Putting together an event is a challenging and often complicated process. Your goal is to put on the best possible event while remaining on a budget. There are a variety of details both big and small that can dramatically impact the quality of your event. In this article, I will focus on choosing and booking the best event entertainment.
Hiring the best event entertainment is one of the biggest details in event planning, and it’s also one of the toughest to get right. A lot of event planners think that having any entertainment is enough, but it’s not that simple. The right entertainment can turn an event from a good one into a great one. On the other hand, the wrong entertainment can take a good event and make it underwhelming or even worse a disaster.
Today, I’ll show you how to navigate the process of choosing entertainment for your event like a pro. I’ll cover the questions you need to ask yourself in order to identify the right kind of entertainer and what you need to know in order to find and book the best event entertainment. We’ll also discuss some of the things you need to look out for during the process to avoid hitting any bumps along the way. Let’s get started.
Identify Entertainment for Your Event
When searching for an entertainment for your event, it’s important not to settle for whoever’s available. It might seem like the path of least resistance, but in the end, you’ll just be making it that much more difficult. You need the perfect event entertainment to wow your guests.
There are so many entertainment options available. Event planners can struggle with choice overload. Choice overload means that the more options you have, the more difficult it is too narrow down those options to make a selection.
So how can you narrow down that list of possible entertainment options? How do you make sure that you select not just any entertainer, but the right entertainment for your event?
You can start by asking yourself the following questions.
What kind of audience will be there?
The first way to trim the list is by taking a look at your expected audience. Keeping the event’s guests in mind can help you sort through your options and decide whether or not a particular entertainer will resonate with your audience. If they seem like the kind of entertainment your audience would love, you can keep them on the list for now; if they don’t, you can safely cross them off.
Let’s say you’re putting on an event for a crowd that’s expected to be older and you’re looking for a musical act. In this case, you could safely eliminate someone like Wiz Khalifa, since it’s likely your guests won’t be that familiar with his music. On the other hand, if you’re expecting a younger audience, you can probably cross someone like Barry Manilow off your list.
Remember, your goal isn’t just to put on the event; it’s also to make sure your guests have a great time. By keeping their tastes in mind, you’ll have a better chance of snagging the right entertainment for your event.
What kind of event is it?
Once you’ve narrowed down the list a bit based on what you think the guests will like, the next step is to consider the kind of event you’re running. Specifically is the event public or private?
Typically, entertainers tend to charge more money for private events than they do for public ones. Primarily because private events tend to have higher budgets. In addition, public events offer more free publicity for the entertainer. It’s not uncommon for them to raise their rates a bit for private events to make up for that fact.
Is the entertainment a key focus of the event?
The next consideration is what the entertainment is expected to do at your event. Are they going to be the main attraction of the event, or are they playing a smaller role?
If you just want the entertainment to perform in the background, targeting a big-name entertainer might not make sense. The costs will be much higher. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it to spend extra money just to have a big name there. If they aren’t going to play a central role in the event it likely isn’t worth it. In this case, you can probably safely cross off some of the big names on your list.
However, if the entire event is focused on the performance, you want to secure an entertainer who’s really going to wow the crowd. If you’re looking for something like this, then you should consider booking a bigger-name entertainer. It might cost a bit more, but the additional expense is worth it to ensure your audience has a great and memorable time.
How to Secure The Right Entertainer
Hopefully, by now, you’ve narrowed down the list to a few entertainment options that are sure to impress the crowd at your event. This is a huge step, but you’re only halfway there. Next up is to get them to agree to perform. Here’s what you need to do.
Find out who represents them
When booking entertainment for your event, if it’s a smaller entertainer than you might be able to reach them directly. For bigger entertainers, they’ll usually have an agent.
The agent’s main job is to find work for their clients. They get a percentage of every deal their client makes. Therefore, agents are also responsible for making sure the business side of any deals are favorable to their client.
Once you’ve identified the event entertainment you want, your first step should be to figure out who represents them and how to get in contact. After that, the next step is reaching out to discuss the deal.
Know how to reach out to the entertainments team
The standard process for reaching out to an agent is pretty straightforward.
There are two simple things to remember. The first is to be concise with your request. When you reach out for the first time, limit the information to the “need-to-knows”:
- Who are you interested in? (Agents have multiple clients)
- What do you want them to do?
- When is the event? (either an exact date or a couple of available dates)
- Where is the event?
- Why is this event taking place? (Public or private, whether it’s for a charity/cause, etc.)
Here’s a basic format you can follow:
Hi [agent name],
I am with [your company], and we are having an event for [describe the event]. We are interested in booking [entertainer] to [describe what you want them to do]. The event will be taking place at [event location] on [event date], and I wanted to check availability before sending a formal offer. Is [entertainer] available for this date?
