Booking a celebrity can raise the public profile of your event and increase the demand for attendance; as an added bonus, you can also use the photos from the event itself as marketing material after the event is over.
That said, booking a celebrity for your event isn’t as straightforward as you might think. After all, celebrities have a lot of time commitments on their schedules, so the event has to be worth their while for them to be interested in attending. Plus, you have to make sure you’re booking the right celebrity for your event; ensuring that the celebrity and the event are a good fit is almost as important as getting a celebrity in the first place.
There are also quite a few nuances to booking a celebrity that tend to get overlooked. Unfortunately, these little details can often mean the difference between pulling off a successful, well-attended event that everyone talks about for a long time and a dull, forgettable event that has no star power. So in this chapter, we’ll take a look at the most important building block of a successful event: how to book a celebrity.
Know Their Representative
When trying to book a celebrity for your event, you likely won’t be making your pitch directly to the celebrity. Instead, you’ll be reaching out to their agent, and in some rare cases (if they don’t have an agent) their manager. For your purposes, let’s assume that the celebrity has an agent; but what does an agent do?
Simply put, an agent is responsible for finding work for their clients. Whether that’s film or TV roles, live gigs or endorsement deals, whatever their client’s specialty, agents make sure the people they represent continue to find work. Agents are also responsible for the business end of any jobs their clients get; specifically, negotiating the contract. Finally, agents also get a percentage of every deal their clients make.
There are many types of agents, and some celebrities have a different agent depending on the industry; for example, an actor/musician like Jack Black will have one agent for his film and TV career and another for his musical career. Even if a celebrity doesn’t have multiple agents, their agent does have to get approval for any deals from the celebrity’s manager and publicist. So while an agent’s role is ultimately to keep their clients in business and making money, you do have to keep everyone else on the celebrity’s team in mind when making your pitch to an agent.
You can get the contact information for the official agents of artists and celebrities at Booking Agent Info.
Know Your Event
This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many celebrity bookings fall apart before they get started because the details of the event haven’t been set in stone. Before reaching out to an agent, you need to have a crystal-clear picture of the event: when and where is it taking place? What kind of event will it be? What would you like the celebrity to do at this event?
The fact is, agents are constantly receiving requests from people hoping to book celebrities. Unfortunately, a lot of the requests they receive come from people who either don’t have enough information to solidify a booking or who don’t understand the booking process. In order to avoid wasting time, agents require that you have certain information readily available beforehand. This helps agents accurately communicate to their clients what the opportunity is; more importantly, it demonstrates to agents that you’re both serious about booking their client and a legitimate business.
The general rule of thumb is to provide as much information as you can, but at the bare minimum, you must know and provide the following details when reaching out to an agent:
The venue where the event is taking place
The venue should also be reserved before you reach out to an agent- they and their client will not be happy if they agree to an event in Location A, only to find out after the contract has been signed that it’s in a completely different venue. In addition to the name and address of the venue, you should also know and communicate the capacity of the venue to the agent.
The date of the event and timeframe for the celebrity’s appearance
These are logistical details, but it’s your attention (or inattention) to them that can mean the difference between coming across to an agent as a professional who’s done this before and someone who’s not worthy of the agent’s time.
It’s also important that you outline exactly how much time you’re requesting for the celebrity to make an appearance. Their agent knows their client’s schedule, and they need to know up front how much of a time commitment you’re expecting.
What you want the celebrity to do
The cost of hiring a celebrity also depends on what you expect the celebrity to do during the event. There are a few options here, so let’s take a look at the most common:
Make an Appearance
Making an appearance depends on the specific celebrity, but in most cases, an appearance fee at a minimum requires that the celebrity hangs out at the event and takes pictures with guests. In other cases, celebrities will stay at the party and hang out for a while.
A walkthrough is a much shorter version of an appearance. Essentially, a walkthrough requires the celebrity just to make a quick appearance at the event; sometimes, they may take pictures with fans, but there have been cases in the past where the celebrity comes to the event, literally walks through the event to show their face, then leaves. If you do request a walkthrough, it would be wise to outline exactly how long the celebrity is expected to stay at the event ahead of time.
A hosting engagement requires the celebrity to spend a significant amount of time at the event. In addition, the celebrity will be expected to deliver some quick remarks at the event and engage with guests. Hosting does not require the celebrity to deliver a long speech or a performance.
On the other hand, a speaking engagement means the celebrity is required to deliver a speech of some sort to guests; the topic will depend on what the event is all about. And while hosting requires the celebrity to spend time interacting with guests, a speaking engagement can simply entail the celebrity showing up to deliver the speech, then leaving if they choose to do so.
As the name implies, a performance engagement is just that: the celebrity is expected to deliver a performance of some kind. In the case of musicians, this could be a short show; in the case of someone like Louis C.K., this might involve a stand-up set. The specifics of the performance depend on the kind of celebrity you’re asking to attend the event.
