In my other post “How to Email A Booking Agent“, I cover the proper way to email a celebrity agent, but that is just one part of the booking process. In this guide, I wanted to dive in deeper into the booking process and provide the steps to how you can successfully book an artist for your event. If you haven’t read my post on emailing a celebrity agent, you should read it after this guide as it will help you in the booking process.
In theory, booking an artist for your event is an ideal method for successful marketing and an overwhelming turnout but the booking process doesn’t always transpire without a hitch.
The entertainment industry isn’t the easiest to break into if you are not well connected. The lack of transparency can be quite intimidating, discouraging those who are unfamiliar with the process from attempting to proceed with the booking process.
From start to finish, it takes a considerable amount of time to plan and coordinate artist entertainment. Successful events require months of planning. However, if you take the correct steps, artist booking doesn’t have to be difficult.
This guide is designed to save you from exasperating valuable time and energy while deciphering the dos and don’ts of the booking process. It is going to show you how to book an artist for your event. With this advice in mind, booking your artist will be as easy as 1-2-3.
Consider All The Booking Costs
The all-mighty dollar reigns supreme in any aspect of business. Unfortunately, securing music entertainment can be quite cost prohibitive. There are a lot of factors to consider prior to submitting an offer.
a.) What’s Your Budget?
Whatever you’re willing to spend for an artist booking determines the types of acts you will be able to land. People like Prince, Shakira, Lady Gaga and Jay-Z all surpass the $1 million range. Easily. So if you have your heart set you some major names, you should have access to an equally grand budget.
In order to create a successful plan of action, it’s better to start with a budget then determine the artist you want based on that guideline. If you try to complete the process in reverse, and pick your artist first, you risk planning around a artist you can’t afford or blowing your budget out of the water.
If you aren’t sure how much to allocate towards your budget, you can speak with an agent to get an estimate. Whenever you check for current rates, be clear about what the listed fee covers. For example, some singers and other entertainers charge separate fees for appearances, meet and greets, autograph sessions, speaking engagements, and actual performances.
Then, there are artists like Jay-Z and Rihanna who won’t show up to your event no matter how much you offer them. Certain A-listers just don’t stand by the whole “pay me to prance around” concept.
With all of this in mind, be sure to have at least 50% of your budget on hand before you even start making offers. (It could be more, depending on the platform you use to contact the artist. But we’ll get to that a little later.)
b.) Is The Artist In The Limelight?
If the artist is currently riding out a hit song, movie, or television show, you can expect to reach deeper in your pockets to get them to perform at your event. The more popular they are at the moment, the more their time is worth.
Conversely, if you book artists who are not currently basking in their 15 minutes of fame, you may be able to add quality entertainment for your event without breaking the bank. Just because the artist isn’t currently in the spotlight doesn’t mean that they don’t still have a league of devoted fans and followers waiting for the opportunity to see them in person. Sometimes seasoned names can come at a considerably less rate while still yielding a hefty return on your investment.
c.) Are They Scheduled To Be In The Area?
It’s beneficial to do some research on the artist prior to submitting your offer. If you are able to schedule your event around a time when their tour is scheduled to stop close by, you may be able to negotiate a better rate.
If your artist of choice isn’t currently on tour, you can still create an attractive offer that may open up the door to some extra savings. Schedule your offer months in advance to give the artist agent enough time to find them additional events to attend. This will award you the opportunity to pay less for your event’s entertainment.
While it’s nice to be able to introduce a artist to your audience, you want the investment to be profitable. When considering a ROI, it’s important to consider the future of your company’s entertainment budget. If the dollar amount you’ve agreed upon is supposed to cover events throughout the year, it may not be wise to splurge on a big name for a one-time event. In this instance, you’ll have to take some time to consider a quality vs. quantity balance that works for your company.
Instead of booking a major act for a short appearance, you may consider giving your audience a talented B-lister for a full out performance and host another event within a few months. This will produce a greater return, making the event much more profitable.
d.) Venue Specifics
Size, type, and allowances all make a huge difference when negotiating a rate for your artist appearance. Requesting their presence at a large venue is going to cost you a pretty penny but, depending on the artist, smaller venues may be easier to turn down for a lack of ability to turn a profit on promotional merchandise.
