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Booking Entertainers for Your Big Occasion: Plan Ahead

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One of the questions a booking agency gets asked a lot is “How long before my event should I be booking entertainers? The answer is always: “It depends…

There’s quite a difference from needing a band for a weekday event with a relatively low budget to requiring a major entertainer to perform on a weekend night for a big fair or festival. You may be starting to see what I mean.

music booking, music booking agency, Houston music booking agency, private partiesLet’s get at some of the issues that go into deciding how far in advance you need to be booking entertainers for various kinds of events or occasion. The following lead time guidelines can help you decide when to engage a booking agency in the planning for your event. Be it a wedding, Christmas party, Mardi Gras Ball, fair, festival, public concert or your mother’s birthday party, you need to understand what timeframe it takes to get the band, singer or other entertainers you want for it.

You would be surprised at the lead times booking agencies, like TSE Entertainment, are given to find an entertainer by various clients. I can cite many examples of short booking timelines. Not too long ago, TSE was asked to find a major entertainer to perform at a wedding reception. Booking entertainers for weddings is one of the things we do. However, in this case the wedding was in two weeks from the time the client contacted us. That’s hard enough. On top of that, the wedding reception was being held in Moscow!

Believe it or not, we were able, with a lot of scrambling, to give the client several artists to choose from for this particular event. Of course, it they had a specific artist in mind, then it would have been an almost impossible challenge for any booking agency.

How Long in Advance Should You Be Booking Entertainers?

Let’s get down to brass tacks and provide you some practical guidelines for how far in advance of your event should you book an entertainer. No one wants to put down a large deposit before they need to, but no one also wants to end up with an entertainer that was not their first choice.

The best rule of thumb is the sooner the better. But even that has caveats, depending on the event itself. Unless it happens to be a major music festival or something along that line, many entertainers won’t book more than a year or so out. For others, that’s not a problem. TSE just booked one of the hottest party bands in the country for a date in February 2020.

The best window is 9 to 12 months before your event, contact a booking agency to get the ball rolling. Extend that window out if you don’t know who you want to perform and are looking for options or a number of people will need to agree on the ultimate entertainer chosen. That might add a month or two on to the 9 to 12 month suggested window. I don’t need to tell you how committees work. They take time to do their thing. The more options they seek, the longer it will take to arrive at the entertainer they want.

Female country artists,
Photos: Reba McEntire courtesy BMLG; Carrie Underwood by Timothy Kuratek/CBS; Dolly Parton by Quantrell Colbert/NBC

Here are some things you should understand when booking entertainers for your corporate, public or private affair. Knowing them can help you understand the lead time necessary for booking entertainers.

  1. The bigger the entertainer, the more lead time you will need to book them for your occasion. Of course, when I say bigger, I’m referring to their fame, not their size. In many cases its directly proportional to how much in demand they are.. Carrie Underwood may need a longer booking lead time than say Reba or Dolly these days. In addition to lead time, having some flexibility in the actual performance date can be very helpful to your booking agency in booking the artist you want.
    This is especially true if the entertainer will be on tour during the date you want them to perform.
  2. The bigger the event, the more lead time you will need to book entertainers. This is just common sense. If you’re the booking agent for the Coachella Festival, you are working at booking your headliners several years out. Smaller acts require a smaller booking window, but these big events require a long lead time for the biggest stars.

Chancers are, if you are booking for Coachella you are not reading this, but the point is the same. Start early. Booking agencies only get paid when they book the act for your occasion. Get them working for you well in advance.

  1. The more common the event or popular the season taking place, the more lead time you require in booking entertainers for it. If you event is taking place at a time of the year when there is a lot of requests for live music, then the earlier you need to book. For example, if you are looking to book a band for your wedding reception and you are having a June wedding, you should be looking to book a wedding band early. You have a little more time if your wedding is taking place in January. If you are booking a holiday party in December, you should book much earlier than a private party in March.
  2. If you need a band for a date-specific event that is shared with other music lovers, you need to book early. Take a 4th of July celebration concert. You don’t have any date flexibility and you are competing against every entity in America that holds such a celebration. Another example is Mardi Gras. If you need a band for your Krewe or another organization, good party bands are in very high demand. You can probably name another date when bands are in huge demand. You’re right, New Year’s Eve.

It’s just common sense that, if you are trying to book a band on the same day 63 percent of American are attending fireworks displays and concerts, you had better book early to get the artists you want. If you are not choosey, you can wait. That’s your call.

  1. If you need an entertainer for a weekend night, then you need to book earlier. Weekends are when entertainers make their money. Week days are often icing on the cake so it’s easier to book entertainers on weekdays and doesn’t require as much lead time. Another positive is that you can often get them to play for less money.

I would recommend 9 to 12 months out if you want to get your first choice in entertainment in these examples. If you wedding is in January or your private party is in April, chances are you will be able to get an entertainer 6 months out. Remember, if you want a singer or band during a busy period for them, hire a booking agency early on.

If you are looking for a band for your December holiday party, you should already have one booked. If not, get moving! Mardi Gras bands are getting booked as well so I would encourage your organization to engage a booking company now. If you wedding is next June, book your wedding reception band now.

I hope you get the point. TSE Entertainment has been booking entertainers since 1975 so we know the lead times it takes to get that special artist at your event.

Related Post:

Booking Live Entertainment for Your Holiday Party

About the author

Picture of Robert Brecht

Robert Brecht

Doctor Bob brings a diverse background in production, marketing, and business management to his position as Managing Partner of TSE Entertainment. His responsibilities include overseeing TSE’s services other than talent booking. He also manages the marketing and business operations side of TSE.
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