What arrangements (if any) you’ll be covering
Celebrities often have very specific requirements when it comes to their travel- in some cases, the celebrity will require first-class or business-class tickets. It’s also important to remember that they don’t travel alone; if you are covering the arrangements and booking a flight, keep in mind that the celebrity may be traveling with up to eight or more people.
The celebrity’s requirements also extend to their hotel accommodations. Much like the requirements for first-class tickets, some celebrities require a 5-star hotel for their stay. A good rule of thumb is: The bigger the celebrity, the bigger the expectations. And while you may be able to negotiate with lower-tier celebrities about their airfare and accommodations, you won’t have much wiggle room when it comes to bigger celebrities.
Who is paying for the event
To further put the agent at ease, you need to be crystal clear about who the purchaser is for the event, whether it’s you or someone else. More importantly, the money should already be secure before reaching out to an agent; if you don’t have the money when you reach out, you’re wasting both your time and the agent’s.
You also want to let the agent know whether or not there are any sponsors for the event, and if so, who the sponsors are. After all, a celebrity environmentalist like Leonardo DiCaprio probably won’t want to attend an event sponsored by a large corporation that contributes heavily to global warming, and his agent won’t be happy if you don’t disclose that information ahead of time.
Whether the event is public or private
Celebrities charge more money for private events than they do for public events. However, if you’re targeting a celebrity who doesn’t normally agree to do performances or appearances, a private event is a better bet at getting them to agree. It’s a fairly common practice for wealthy families and companies to book celebrities for private, intimate events; though they cost more money, you’ll have a better chance at convincing an exclusive celebrity to make an exception.
Public events, on the other hand, usually have a higher success rate, since celebrities can use those to boost their public profile and promote their own work. But no matter what kind of event you’re hosting, top-tier celebrities like Rihanna or Taylor Swift will cost at least $750,000; even more if the party is hosted internationally. You should be aware that if the event is public and you don’t have much experience, the agent may decline to work with you; after all, the agent has no way of knowing if the event will go smoothly or be a disaster, and they may not want to risk a disaster occurring in a public event setting. You’ll also want to inform the agent whether there is any media involvement in the event.
Finally, you must also confirm with the agent whether the event is for charity or a fundraiser; philanthropic celebrities who tend to avoid making appearances might be more likely to sign on if it’s for a good cause.
Your deadline for confirming the celebrity
Your budget for the event
When trying to figure out what you can spend on having a celebrity at your event, you may be tempted to research their fees online. However, this may be doing more harm than good- celebrity booking prices are not public, and the prices you find online are likely completely inaccurate.
While celebrity booking fees are usually negotiable, there are some exceptions; specifically, with big celebrities. For example, booking Drake for a performance or Matt Damon for a speaking engagement could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars for a public event (and even more for a private event like a birthday party). But before you get to the negotiation stage, you first need to understand what your budget is and exactly how much you are willing to spend on talent.
When figuring out your talent budget, you need to keep in mind that there are additional fees associated with booking a celebrity, such as specific equipment and food and drinks; many celebrities also have contract riders, which will increase the cost of booking them. If you’re not sure of your budget, you can ask the agent for a range of what the celebrity might cost; more often than not, though, the agent will give you an inflated price. Therefore, it’s much smarter to have your budget set ahead of time- that way, if the celebrity you’re hoping to book is out of your price range, their agent can at least point you in the direction of some of their other clients who are more in line with what you’re willing to spend.
Once you have all that information, the next step is to identify the celebrity (or celebrities) you think would be a great fit for the event. You wouldn’t want “The Situation” as the celebrity attraction at an art gallery opening, just like you wouldn’t ask John Malkovich to attend the opening of a new nightclub.
When all of this is in place, then you’re ready to contact a celebrity’s agent. And here’s what you need to know about the next steps.
The standard process for reaching out to an agent follows a pretty basic format. Before we get into the specific steps, here are a couple best practices you should keep in mind when reaching out to an agent.
Celebrity representatives are flooded with requests on a daily basis. And because they only have a limited amount of time to read each request and decide whether or not it’s worthy of a response, the smart thing to do is be as brief as possible in your initial request. However, you want to provide as many specifics as you can in a limited amount of space; if the request is too vague, celebrity representatives aren’t going to waste time going back and forth with you to get the full details, and you’ll lose your opportunity. By the same token, any email that takes more than a minute to read will be pushed aside.
Follow Up (Correctly!)
One of the trickiest parts about reaching out to celebrity representatives is knowing when and how to follow up. Because their schedules are so busy, you shouldn’t expect a response right away; if you get one, great, but by no means should you send follow-up emails every day until you get a response- that’s a guaranteed one-way ticket to that representative’s spam folder. If you believe in the value of the service you’re providing, then it should feel like less of a request and more of an opportunity- if they’re not interested, then it’s their loss.
So what are the steps in the process?
The first step is to reach out to the agent and provide key details about your event. The first email should just cover the basics and not get too specific; as a general rule of thumb, you want to keep it to a “Who/What/When/Where/Why” format:
- Who are you interested in?
