scenery straight from the imagination of the central plains are another payoff for musicians.

Singer-songwriter Ryan Adams will play his third Red Rocks gig on June 20, and describes the surreal sensation of seeing all the people and “this monolith and seeing a moon and feeling almost what I imagine it would be like of being inside a painting.” Adams also doesn't forget the most memorable attribute of Red Rocks for any musician, adding, “it sounds f—ing amazing in there!”

Getting a weekend date at Red Rocks can be “very challenging” according to Rocky Mountains present co-president, Dan Strasburg, who has decades of experience in booking the venue.

The executive declares that once they have been there, artists “tend to grab the holds and want to come back.” Fans feel the same way. Practice makes perfect, though, and if Ween got their date, then so can other determined bands who learn the ropes.