Say you were able to pay Jay Z’s $1 million dollar booking fee. (Mind you this is just a base, I’ll explain how this number can grow during the process of negotiation.) If you decide to book a smaller venue that holds approximately 500 people, at $75 per ticket, this deal would only bring you $37,500. That doesn’t put a dent in his appearance fee. $100 tickets would only make $50,000. If you wanted to solely break even, not even considering the price of the venue, marketing, and other add-ons, you’d have to charge $2,000 per person. So make sure you spend some extra time crunching numbers.
e.) Public or Private Events
Artists charge more money to attend private events. However, if you have your heart set on a major name that doesn’t normally agree to do performances and appearances, a private event may be a way to convince them to make an exception. It’s not uncommon for wealthy families and companies to book certain artists for family gatherings, weddings, and intimate celebrations. Jennifer Lopez received at least $1 million for a three-song performance and personalized “Happy Birthday” for the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.
Public events are more easily accepted because of the artist ability to make a few dollars for themselves at the same time. No matter what type of event you’re hosting, names like Rihanna, Paul McCartney, and Taylor Swift will always request $750,000+. If it’s hosted internationally, the price tag drastically increases.
Other names like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tony Blair want a little less up front, somewhere around $200,000 but they won’t fly commercial so you’ll also have to splurge on a private jet for their travels.
Sometimes it helps to have an experienced middle talent agent to serve as the liaison. This may increase your chances of having your offer accepted due to personal history with your artist. They can also organize your pitch to be more attractive to the artist.
However, the help of an agent can be just as costly. Names like Executive Visions only take on clients with $100,000+ budgets and request an immediate $10,000 retainer for their services along with 50% of the artist fee. We’ll go into more detail on middle agents later in the article.
f.) Read The Rider
Remember those extra fees I mentioned earlier, the rider is where you’ll find the bulk of them. The larger the artist, the more “interesting” their personal demands become. Van Halen is infamously known for requesting all of the brown M&Ms be removed from the band’s pre-appearance snacks. While it may be a bit cumbersome, the price of discarding a few pieces of candy trails in comparison to J. Lo’s need of a separate trailer adorned only in white décor. Mariah Carey isn’t much different, in addition to elegant draping and white furnishings, Ms. Carey needs a $200 bottle of cabernet sauvignon, two dozen white roses, and her room temperature must remain at 75 degrees. Beyonce has requested titanium straws (an estimated value of $900), hand carved ice balls, and red toilet paper.
Don’t be frightened. Some artist only need a box of Captain Crunch cereal to be happy. To be sure that you’re prepared to comply with your artist demands, make sure you read the rider.
g.) A Taste For Fame
Some artists will give you a discount considering how long it’s been since they’ve been in the spotlight. Others will capitalize on their lack of public invitations and request a premium to make an appearance. Carlos Mencia isn’t the first name that pops into mind when you think “comedian” but that hasn’t deterred him from requesting $75,000-$100,000 for an appearance. Adam Lambert, a former American Idol contestant, asks for $150,000-$250,000 to show his face. Ironically, his fee is the same as major names like AC/DC. Other bands like The Black Eyed Peas and The Backstreet Boys have seen their days pass but they’re still asking for $1,000,000+ to do a show. This sums up the likelihood of having to pay a premium to book artists whose shows are few and far between.
Keep all these things in mind when submitting your offer to the artist booking agent. Remember, everything can be negotiated. If you aren’t sure about the best way to make a satisfactory offer, simply provide the agent with the details of your event. Should the artist be interested, they’ll respond with a starting range for their client’s appearance.
In addition to the artists fees, you need to be clear about all of the additional equipment or services they may need. For example, Jay Z may want to be escorted to events in a black late model Maybach. Other outrageous demands for excessive security and personal assistants (Katy Perry wants someone to wash and cut her fruit for her) can easily eat up your budget.
You need to consider your ability to afford the artist and everything that comes with them. If you must have a particular artist but all of their extras risk eating up your contingency, look at ways to reduce costs in other areas. You may be able to renegotiate the terms of their appearance or eliminate some unnecessary add-ons from your venue or marketing plan. Bars, catering, valets, and opening acts are all areas where you may find some extra money.
After paying your 50% deposit, the remainder of the artist’s fee is due at the event. It’s best to negotiate an “All In” rate which will include the costs of airfare, transportation, and hotel accommodations. This will prevent the artist from presenting you with surprise rates when it’s time for you to pay the balance.
Remember, artists don’t travel alone. You may also be responsible for their entourage’s airfare and hotel stay. This is definitely something worth considering after receiving a response from the artst’s agent.
