Pro Tips for The Savvy Event Talent Buyer
Perhaps you were drawn to this article by the curiously unsettling title. Or, perhaps you have a bit of PTSD over the last group you hired for an event. Just consider this post a little support group for the traumatized talent booker. Here are a few easy ways you can blow it in booking . . .
1. A REEL Problem
No Demo Reel? This is a great way to step out on a limb. With everyone running around like paparazzi with video-capturing smart phones these days there is really no good reason for an entertainer to be without some sort of footage. Unless... they realize that they might not be hired if you really knew what they sounded like!
TIP: It is not so important that the demo is a multi-camera, pro edited video with flying 3D logos and such, it truly just needs to show their skills in the capacity in which they are advertising themselves.
2. Photo Fraud
'Wow! This entertainer has really played the big time - look at all of these great photos of high-end events!' You swiftly glide the mouse to the "Book Now" button and, viola, they are yours, all yours. 'Hmmm . . . Amazing how they were at the same event as that other group on that last site.' You ponder.
Welcome to the wonderful world of stock photos! This brings the whole "fake it till you make it" phrase to life. Did you happen to wonder how that poor starving musician was able to have so many professional ariel views of their gigs? I am sure mom and dad bought their rising star a drone.
TIP: Too good to be true? Do an images web search with the band/group's name and see if you can find any candid photos of live performances. Do they look like the same people? Is the setting consistent with their promo images?
3. A Very Important Date
"Hey - slick website!" You are impressed. But, mother always told you, "Don't judge a book by its cover." Mother was right. Scroll down to the bottom of the page - do you see a copyright date? Hmmm . . . it hasn't been updated since 2012. "Oh well I'm sure their even better by now!"
Buyer beware. Just like marriages and Kit Kat bars, groups break up. There can be some rough patches and adjustment time when a group loses a key player - you don't want your event to to fall in that time frame.
TIP: Check out all of the group's social media pages. Have they been updated recently? Do they show photos, videos, and events that are current or recent? While Mr. Webmaster dude may have overlooked the date on the website, social media is usually fairly active for an actively performing group.
4. Quote Quota?
"Wow! This quote says this band is the best they've ever seen!" You scroll down the entertainer's EPK page . . . "These chaps have played some big name events!" That's it, I'm sold.
Years ago, when my sister and I were just kids, we splurged and paid for a "Busker's Permit" in St. Louis, MO. We sang and danced some pretty top-name venue addresses downtown - pretty impressive for a 10 and 12-year-old. In case you didn't catch on, a "Busker's Permit" is for a street performer. We would sing and dance for crowds outside theaters while they waited for the Box Office to open. Now technically we did perform at the address of these top name venues, so shouldn't we put them on our website? No. Why? Because it would have given the clients a false sense of our experience at the time.
TIP: Check the initials of the person giving the rave reviews. Are they close to the same initials of any of the band members? Does the quote note the title, position, or organization associated with it? Keep in mind that someone may have played "The Hollywood Bowl" . . . on farmer's market day . . . or danced on the stage at "Radio City Music Hall" . . . while on a backstage tour.
5. Rapid Responder
"Okay, it's only been 3 days - I'm sure they will get back with me after the weekend." You have the patience of a saint!
You should be concerned if you don't hear back from an artist within 2 business days. However, many professionals receive alerts on their phones, so they can often attend to your questions within minutes or hours nowadays.
TIP: Select an artist that is a good communicator. You want to be sure they will respond to you about last minute event changes, emergencies, etc. They should ask YOU what YOUR preferred method of communication is - phone, email, text, homing pigeon, etc.
6. Blushing Boss
"Heh heh heh," you chortle at a slightly crude joke on the entertainer's demo reel. "My boss has a good sense of humor, he'll be cool with this. Besides, I have a good vibe about this complete stranger I found on the internet, I trust him and you can't beat this booking fee!"
Since you are so trusting of the internet, you may want to start scanning job postings as your choice entertainer may pose a threat to your job security. A professional entertainer knows that you are depending one him/her to make you and the organization look good. The flow of the event is a reflection of you regardless of whether or not a vendor messes up. It is imperative that you are very particular about who represents your company or brand. Crude humor, edgy costuming, shocking lyrics, etc. do not jive well with a good business image. You will pay more for clean entertainment, but it is well worth the peace of mind.
TIP: Ask for a sample script or lyrics before booking. Be direct about your goals for the event and the image you are looking to portray. A pro will get it, a disgruntled and defensive artist is probably not a good fit.
7. Good Ole Fashioned Handshake
I suppose these days instead of a handshake there is an emoticon to convey the sentiment. So, you and Mr. Entertainer Man exchanged a few virtual high-fives and had a good-natured e-conversation. You understand each other like old buddies. What could go wrong?
Never ever let good sentiment outweigh the importance of a signed contract. A verbal agreement is very unreliable and is only as good as the person with the uncanny memory for details. Details can be morphed and intentions misunderstood. Get everything in writing that you are to provide and that the entertainers is to provide. This will prevent unnecessary tension on the day of your event.
TIP: Don't book an entertainer who doesn't send you a performance agreement or contract. In the tizzy of planning your event, be sure to look over the final signed copy - you do not want to overlook anything that may have been left un-initialed or scratched out.
Have an experience you learned from and would like to share? Feel free to post tips that you've learned along the way. Thanks for reading!
Lacy Miller is an artist manager for SSL Entertainment and entertainer in The Gracie & Lacy Show based in Charleston, SC.