As the last two chapters have shown, the process of booking a celebrity for your event requires a lot of time and effort. Even if you know all the steps, there are no guarantees that you’ll be successful in booking your celebrity of choice. Plus, with all the other things to manage with an event, you might find that you just don’t have time to handle the booking process on your own.
There is an option if you want to make things easier on yourself: farming the work out to a middle agency or a talent buyer. For those who aren’t familiar, middle agencies and talent buyers specialize in booking celebrities for events. Reputable middle agents have good relationships with celebrities and their representatives, and they’re able to leverage those relationships to get celebrities to sign on for events that you might not be able to book on your own. But before you rush out to find the nearest middle agent or talent buyer, there are a few things you should know.
Hiring a middle agent or a talent buyer to handle the celebrity booking aspect of your event can save you a lot of time and effort; assuming, of course, that the person you hire is reputable and has a good relationship with the celebrity you’re targeting and their representatives. In a perfect world, all you would have to do is plan your event and let someone else do the heavy lifting of finding a celebrity to attend it. Unfortunately, as a lot of event planners and bookers have found, that process is easier said than done.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential downsides of using a middle agent or talent buyer.
High Cost, Low Transparency
When you’re planning an event where every dollar in your budget is extremely important, the biggest thing to remember about middle agents and talent buyers is that they come with a cost. And in the case of some unscrupulous middle agents, they’ll hide their fee in the overall cost of booking the celebrity, making it impossible for you to know how much the celebrity actually charged for attending. This can impact your budgeting for future events; after all, if you want to book the same celebrity the next time out but you’re not exactly sure of how much you paid, you’re going to find yourself in a tricky spot when it comes time to make the offer.
Not Getting Your Money’s Worth
Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the work middle agents and talent buyers do isn’t necessarily worth the amount of money they’ll charge for doing it. From your perspective, all a middle agent does is add an extra layer of communication between you and the celebrity. Worst of all, middle agents can’t influence the celebrity or their agent to agree to attend your event; all they’re doing is passing along your message to the right person. You can use a contact celebrity agents database to contact them yourself and reach out to them directly.
Conflicts of Interest
There’s another problem with hiring a middle agent to book a celebrity: it’s not their money, so they’re not going to fight as hard to get the best rate possible on the booking. In fact, many middle agents charge a percentage of the overall fee rather than a flat rate, which means that they’ll actually make more money if they don’t negotiate the rate. As a result, a lot of middle agents will offer the highest price you can afford to pay (even if the celebrity would have accepted much less) in order to maximize their commission for brokering the deal.
There are a lot of people who have gone into business as middle agents, claiming that they can get you a great deal and that they know all the right people to help you book the celebrity you’re targeting for your event. Unfortunately, because of the high earning potential, that means the industry is also flooded with so-called “talent buyers” who don’t have nearly as many contacts as they claim.
There are also examples of the person representing themselves as a middle agent only having a loose connection to the celebrity in question (for example, they know someone who knows someone who gets their hair cut at the same place as the celebrity’s agent). Hiring someone who overstates their ability to deliver can leave you scrambling to find a celebrity the week before an event; even worse, if the middle agent (or the person they claim to know) isn’t honest, you can also waste money on their up-front fee, only to find out that you’re not getting what you paid for.
In some cases, when a middle agent can’t deliver what they promised, they’ll use other middle agents to deliver celebrities for their clients. Not only does this make it harder for you to book a celebrity the next time around (since you have no idea how to get in touch with their agent), but you’ll end up paying fees for not one, but two middle agents. You can imagine the mark-up in a situation like that.
With all that said, there are a few situations where using a middle agent is a perfectly good option.
If you have a large budget for an event and don’t mind paying a little extra, middle agents can help cut down on a lot of the legwork you’d need to do to book a celebrity. Good middle agents also tend to take the “long view” on the deals they broker; that is, they know that if they overcharge you once, you’re unlikely to use them again, so instead they work more in your interests to increase the likelihood you’ll work with them on future deals. When you have a good middle agent acting as a broker between you and an agent, you don’t have to worry about all the little stresses that come with putting together an offer or negotiating the price and extra costs- they’ll take care of it all for you. And that will free you up to focus on the rest of the event and ensure that you make a good impression on the celebrity for future bookings.
Another key quality that good middle agents have is access. Because of their existing relationships with celebrities and their representatives, middle agents know who to reach out to and how to position your offer in a way that gives you the highest odds of success. If you’re just starting out in planning events, it can be difficult to know who to contact to try to book a celebrity- good middle agents and talent buyers can be really helpful in putting you in touch with the right people. And access to the decision-makers is crucial if you want to have a long and successful career in this arena.
So while you do have to be wary of people who claim to be middle agents but don’t have the contacts to back it up, there are plenty reputable middle agents who can actually deliver what they promise. It’s a high-risk/high-reward situation: if you get the wrong middle agent, you’ll end up adding more stress and expenses to your venture. But if you get the right one, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them.
As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks to using middle agents. In most cases, handling the booking process yourself will save you money on fees and give yourself greater room to negotiate the celebrity’s asking price, but you’ll be able to establish contacts with celebrity representatives that you can use to your benefit down the line. After all, this business runs on relationships, and if you don’t take the time to build some on your own, you’ll find yourself constantly scrambling to find people willing to work with you. But in some situations, a reputable middle agent can be the difference between booking a celebrity who’s a perfect fit for your event and having to settle for one who isn’t (or, worst-case scenario, not having a celebrity attend your event at all).
Now that we’ve outlined the benefits and drawbacks of using middle agencies and talent buyers, let’s take a closer look at a specific kind of event: celebrity booking for private parties.