Date and Venue
Before reaching out to your artist interest, you need to have your venue and date booked and under contract. The type of venue, location, and policies are a major factor in determining the artist’s fees. When selecting your venue, consider these things to determine its effectiveness:
a.) Does It Have a Backroom?
Most artists won’t tolerate standing around in a hallway waiting for their turn on stage. They’ll need a comfortable dressing room and some type of area for their entourage. If you’re trying to book Mariah Carey, you’ll need to make sure that the area doesn’t have busy prints on the walls. She also needs the entryway to open up to a living room, not directly into the dressing room. Nicki Minaj likes an area to light scented candles that smell like baked goods.
Rihanna wants a plush animal print rug so she can walk around barefoot. Justin Bieber needs somewhere to hang out with his friends and packs of crisp white t-shirts while drinking Red Bull. If there isn’t a designated area, you’ll have to consider whether you’ll be able to afford a separate trailer for them to get dressed in and whether or not there is space in the venue’s lot to safely accommodate such an addition.
b.) Ticket Sales
Some venues only allow the sales to be handled through their own box office. You may be able to request that a third party such as Ticketmaster or Live Nation be allowed to facilitate the sale of tickets. In other cases, the venue won’t mind allowing you the freedom to handle ticket sales however you wish.
If the venue opts to handle ticket sales, this will take a chunk out of your proceeds due to the venue’s need to cover the taxes and charges of printing, selling, and distributing the tickets. On the other hand, services like Ticketmaster will tack on their own charges and fees as well. The only way to see the maximum profit without charging your audience a series of inflated fees is to sell the tickets yourself. Even still, you’ll need to question whether the extra time and effort is worth the additional money. Sometimes it pays to have someone else take care of certain tasks for you.
c.) Does The Venue Match Your Artist?
Will this venue be able to accommodate the artist’s sound, effects, lighting, connectivity, and spacing requirements? Comedians may not request a lot of special effects but musical performances are going to need some space and quality equipment. Maybe you’ll be hosting an event for a sports figure. Football camps, boxing matches, and other reenactments will need a sufficient amount of space and all of the necessary equipment. It’s not likely that the artist will bring all of the essentials with them, so choose a venue that has most of what you need and will allow you to bring the rest.
Some events won’t allow certain setups for structural or legal reasons. If they aren’t capable of supporting equipment suspended from the ceiling, stages, or certain special requests, you should probably entertain other options.
I scraped over this a little but let’s go over your options in a little more detail. After determining your budget and projected costs, booking your venue, and determining exactly what you want the artist to do- it’s time to reach out to them. What’s the best way to do that?
The “Responsible Agent”, or RA, is the artist’s main point of contact. They are the ones who are officially responsible for booking the artist’s events. Normally, the RA works with a larger agency, expanding the public’s ability to reach their client. The Creative Artists Agency (CAA), International Creative Management (ICM), William Morris Entertainment (WME), The Agency Group, and Paradigm are a few examples of agencies that handle major names.
Within these larger companies, the RAs manage artists in various capacities. As mentioned, artists have different fees for assorted engagements and they have an agent to represent them in each territory. If you’re looking for a personal appearance, then you’ll need to contact the agent governing that category. The same goes for speaking engagements, performances, meet and greets, and so forth.
When you’re ready to book the artist, your first option is to contact their RA directly. If you have trouble locating their contact information, you may elect to hire a “Middle Agency” or sometimes just called a talent buyer to reach the RA on your behalf. The middle agency serves as a liaison between you and the RA. Reputable agencies know how to negotiate the best rates for your event. Look at the middle agency as the buyer’s agent for the entertainment industry. Similar to the way buyer’s agents are used in real estate, the middle agency listens to what you’re looking for, contacts the RA, and handles the negotiation of your rate. When it’s all said and done, you are supposed to walk away with a better deal. Well, that’s the goal. Other times middle agencies can make it considerably more expensive to book talent. Depending on which agency you choose to hire to represent you, you can expect to pay anywhere from 5-20% in addition to the artist’s rate.
So if you score Bob Dylan for his $250,000 minimum, at 5%, you’ll be looking at another $12,500 in middle agency fees. If you don’t have a massive budget, don’t get discouraged you can still book a artist to entertain your guests. Up and coming artists are of course going to be at a great price (typically). You can even get a group of reality stars and social media stars very cheap, usually starting at $1000+ (not including airfare and travel).
I hope you are able to navigate the booking process for artists much easier after reading this guide. Ciphering through each one of them will assist you with booking quality artists and hosting a phenomenal event.
How do you book shows? Let me know in the comments.