For event planners, performance venues, and promoters, booking a celebrity is a fairly routine part of business. However, in the beginning it’s easy to overlook details that could make your event and your business run much smoother. In fact, if you don’t pay close attention to the details involved in booking a celebrity, you could end up paying far more than you expected and your budget can handle.
From my experience, some promoters are really eager to book a celebrity at a certain price but they don’t think about the other costs that are involved with booking a celebrity outside of just the booking price. I hear stories all the time of promoters who have lost a lot of money on a booking due to the fact that they didn’t properly review the costs of booking that celebrity. It is essential that you take a look at the rider, and review the costs before confirming the artists. In this article, we are going to look at what I believe are the 2 more overlooked costs when booking a celebrity.
1. Concert Production Costs
It’s easy to get caught up in negotiations regarding the celebrity’s fee. But, what the celebrity personally earns from the appearance is not the only cost factor. The production of the artist can end up being one of the most expensive parts of booking a celebrity. In fact, I’ve worked on concert booking negotiations where the production costs were nearly fifty percent of total expenditures involved. To understand why that is, you first have to know what exactly is covered under the production costs associated with booking a celebrity. As the event planner or promoter, you will cover the cost of all items in the production rider, including:
- * Speakers
- * Audio rigs
- * Lighting
- * Lighting rigs
- * Video equipment
- * Stage hands
These items are essential to putting on a successful event. Not only that, but the celebrity is quite likely to drop out of negotiations if you’re unwilling to invest in quality equipment. They aren’t thinking only about your event—they have reputations regarding the kind of show they put on and what an audience can expect. And, most celebs are not going to make an exception on performance quality for your event budget.
In addition to equipment and people to install them, you also have to consider the cost of any tools or machinery used during installation, such as forklifts and ladders. The artist may also specify that audio and lighting should be booked through a particular production vendor of their choice, so you may not have the option of shopping around for the best price. That means when you start negotiations, you need to leave plenty of room in your budget for production.
In addition to the equipment required for the show, costs in the rider will also include all the items needed for the artist to prepare and maintain quality of life leading up to your event. The celebrity you book will need food, beverages, furniture, and a place to dress for the performance. And, you’ll almost certainly need to make sure these accommodations are large enough for the artists’ entourage, as well. These are people you may not have at the forefront of your mind when negotiating a celebrity booking, but the celebrity will certainly plan to have many other people in the prep area. Artists may make quite specific requests, such as:
- * Only real tableware, no paper plates or plastic utensils
- * Only sofas of a particular color
- * Wall draperies for the dressing room
And before you think that production costs are only about the essentials for putting on a show and hosting the celebrity, consider that some artists are more particular than others about what is essential to a performance. Kanye West, for instance, requested that he only have imported and recut Versace towels to use on stage. And, Jennifer Lopez insists that everything within vicinity of her dressing area be white—tablecloths, furniture, draperies, candles—everything.
The point is that when you enter negotiations, you never know exactly what the riders will contain. Because these expenses can vary widely, it’s essential that you thoroughly read the rider and evaluate the costs of production before confirming the celebrity booking. And remember, until the contract is signed, you are still in negotiations. It may be possible to find wiggle room for some of the items on the rider. In fact, you should try to negotiate as many areas of the rider as you need in order for the event to be successful for your business. Some items will be non-negotiable, but you usually have options that can be discussed with a celebrity representative, usually the tour manager or agent, in order to give you more flexibility. If you are able, I recommend speaking with the tour manager or production manager (whoever is handling production), and speaking with them to work things out. It’s important that you go over everything with the venue, to see if the venue that you plan on using can accommodate what their asking for. Communication between you, production manager, and the venue is important to make sure everything goes smooth.
2. Artist Traveling Fees
Although production is probably the largest expense you’ll be covering outside of the celebrity’s fee, you also don’t want to underestimate how quickly travel expenses can add up. Artists often travel in groups (sometimes quite large), which adds to the expense for flights, hotels, and ground transportation. You will be responsible for the cost of transportation and lodging for the whole entourage. Here are a few items to consider when preparing your budget.
- * Plane tickets—Again, celebrities can be picky about how they travel. And, that means they will likely include instructions that may or may not be negotiable in the travel rider. Requests may include first class tickets for the celeb and some or all of their entourage, or tickets for a specific airline only, which means you don’t have the opportunity to shop around for reduced costs. In addition to these requests, you’re also at the mercy of the celebrity and their representative to get you the necessary flight information on time. If they dawdle, you could be looking at more expensive, last minute tickets.
- * Buses—If the artist plans to travel by ground for your event, or if the performance is part of a tour, you may need to pay the cost of renting a bus. Or, if the artist uses their own tour bus, you could still be on the line for gas to and from the event.
- * Limos or SUVs—And, just because you paid for the bus does not mean your responsibilities are over regarding ground transportation. The celebrity is not just going to sit in the dressing room from the time they arrive until they leave your venue. They will require some kind of ground transportation, typically limos or SUVs, to get them and their entourage to restaurants, hotels, and auxiliary events surrounding the performance. Keep in mind that you may need several vehicles to fit the entire celebrity entourage and security personnel. Additionally, celebrities may have requests regarding the types of vehicles, where the vehicles are rented from, or rules for the people driving them around. Kanye West, for instance, isn’t just particular about his own fabrics; he insists on his driver wearing only 100 percent cotton attire. And, we’ve all heard about Katy Perry’s strict driver policy—anyone who books her needs to hire drivers who don’t stare and can keep their mouths shut or risk violating their contracts.
- * Cartage fee—And, getting people where they need to be is not your only transportation cost. You may see a cartage fee added on to the rider. It’s the fee for transporting the artist’s equipment—that is, any equipment that you are not providing. Common items that the artist may need brought along include personal instruments and wardrobe. This fee alone can be over $1,500, so make sure you’re reading all the contract details.
- * Multiple hotel rooms—Once you’ve covered getting everyone and everything to the appropriate locations, you’ll also need to take care of lodging accommodations for the celebrity and entourage. You’ll most likely need to book and pay for hotel rooms for everyone. Watch out for specific requests in the rider. Many artists accept only 4- or 5-star hotels. There may also be requests for a certain number of suites, rooms with king size beds, or smoking rooms.
Additional Costs and Hidden Fees
Sometimes additional fees get snuck into the rider, and if you aren’t expecting them, it can be a huge blow to your budget. But, once the contract is signed, you are responsible. Failing to provide the agreed upon arrangements is a breach of contract and could result in the artist cancelling—and you losing out on a lot of money with no way to recoup costs.
Don’t complain about sneaky expenses to the artist’s representative—after all, you are responsible for reading the rider thoroughly. If you end up with an expense you weren’t expecting, use that as a reminder to double-check every expense in the rider and ask questions about any unclear sections the next time you book a celebrity