[your full name]
[your phone number]
The second thing to know is how to follow up. A general rule of thumb is to give it 3-5 days between follow-up emails. This makes sure the agent has enough time to read and digest your request.
How well you handle these steps can be the difference between booking the entertainment you want and not even getting a response.
Be prepared to hear “no” (but not too prepared)
By now, you should have a pretty small list of potential event entertainment that meet all the right criteria. It’s important to remember that you may not get a “yes” from every agent. Some entertainment may not be available on the date of your event; in that case, their agent might suggest some of their other clients. If they do, go back through the steps above to determine if any of the alternatives offered by the agent would fit the bill for your event.
It’s always a good idea to have some backup options in mind when you start reaching out but make sure you don’t reach out to too many agents at once. You don’t want to get into a situation where multiple agents express interest in working with you at the same time and have to turn them down. That’s a great way to appear unprofessional.
I suggest sending out emails to no more than 2 agents at once. You should also put a deadline for a response in the email. That way, if you do have to move on and turn down that same agent later, you made it clear from the beginning when you needed a response.
Understand the booking process
If the entertainment you’re targeting is available and interested, the agent will ask some more questions about your event. From there, you’ll need to put together a formal offer that includes all the information that was in your first email to the agent.
Once you send over the offer, and it is reviewed, if the offer isn’t in line with what their client will accept, the agent will let you know pretty quickly. In those cases, agents will either a) tell you to raise your offer and give you a chance to resubmit it, or b) suggest some other clients of theirs who can fit your budget. In some rare cases, if the offer is entirely too low (for example, if you offer Taylor Swift $20,000 for a performance), the agent may not even respond at all.
Know how to negotiate
The negotiation process is a back-and-forth. The agent will likely tell you your initial offer is too low, you’ll come back with a higher offer, and it goes on until both sides are satisfied.
However, just because an agent quotes a particular fee doesn’t necessarily mean you should pay it. It doesn’t always mean that they seriously expect to get it. If you are willing to negotiate on an entertainer’s fee you can save a lot of up-front costs, but be careful. You have to know when to push and when to stop.
There are a few easy ways to give yourself an advantage in the negotiation process. First, never make your first offer your best offer. You should know your budget well before you reach out to any agents. Give yourself wiggle room and take 10% off of your budget limit as an initial offer. If the agent doesn’t go for it, you can work from there.
Second, try putting a deadline on the offer. Sometimes agents will be more willing to make a deal if you give them a sense of urgency. Finally, don’t be afraid to walk away. Remember, you should still have a handful of other entertainment options. Don’t lock yourself into one — especially if it means going over-budget. Showing a willingness to walk away from a negotiation gives you a lot more leverage than you might think with booking entertainment for your event.
Be Aware of These Traps
There are a few common traps that event planners tend to fall into. So before you go, let’s take a minute to briefly cover some of the biggest ones.
Underestimating the costs
You might think the entertainer’s performance fee is all you’ll have to spend on booking them for your event. That fee is part of the equation. However, there are a lot more costs involved that you might not be aware of. These extra costs can sink your event.
Typically, the performance fee only covers the cost of the entertainments performance. Everything else from travel, meals, and so forth — are separate expenses. You’re expected to cover them. On top of that, entertainers typically don’t travel alone. Often the costs also apply to whoever is traveling with them.
The performance fee is also separate from everything involved in making sure the artist has what they need for the performance itself, like equipment. These costs are typically covered on a rider. You may occasionally be able to combine the rider with the performance fee, but most entertainers and their agents prefer to keep the two agreements separate.
Inaccurate price listings
When booking event entertainment, you might be tempted to just do a quick Google search to see what they normally charge. This is a mistake. Entertainers and their representatives don’t advertise their prices online. A Google search might show you a price, but 99% of the time, it won’t be accurate.
The best way to avoid this is by making an offer to their agent. As long as it’s not ridiculously low, their agent will give you a clear idea of what their clients typically charge.
The contract and deposit process
After the event entertainment has agreed to your offer, there’s one more part: the contract and the deposit. When you have agreed with the agent on a date, and they have accepted your bid, they will send you over the contract and rider. The contract will usually come with deadlines on when you need to make certain payments, and also complete the contract.
Typically, you will be required to put up a 50% deposit up-front to confirm the entertainer, with the other 50% due on the date of the event.
Pulling off a successful event is a little like building a house: if you lay the foundation correctly, the rest of the process goes a whole lot smoother. If you put these tips into practice, you’ll go a long way towards making sure your event is the best it can be.