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How Do Artists Get Stars On First Avenue?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- This Sunday will mark the two-year anniversary of Prince's death, and there's a good chance some fans will head down to First Avenue to check out his golden star.

So, that has Patricia from Edina and Courtney from South St. Paul wanting to know: How do artists get stars on First Avenue?

"You know, there's a top-secret committee with a lot of top-secret rules," says Nate Krantz, general manager of First Avenue & 7th Street Entry. He was only half-joking.

There are more than 407 artists who have a star at First Avenue. Another 96 or so are blank, ready for when it's time to paint on a new name. (Before the walls were repainted in 2010, every star was filled and an artist had to come down for another to go up.)

Gary Clark, Jr. was the most recent star addition. When Macklemore and Ryan Lewis was added, he included the honor in part of his 2017 song, "Good Old Day."

"Let's be honest, there's not enough stars on the wall for everybody who wants one," says Krantz. There also aren't enough spaces for everyone who performs at the venue.

First Avenue Stars
(credit: CBS)

Krantz says there's a committee of people who decide should make the wall. There's only one hard rule: An artist had to perform at First Avenue. They are such sticklers to this rule that First Avenue removed Adele's star in 2011 after she canceled her show due to voice issues.

The committee then asks whether the artist(s) sold out the room.

"You know, there's relationships with bands," says Krantz. "Historical significance comes into play."

For example, U2 performed at First Avenue in 1982 and Ray Charles performed in 1983. Both were given stars in 1984 – the first time the stars where put on the walls following the debut of "Purple Rain."

Forty-one of the stars are local, including Doomtree, Paul Westerberg, Husker Du and Mark Mallman.

Mallman says First Avenue didn't give him a heads-up when his star went up in 2002, but he was very happy to see it. (Mallman's star moved from a very high position to a more eye-level space following the 2010 paint job.)

"I'm incredibly grateful," Mallman says. "This club is a part of my heart, part of my life experience, part of my story and I wish there were enough stars for all my friends to have stars."

Not every star is a musician. Dave Chappelle performed six sold-out shows at First Avenue in 2016. Former Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak, who famously staged-dived at a show in 2012, got a star after a book-signing party.

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