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Booking entertainment for your big special occasion seems straight forward at first thought?  In practice, it’s much harder. Why, you ask? It’s because the booking entertainment process is fraught with issues, including:

  • Acquisition
  • Financial
  • Legal
  • Logistical

Plan Ahead When Booking Entertainment. The first thing you should remember is the more time you leave between your event and planning for it, the better position you are to address the various issues that arise in the process. The bigger the artist, the longer lead time you need. For well known artists, you should leave 6 to 8 months for the booking entertainment process to play out.

Booking Entertainment: Acquisition Issues

Of course, we all know that the ideal doesn’t always match reality. I recently had a last-minute request for an international booking for a wedding in Moscow.  The buyer wanted specific world-renown entertainers with less than two weeks until the wedding reception. The entertainment was going to be the buyer’s wedding gift to the happy couple. The buyer didn’t understand how difficult finding an artist would be and didn’t have a full appreciation of the actual performance fees and the fact that fees go up with such short notice booking.

As an entertainment booking agency, we try to help the buyer by working with multiple agencies to offer alternatives and keep performance fees lower through competition among the agencies involved. In these situations, the buyer might not end up with someone on his original list but with someone of comparable stature and genre. Without the ability to deal with several agencies at once and substitute comparable artists, the buyer would be over the barrel in a take it or leave it situation.

The buyer was happy with the list of entertainers we were able to get for his event. While none of them were on his original list, they all met his need for genre and world-wide name recognition. All the artists on the list presented to him were also in his budget for the event. That’s why it essential when booking entertainment that you use a long-established booking agency to help you through the process.

Finding an artist means matching the artist to the buyer’s wants as well as to the demographics of the audience. The further out you are from the event, the easier this is.  Availability of the artist for your event depends on whether they are touring, booked for another event, in studio, have personal commitments, writing new music, etc. Having a long lead time minimizes availability issues when booking entertainment.

Booking Entertainment: Financial Issues

When booking entertainers there is more to consider besides the performance fee itself. Most booking agencies include their booking fee as part of the overall performance fee presented to the buyer. All bands have technical requirements as well as hospitality requirements to be met by the buyer in addition to the actual performance fee.  They are part of the contract and called “riders.”

The technical and hospitality requirements can be very significant, especially if the event is far from where the artist is based.  Let’ go back to the Wedding in Moscow occasion I discussed earlier. They had their choice of a track and DJ show from a famous performer or a full band show. Think about the finances of transportation, food, hotel for a full band versus a track show. A track show uses recorded music to accompany the artist as they perform. That could mean the difference of 4 people or 14 people for the event. Now imagine providing air transportation, ground transportation, hotels and food for one or the other. You know that renown entertainers are not traveling in coach!

Now comes the technical requirements. It they are performing in Moscow or any other city that requires them to fly to it, the technical requirements get longer. The buyer may need to rent or contract with a sound and lighting company to provide the backline and other technical must-haves to perform the show. Depending on the location and what’s available, a stage leasing company may also be involved.

At least with a wedding you don’t need to promote the event. The couple and their family have already spent big bucks for this memorable day. Other private parties may require spending on letting people know who is performing so as to attract people to the event.

Entertainment Booking: Legal Issues

entertainment booking contractIf you have never reviewed an entertainment booking contract, you will be surprised to learn of all the protections and legal issues contained in it. Contracts describe the exact nature of the performance, including venue, date, number of sets, set duration, start time, ticketing, security, artist relationship and return engagements, recording or transmission of performance, merchandising, indemnification, Force Majeure, controlling authority, etc. You get the picture. All the specifics are defined in the contract.

The bigger the agency representing the artist, the longer the contract can be (including longer riders as well). The biggest issue for most events is who can cancel and when without penalty. Usually artists can cancel up to 30 days before an event for a major opportunity. Purchaser would need a just cause to cancel up to 30 days of event. Otherwise buyer may be on the hook for deposit or full fee.

It’s best to stay out of the minefield and use a reputable agency to negotiate contracts and riders on your behalf when booking entertainment.

Booking Entertainment: Logistical Issues

Okay, you have contract in hand and the event is fast approaching. Now consider a few of the logistics that must be handled in this process. Let’s go back to the Moscow wedding example. In two weeks’ time, you would need to get flights and hotel arranged; get visas for all of the traveling party; arrange transportation to and pick up at the airport in Moscow; arrange local transportation while there; get temporary fitness center/spa memberships; arrange meals and refreshments while they are there; arrange site inspection; provide people for load in for equipment from band, sound. lighting and staging companies; arrange for sound check; provide green room needs; and load out personnel.

I hope you get the picture. There are a lot of logistics needing handling from the buyer’s end for any performance. The buyer or his representative will work directly with the artist’s tour manager to make sure everything happens on time.

I hope that I’ve provided you a little insight as to what goes into booking entertainment. It’s a great deal more than one might think if you have never tried to book entertainment for an event before.

Remember, a good booking agency can save you money and headaches in this process. Consider using one for your next big function.

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