In theory, booking entertainment for an event should be a breeze: identify the entertainer, make an offer, then sign the contract. But in practice, there’s a lot more that goes into booking entertainment, and some of the things you might not consider can potentially mean the difference between successfully booking entertainment and scrambling to find someone to fill the slot.
I’m going to take a look at the 4 things you should know before beginning the booking process. This list won’t be exhaustive; after all, each event is unique, and there are many different types of entertainment. But if you want to avoid some of the obstacles that commonly occur when booking entertainment for an event, this list is a great place to start. Read on for more tips!
1. Know How To Reach Out
The first step towards booking entertainment for your event is to identify the entertainer you want at the event. The kind of entertainment you book should depend on the kind of event you’re running; there’s no quicker way to throw away money on entertainment than by booking someone who isn’t a good fit for your event’s guests. In order to make the most of your booking (and get your money’s worth), make sure the entertainment you hire is a good match for your guests.
Once you’ve identified the entertainment you want for your event, the next step is to reach out to their agent. 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 their manager.
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. At Booking Agent Info, we provide the official agents, managers, and publicists for thousands of celebrities.
The standard process for reaching out to an agent follows a pretty basic format. There are quite a few things to know about dealing with agents, but in the interest of time, the two most important ones are simple: be concise with your request, and know how to follow up. (A general rule of thumb is to give it 3–5 days between follow-up emails to make sure the agent has enough time to read and digest your request.) These can be the difference between booking the entertainment you want and not even getting a response.
In order to improve your odds of success, you need have a crystal-clear picture of the event before you reach out to an agent; that includes knowing the exact details of the event (that is, when and where it’s taking place), the kind of event you’re hosting, and what you want their client to do at the event. Agents are constantly receiving requests from people hoping to book celebrities, especially people who don’t understand the booking process. You can do a lot to set yourself apart from everyone else just by having all the details they’ll ask for squared away before you reach out. Which means you should…
2. Have A Plan Of Action
When it comes to booking entertainment for events, your next step should be to figure out what that entertainment will look like. After all, you wouldn’t open a restaurant without putting together a menu first, right?
Entertainers won’t consider taking on a job unless they know exactly what’s expected of them. So if you reach out without a clear understanding of what you want an entertainer to do, the entertainer or their agent might ignore your request.
Booking entertainment for an event can take a variety of different forms, so it’s crucial that you understand the differences between them before beginning the process. For example, your entertainment booking might just consist of an appearance or walkthrough arrangement, where you essentially just hire someone to attend the event. These kinds of bookings are typically less expensive. If you want more interaction, you can consider a hosting arrangement, where the entertainer will spend the whole night at your event and mingle with the people attending the event, and can guide the even along.
If you want the whole event centered around an entertainer, you can hire them for a speaking or performance arrangement. Whatever you decide, remember, the more you ask the the person to do, the more you’ll have to pay. And speaking of budget…
3. The Entertainer’s Fee ≠ What You’ll Spend
So you’ve reached out to an entertainer and they’ve accepted your offer — you can go ahead and cross the entertainment off your to-do list, right?
One of the most common errors event planners make is in assuming that the performance fee for the entertainer is all they’ll have to spend on entertainment. In reality, the entertainer’s fee is just one part of the overall cost of entertainment, and if you don’t plan accordingly, you might find yourself going over-budget in a heartbeat.
Entertainer fees are intended to cover one thing only: the cost of the entertainer showing up at your event and doing what you asked them to do. Not included in that cost are all the things the entertainer will need for their performance, and these items can add up pretty quickly. For example, you’ll need to cover the cost of the entertainer’s flight and hotel room, their travel to and from your event, and any food or drinks they’ll have while they’re in town; furthermore, you’ll also have to cover the cost of any equipment they need (lights, sound, stage setup, etc.) for their performance. On top of all that, entertainers rarely travel alone to events, so not only will you have to pay for their travel and accommodations, you’ll also have to foot the bill for anybody else the entertainer brings with them to your event.
Of course, there are ways to lower some of the costs. If the entertainer is touring and you haven’t yet secured a venue, you can try to piggyback your event date off of their tour; you’ll still have to pay the entertainer’s hotel and travel costs, but if the entertainer is already in your area on a given date, you’ll be able to save money on their travel. And if you know what kind of performance you’re looking for, you can try to find a venue that has as much equipment in-house as possible, which will save money on equipment rentals. These may seem like minor details, but you’d be surprised how much you can save by being strategic in deciding when and where your event is booked. And, of course, there’s always another way to save money:
4. Know How To Negotiate
Once you’ve gotten in touch with the entertainer, don’t be afraid to (effectively) negotiate the booking fee — just because you’re quoted a particular fee doesn’t mean you should pay it. Being willing to negotiate on the fee can save you a lot of up-front costs, but with any negotiation, though, you have to know when to push and when to ease off. If you don’t, you risk ensuring the entertainer will never consider working with you again.
There are a couple of easy ways to give yourself a boost on the negotiation process.
First, never make your first offer your best offer — take 10% off the total amount you have available to spend on entertainment and use that as an initial offer. (This is why it’s so important to know exactly how much you can afford to spend, not just on the entertainer’s fee, but on all the extras that come with it.) In most negotiations, the agent won’t accept the first fee; if they do, it’s likely because you offered way too much. But by taking a little off your initial offer, you’ll leave yourself room to increase your offer without threatening your total budget.
Of course, if the price is far below what their client usually commands for an event, it’s entirely possible that the agent won’t go for it. If that’s the case, assuming you’ve demonstrated your professionalism and seriousness about working with one of their clients, many agents will offer other clients of theirs in your price range as alternatives. This is why it’s so important to make sure you have everything planned out before reaching out.
Second, as an event planner, your first consideration should be your guests’ experience, but right behind that should be how efficiently you manage your available budget. While you may think there’s only one person who can deliver everything you need, odds are there are quite a few more who can do just as good a job for less money, so don’t be afraid to walk away from a negotiation if you can’t reach an agreement on a price that works for both parties.
In order to effectively walk away from a negotiation, it’s crucial that you don’t marry yourself to the idea of one specific entertainer for your event. This makes it easier to step away from the negotiating table before prices spiral out of control.
By keeping some backup options in mind, if your first choice doesn’t pan out, you’ll be negotiating from a position of strength rather than desperation. And since agents have a responsibility to secure income for their clients, more often than not, this leverage will usually result in you getting better deals on entertainment for your event.
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