- What do you want them to do?
- What is the event?
- When is the event? (either an exact date or a couple of available dates)
- Where is the event?
- Why is this event taking place? (Is it for charity, for a university, for a corporate meeting, etc.)
The initial reach-out should be in the form of an email, and aside from communicating the basics of your request, the email should simply be to check availability for your desired celebrity. Here’s a basic format you can follow:
Hi [agent name],
I am with [your company], and we are having an event for [describe the event]. We are interested in booking [celebrity] to [describe what you want them to do]. The event will be taking place at [event location] on [event date], and I wanted to check availability before sending a formal offer. Is [celebrity] available for this date?
[your full name]
[your phone number]
Once you’ve sent the email, the agent should get back to you to let you know if the celebrity is available or not. If you don’t hear back from the agent within 3 days, you can follow up by phone to confirm they received the email. Remember that agents get a lot of emails, so give them a couple of days to get to yours before you follow up by phone.
If the celebrity isn’t available, the agent may suggest some of their other clients to you. However, if the celebrity you’re targeting is available, the agent will then ask some more questions about your event; from there, you’ll need to put together a formal offer that includes all the information I discussed above.
The agent may require varying levels of detail in the offer depending on the size and scale of the event. And to ensure that you’re capable of putting together and pulling off the kind of event you want their client to attend, they may also ask if you have prior experience in booking celebrities. On the more basic side, the agent will need to know the venue information, what exactly you’re expecting their client to do, and who the purchaser is. But some agents will want a lot more detail than that; in some cases, you might be asked to provide your budget for specific items like lighting, sound, etc.
Assuming the celebrity you want is available and their agent has agreed to review an offer, the next step is to put the offer together. Again, the offer should include all the information listed above. And if the event is for a university or a corporation, you will sometimes need to put the offer on official letterhead, sign it and send it over to the agent.
Once you send over the offer, the agent will review it. If the offer isn’t in line with what their client will accept, the agent will let you know pretty quickly. In those cases, agents will either a) tell you to raise your offer and give you a chance to resubmit it, or b) suggest some other clients of theirs who can fit your budget. And in some rare cases, if the offer is entirely too low (for example, if you offer Drake $50,000 for a performance), the agent may not even respond at all.
This is where knowing your budget limits and how to negotiate comes in. This process tends to be a back-and-forth: you submit your offer, the agent tells you it’s too low, you come back with a higher offer, and so on. Just because a celebrity quotes a particular fee doesn’t necessarily mean you should pay it, nor does it mean that they expect to receive it. Being willing to negotiate on their fee can save you a lot of up-front costs. As with any negotiation, though, you have to know when to push and when to ease off. If you don’t, you run the risk of ensuring the celebrity will never consider working with you again.
There are a few easy ways to give yourself a leg up on the negotiation process. First, make sure never to make your first offer your best offer- set a limit for yourself, then take 10% off of that number as an initial offer. If the celebrity’s representatives don’t go for it, you can work from there, but at least you’ve given yourself some wiggle room. Second, you can put a deadline on the offer to try to expedite the negotiation process- sometimes agents will be more willing to make a deal if they know it’s going to go away on a certain date. And finally, always be willing to walk away. In order to effectively do that, you’ll need to have some backup options in mind if your first choice doesn’t go through. But showing a willingness to walk away from a negotiation gives you significant bargaining power.
Handle the Contract and Deposit ASAP
Once you’ve finalized all the event details, reached out to the celebrity’s representatives, negotiated the celebrity’s fees, and have gotten the celebrity to agree to your offer, there’s one more part: the contract and the deposit. As soon as you have verbal sign-off from the celebrity’s representatives, you should send over the contract for the event. As we mentioned above, celebrities have a lot of time commitments, and if you delay in getting the contract over, you run the risk of the celebrity booking something else on the day of your event.
Last but not least, once you’ve gotten sign-off on the contract, you’ll want to make the deposit as soon as possible. Typically, celebrities’ representatives require a 50% up-front deposit to secure the date, with another 50% due on the date of the event. Of course, the agent may ask for more up-front as a deposit depending on the celebrity and the type of event; they may also ask for a larger up-front deposit if you have never worked with them before in order to lower their risk. The deposit amount can be negotiated in some cases, but if you’re new to the business, you won’t have as much room to negotiate as a more established booker would.
If the celebrity is covering their own travel and accommodations, you may also need to cover those costs up front as well; if you are taking care of their travel, you won’t need to include that in the deposit cost. In order to ensure that you keep everything on good terms with the celebrity’s representatives, make sure you take care of the deposit as quickly as you can. The deposit is usually handled via wire transfer.
So there you have it: how to book a celebrity. Of course, this is just one piece of a larger puzzle, but it’s the most important piece to ensure your event is as successful as possible.
Next, we’ll take a look at how to calculate the cost of booking a celebrity.