If you have experience booking celebrities in the past, you’re probably familiar with the ins and outs of the process. But if you haven’t, or if you’ve only worked through a third party (like a middle agent), there’s a chance you don’t know where to start (check out our guide on how to book celebrities here). Your natural instinct might be to Google some celebrity information (like appearance fees, who represents them, etc.), but there’s a reason why experienced bookers know better than to trust the internet: it’s incredibly easy to get scammed.
Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the most common ways you can either find false information or put yourself at risk of being scammed by someone on the internet. And by the time we’re done, you’ll understand just how easily it can happen to you; more importantly, you’ll know exactly what to do to avoid it. Read on!
The Problem With Online Prices
As we’ve mentioned before, when trying to figure out how much you can budget for a celebrity booking, the last place you want to look is the internet. In almost all cases, the information that’s available is inaccurate; celebrity representatives don’t advertise how much their clients charge, because they don’t want just anybody with a Wi-Fi connection reaching out claiming they want to hire their client.
We’ll give you a good example: this article about Cornell West throws in a comment near the end about how much West charges for speaking fees. As it turns out, though, the writer got these figures from a middle agency, and that agency didn’t actually know Dr. West’s speaking fees. The author of the article got their information from a third-party site, and like almost all sites like that one, the information on it was completely worthless. As one of Dr. West’s assistants pointed out in an updated version of the article, “[The middle agents] do not link to his website where people go to inquire about his speaking engagements. They were never authorized on behalf of Dr. West to solicit any kind of fees or book engagements. Even the photo they use is at least 35 years old.” And as it turns out, his assistant notes, “His average fee is about $10,000 (but the site lists him for $50,000). He has done some for less (depending on the cause) and some for more (depending on the institution).”
This could have been a simple misunderstanding, since a lot of middle agencies don’t necessarily know an individual’s fee either. After all, they’re simply a broker between the booker and the celebrity, so if a client comes to them and mentions that their budget is $30,000, they might simply associate that number with the celebrity. Often, middle agents won’t want to lowball a celebrity’s fee, so it’s not uncommon for them to make a high-end guess at the fee. Whatever the reason, this story is a good example as to why you can’t believe everything you see on the internet.
Another reason celebrity representatives don’t advertise their client’s prices on the internet is because it would give bookers all the leverage in a negotiation. If Celebrity A (their client) charges $250,000 for a booking, but the booker knows that and that Celebrity B (not their client) is a little cheaper, it becomes that much harder for agents to secure a fair price for their clients. So remember: if you found a fee on the internet and not directly from the celebrity’s representatives, there’s a 99% chance it’s not accurate.
Misleading Agencies and Reps
As I mentioned before, you can also use middle agents to book celebrities. Reputable middle agents can be a great resource because they have relationships with celebrity representatives and can act as a bridge between you and the team of the celebrity you want to book. Unfortunately, there are quite a few middle agents who don’t have nearly the amount of contacts and influence they claim to have.
Some shady middle agents will be dishonest about the amount of industry contacts they have; for example, claiming to have a great working relationship with a celebrity’s agent when in reality, they’ve never even met that agent before. And there are some unscrupulous middle agents who know the celebrity they claim to know, have worked with the celebrity before, but deliberately increase the quote they give you in order to take a larger cut for themselves. After all, unless you talk to the celebrity’s real agent, you’ll never find out that you’ve been overcharged. So while you may think you’re sending over a deposit to somebody who’s responsible for all the celebrity’s business deals, in reality you might just be giving your money to someone the celebrity has never met or worked with before, or paying more than you should without realizing it.
Fortunately for you, there are services (like ours) that can help you identify reputable, honest middle agents and avoid the scammers. And if you’re still unsure and would rather deal directly with the celebrity’s representatives, our services can also verify the information of the celebrity you’re hoping to book and provide you with the proper contact information.
Outright Fake Agencies
Lastly, there’s one group of scammers that don’t even try to do the work you’re hiring them to do. While some middle agencies can misrepresent their clients and their contacts, they usually do have some industry contacts they can leverage to make your booking happen (even if the process ends up being not as smooth as you would have hoped). And while you may be risking a dishonest middle agent taking extra money for themselves by working with a talent booker, there are some outright scammers who claim to be middle agents but have zero industry contacts and aren’t involved in the industry in any way.
You typically won’t find these outright scammers in a Google search- they usually don’t have websites (which makes it easier for them not to get caught). Where you will find these kinds of scammers is on social media. They’ll claim that they’re middle agents and have worked with the celebrity you want and their team before; in some cases, they’ll even claim to be a celebrity’s direct agent.
In most cases, they’ll provide an email address (and not a website) as a form of contact information, so be aware of that as a red flag. They’ll also typically try to rush straight to the deposit process before you’ve discussed the specific terms of the booking, usually by saying that the celebrity has another engagement on the day of your event, but that if you put down a deposit first, they can get out of the other contract. Unfortunately, they can also be pretty convincing: there are a whole lot of stories that reference these fake events. So be wary of anyone claiming to be a celebrity representative on social media, especially if that celebrity is in particularly high demand at the moment. So if anyone wants you to pay them before you have a contract signed, take that as a sign to walk away before you get scammed. And if you do get a contract, make sure you have access to the contacts on the artists team that you can confirm with beforehand. When you’re looking at a contract, the scammer will also have to put down business information, so take that opportunity to research the company name they provide- if your research shows that this company has a history of scamming people (or if it doesn’t turn up any information at all), there’s a chance you’re dealing with a scammer.
Our best advice is to use common sense: if it sounds too good to be true, odds are it probably is. We know that the celebrity booking process can be pretty tough if you’re not sure what to look for, but if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll have a much better chance of your celebrity booking (and your event) going as smoothly as you imagined it.