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Rent-A-Band 

You, too, can hire your favorite musicians -- for a song

Have a bar mitzvah coming up you want to go all out for? Perhaps a frat party to end all frat parties, featuring not only copious amounts of Widespread Panic music playing but also the band itself? Or perhaps you're booking one of those big asphalt-fests, and you need to fill out the roster in a hurry. Have we got the destination for you.

It's called www.concertideas.com, and its creators describe themselves as the premier company going for putting people in touch with artists looking to play (specifically) the college touring circuit.

However, the real fun is looking up your favorite (or least favorite) band, and grumbling about how much money they receive.

Using these prices as a guide, one can play a sort of version of fantasy music, not unlike the rotisserie sports leagues that are currently so popular. Give each of your friends $100,000 in imaginary money to spend, and see who can come up with the best lineup. For instance, for the price of one gig by, say, P. Diddy ($100,000), I quickly put together a mini-Lollapalooza of sorts, featuring Sleater-Kinney ($5,000), Queens of the Stone Age ($10,000), Ween ($20,000), Wilco ($15,000), J. Mascis ($10,000), The Beatnuts ($10,000), and Saves The Day ($12,500), with enough leftover for Leftover Salmon ($15,000-$20,000).

Wonder why old farts like Creedence Clearwater Revisited are still pushing their (John Fogerty-absent) dreck on all of us? Why, because people are paying them upwards of $40,000 for a gig. Heck, for that kind of loot, I'd keep on chooglin' until I became Creedence Clearwater Reincarnated. Huey Lewis has evidently received the news that as long as he continues to look the same as he did 15 years ago, there's the prospect of a hundred grand in it for him. Lee Greenwood? He might know he's free, but post-September 11, colleges and venues might beg to differ. You'd be proud to be an American, too, for 20 grand a gig (more like a song, in Greenwood's case).

Most non-Puffy rappers seem to get fewer benjamins than their rock counterparts, unless you're someone like OutKast, who garners a solid $70,000 or so. The Wu-Tang Clan come cheaper in bulk (about $40,000 or so) than sold separately ($10,000 or so each), with the exception of the currently incarcerated 'Ol Dirty Bastard, who might play a show for a carton of cigarettes.

The most rotund of the cash cows seem obvious enough. Radio-friendly alt-rockers 3 Doors Down ($50,000), Counting Crows ($50,000), Matchbox Twenty ($100,000) and Blink-182 ($100,000-$125,000) all do pretty well despite an overall lack of college diplomas. Indeed, they've somehow managed to reverse the normal trend and get the colleges to pay for them to attend for a little while.

Jam bands also pack 'em in, what with the promise of open pot smoking and drinking. The kindest buds for the college circuit include George Clinton ($35,000), who does quiet well with the hippie market, it seems; Oysterhead, the supergroup featuring Trey Anastasio from Phish ($75,000); the aforementioned Widespread Panic ($75,000+); and, of course, collegiate icon Dave Matthews, who charges $50,000+ just for himself on those rare weekends he gets the itch.

One local club owner, who asked not to be identified due to relationships within the booking industry, posits that the prices posted on the site seem about 15 to 20 percent higher than what club owners themselves might expect to pay.

"Colleges, and I don't know if it's because they aren't in the loop, seem to pay a higher price for the same act than another venue might," the person says. "Perhaps they just have more money to spend, or maybe it has something to do with the artists and the view people have of them playing a college gig as opposed to perhaps a more 'serious' one." (As of press time, concertideas.com had not yet returned an e-mail query as to how their figures are arrived at.)

Yet another shadowy club owner agrees with shadowy club owner #1: "I did some booking in college, and I remember how we always went for the school gigs because you could jerk them out of more cash."

He's only partially kidding, I think. Perhaps the joke is on us all. Joke-rockers Spinal Tap command $50,000+, in effect commanding more money than most of the bands they're parodying. Then again, they're probably better than most of the bands they're parodying, even if most of the college population has never seen the cult favorite movie.

Ante up the bucks, and maybe the band will even change their catchphrase "'Ello Cleveland!" to "'Ello Clemson!" That is, if they can ever find a drummer. *

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