East Coast Soul entertainment booking

How to Book Entertainment for Your Events

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Knowing the easiest way to book entertainment for your events will become important as the public health restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are relaxed and people can once again host live entertainment events. No matter what type of event you are planning, knowing how to book entertainment efficiently and confidently will serve you well.

COVID-19 continues to keep most professional musicians and music lovers alike at home.  That is slowly changing as things begin to open up again.  As we look to the future, it’s time to start planning your occasion. Be flexible as to when your event will take place if possible. That way you can select the actual date based upon the latest pandemic news in your area.

Where Do You Start to Book Entertainment?

If you are going to hire your cousin who is an Elvis impersonator, you don’t need to continue reading this article. However, if you are going to hire entertainers that you don’t know, then read on. Entertainers run the gamut of the guy down the street who does magic at kids shows to big name artists.

Start with What You Know: If you want to book entertainment for your private party, wedding reception, corporate event, or arena concert, begin with the things you should know as part of your planning process. That’s right, you need to have a plan. Begin with the Five W approach. That stands for Why, What, Where, Who and When. If you think about it, you know more than you think.

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    1. Why? There must be a reason you want to hold an event. It may be as simple as seeing people again after being locked down for six months. Chances are there is a reason like a birthday, retirement, product launch, holiday party, wedding reception, Quinceañera, reopening your nightclub, or a concert by a big name celebrity, etc. You get the picture. The “Why” plays in the next “W” which is What.
    2. What? The “what” describes the nature and theme of the event. A grand opening or reopening is very different than a retirement party. A Quinceañera is going to feel a lot different than a trade show product launch. What describes the mood you need to create when you book entertainment.
    3. Where? Depending on the event, you probably already know where it’s going to take place. It may be your mom’s backyard or at the SSS Conference Trade Show. It may be at a hotel ballroom, your place of business or take place in a live music venue.
    4. Who? Based upon the answers to the above “W’s, you should have a good idea who will be attending the event. If it’s a corporate holiday party or milestone celebration, chances are it will be employees, management and other stakeholders involved with operations of the company. If it’s dad’s retirement party, it will likely be his family, friends, and co-workers.

Knowing who will be the likely audience will help you book entertainment that appeals to that audience. That’s why attendee demographics are important in selecting the right entertainment whether it’s that local magician or big-name artists. You wouldn’t want to hire a Frank Sinatra tribute artist for a Millennial or Generation Z audience.  Likewise, you wouldn’t want to book Dirty Honey or The HU for your father’s retirement party. Knowing the people that you expect at your event can’t be underestimated if you want them to thoroughly enjoy it.

    1. When? In the era of the Covid-19 pandemic, being flexible of when the event will happen is a real plus. Unfortunately, that’s not possible if it’s a tradeshow event, a birthday party, or a date limited occasion. Of course, even those have some flexibility like having them on a weekend instead of the exact date being celebrated.

If you can wait until the “right” time to hold the event then you have a much better chance to book entertainment that fits your needs and budget. The pandemic has become the “when” in many cases where you have a flexible date. Public health requirements will be relaxed further once the infection rate declines. People will be more likely to attend events if they feel safer as the risk of infection declines.

How Much Can You Spend to Hire Entertainment?

There is no “W” for Cost, Money, Dinero, Budget, Expense, Outlay, Expenditure, Amount, or other words that describe how much you have to spend to book entertainment for your special occasion. This is where the rubber meets the road as to the level of talent you can book for your event. It doesn’t matter who you want to entertain if your budget won’t allow it. You are not going to book big name celebrities for fifteen thousand dollars. However, that level of budget will give you a lot of options to book entertainers that will thrill the guests of most events. If you budget is a more modest amount, there are still options.

Now to the “How” of Booking Entertainment

Once you are armed with the answers to the above questions, you are ready to book entertainment for your upcoming affair. So, what do you do to find the right entertainers for your event? There are several paths you can take.

    1. Do It Yourself: By Do It Yourself what I mean is not involving third parties in finding and booking the entertainment you want for your occasion. You may already know a band that you like. Just remember the band is for the enjoyment of everyone, not just you. Someone you know, may have used a band for their party, wedding reception, etc. so you can ask them about the band they used. If you are going this route, getting recommendations from people you know who are involved in the music business or have hired a band in the past is a good place to start.

Once you find the band you want, you will then need to negotiate their performance fee, contract issues and any hospitality rider issues as part of the process of booking entertainment. The more popular the entertainer you select, the more complex this process will be. Needless to say, you do not want to be executing contracts with big name artists.

Not everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows someone. That leads to the second way to book entertainment for lower budgeted events.

    1. Use Entertainer Directory Sites: Websites like Gigsalad and The Bash among others provide a directory of entertainers. These sites will list entertainers based upon your location and the kind of entertainment you want to book. They feature a description of the act, star ratings and reviews as well as a form to request a free quote. They typically list the acts starting with the closest to your location, and depending on the site, will keep listing acts further away from around the U.S. They build in their flat fee as part of the quote you receive when you use their sites to book entertainment.

I recommend these sites if your entertainment budget is under a thousand dollars and you don’t know someone who knows someone who knows someone. There is a strategy you can use if you want to avoid the fees associated with these sites. You can use these sites to identify entertainers. Once you identify the act you want, you can Google them and find their website directly. That allows you to bypass these sites and negotiate directly with the band. Oftentimes, it not worth the effort since these sites charge a modest fee (some around forty dollars for a booking) and your time is worth more. But, if you trying to save the most money, it’s a tactic you can use as you try to book the entertainers you want for your event.

    1. Use an Entertainment Booking Agency: As your budget and the need for bigger celebrities grow, you would be wise to involve a entertainment booking agency as part of your approach to finding and booking the right acts to fit your needs. They are excellent at finding the most suitable entertainers to fit your occasion and budget. Unlike you, they do this every day and know the ins and outs of the booking process.

Most big-name celebrities are clients of a select few international booking agencies and management companies. They are not inclined to deal with individuals for their events. Reputable booking companies and their agents have established one on one relationships with agents at these major booking agencies. Good entertainment booking agencies will also have personal relationships with the management of local, regional, and national acts that are not at the level of being represented by the WME, CAA, UTA, etc. of the world.  These relationships can save you money in performance fees and rider expenses.

They will handle the details and find the right act that fits your budget, audience, and theme. Once they find the entertainment, they will negotiate on your behalf to get you the best overall deal possible. Once the act is under contract, they will do the follow up and advance the show and make sure it goes off smoothly.

Whether it’s a local cover band for your wedding reception or big name celebrities for a major concert, using a booking agency can provide the peace of mind you need so you can spend your time dealing with the other issues involved with your event. Make sure you employ a reputable booking agency that has been in busines for a long time and who can furnish you a multitude of references for the kind of event you are planning. Many will also offer additional services such as local production or event management to take more of the load off you in planning your event.

If you use this approach to planning and booking, you should be fine. Remember, it’s just not about the money; but about how memorable the entertainment is for your occasion. I’m biased, but I would use a booking agency for any event where your entertainment budget is in the thousands, rather than hundreds of dollars. Good luck with your efforts.

Related Posts:

Entertainment Options for Private Events During The Pandemic

So, You Want to Book a Band for Your Big Event?

Entertainment Booking Agency: What Do You Get?

About the author

Robert M. Brecht, PhD.

Robert M. Brecht, PhD.

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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