Hiring Headline Entertainment

Hiring-Headline-EntertainmentSix steps that guarantee you’ll rock the house


By Mark Sonder, CSEP, Mark Sonder Productions

Entertainment comes in all varieties, in all languages, and transcends all borders, so booking headline entertainment means making choices from among a vast number of options. For the uninitiated, it can be a crazy process.


First and foremost, you must determine what fits your client’s needs and expectations, based on the event’s goals and objectives. This allows you to provide an entertainment management company with an audience profile that helps it find the most appropriate speaker or headline entertainer. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the process.


Why you need an entertainment management company


There’s a good reason to use corporate entertainment companies. First of all, you probably will never meet with an artist’s exclusive agent in person. After an initial conversation with an exclusive agent, future conversations will most likely be handled by one or more assistants. The agent is interested in completing the paperwork and collecting the money. Once that is done, his or her job is complete. The agent never goes to the job site to oversee the artist’s performance.


In contrast, a good corporate entertainment company takes a full-service approach. In addition to handling the paperwork and financials, staff will control communication, and one or more representatives will be present during your event. The entertainment company can also act as the show’s producer and oversee the rider requirements if the planner or organizer transfers that responsibility to it. Note: The entire obligation to fulfill the rider requirements rests with the event organizer, as the purchaser.


Joshua Jones, director of sales at Painted Desert Gold Club, feels that “using a corporate entertainment company is beneficial.” That’s especially true if you are new to booking name entertainment and have not had the experience of negotiating a rider, he says. “An entertainment company can often negotiate more cost out of riders than the fee that it charges.”


And of course, an entertainment booking agency works with many celebrities and agents regularly, while a planner may only have an occasional need to book one. As a result, the celebrities’ agents have more riding on a deal with an entertainment company that may bring them two, three or 10 engagements a year. “That gives the entertainment booking agency more leverage, and agents will be more flexible in negotiations with them,” Jones says.


Finding the one
1. Know Your Budget


How much are you willing to spend? Determine how much you can shell out on entertainment before finding the right entertainers. The amount of money you spend on entertainment dictates what kind of entertainment your event experiences. Calculate a per person budget to easily manage the costs. Keep in mind, though, that a strong corporate entertainment makes any dull function memorable. So, spend as much as you can for it but never ever cut entertainment out.


2. Discuss Your Event and Your Budget


Corporate entertainers put a tag price on the event depending on its details. Inform them of even the tiniest detail your event has. Discuss the type of event, the theme, if any, number of attendees confirmed or expected, demographics and characteristics of attendees, and time of the event. By laying all these things on the table, you will not only be able to find the perfect entertainer at the right price but you will also determine whether it is a match made in heaven.


3. Require promotional material


Requesting for promotional materials is not meant to burden the corporate entertainer. It is only sought after to determine if there is indeed a perfect match and to know the entertainer better. Promotional materials can be testimonies on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, promotional videos on YouTube, and other profiles.


4. Request for an Agreement


A contract of agreement is not only to formalize the agreement. It also works as a reminder for you on what to prepare – sound system, microphones, lighting etc. This is part of the budget because you cannot get the ideal costing if you will fail to consider these details.


5. Keep Your Entertainment in the Loop


If there are developments on your event, whether it moved to a different location or it is simply moved to another hour later, inform your entertainer. A well-informed entertainer can adjust on changes better. Keeping him in the dark will not help make your event a success.


Steps in booking an entertainer


  1. Research the needs of the audience and identify the appropriate resources to fill these needs. A keynote speaker should speak to issues that hit home with your target audience and “connect” with them. When it comes to entertainment, be it a soloist, band or stand-up comic, the audience demographic is critical. Typically, the age of the audience plays the largest role, since age tends to dictate music taste.
  2. Select an artist. This works best if you or your client either select the top five headliners you would like to have appear at your meeting or event, or prepare an approximate budget and category of music/entertainment/speaker to narrow the list of options.
  3. Have your agent or corporate entertainment company make a written offer to the artist. Remember, an agent can offer you only the artists on the agency’s roster. If the artists you choose are represented by more than one agency, you must contact more than one agent or just one corporate entertainment company. Key point: It is common to lose headliners when clients are not able to act quickly enough to secure the act. So be prepared and empowered to make a reasonably quick decision.
  4. If the entertainer accepts the offer, sign a contract for entertainment services. Once the artist accepts your written offer, it is very difficult to turn back. Are you prepared to make a 50 percent deposit when and if a headline entertainer accepts your offer?
  5. Secure production for the show or have your corporate entertainment company provide the product and services.
  6. Monitor the production process and evaluate the outcomes.

Genres to consider: The Mark Sonder 20 music formats 


  • Adult contemporary.
  • Alternative.
  • Blues.
  • Children’s entertainment.
  • Christian.
  • Classical.
  • Comedy.
  • Country.
  • Dance.
  • Folk.
  • Holiday.
  • Jazz.
  • Latin.
  • Pop.
  • Reggae.
  • Rock.
  • Urban.
  • Variety.
  • World music.
  • ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, ‘10s.

The offer and contract
An offer is a blueprint for the pending contract. If the artist accepts the offer, you are obligated to move forward toward a contract. If the artist declines the offer, neither party has a further obligation. If you still want to procure this entertainer, you can make an alternative offer, in writing. (Everything must be in writing to form a binding agreement.)


If the artist accepts your offer, an entertainment professional can provide invaluable assistance in drawing up the contract. Most contract arrangements have two parts:


  • The actual contract. This spells out in detail the who, what, where, when and how.
  • Rider(s) or addendum(s) to the contract. This can be in the form of one large rider or separate components, broken out into a sound rider, light rider, a food-and-beverage rider, etc. These riders are made part of and attached to the contract. The contract may be one to three pages, with the rider(s) adding another 50 pages. It is not uncommon for riders to specify limo service for the artist or speaker, specific brands of bottled water to have on hand or 300-threadcount Egyptian cotton bed sheets.

Champagne sound on a beer budget
Even with a small budget, utilize entertainment with the same objectives in mind — as a marketing tool. Use your headliners to:


  • Promote events.
  • Reward customers.
  • Increase sales.
  • Introduce new products.
  • Recognize employees.
  • Enhance brand image.

As “convention bands” are popping up all around the U.S. with costs from $7,500 to $22,000, there is even more reason to use headliners within that same price range. Plus, using the headliners generally plays much better in the invitations, save-the-date notices, sale of tickets, etc.


You say you don’t have any money? Get someone who does to support the entertainment that best meets your meeting or event’s goals. In other words — sponsors! Just like the major motion picture OPM (Other People’s Money), you may need to attract sponsors to your event. Why would companies wish to sponsor the entertainment? To do the following:


  1. Entertain clients.
  2. Heighten visibility.
  3. Shape consumer attitudes.
  4. Market to other businesses: “incenting” the trade.
  5. Increase merchandising opportunities.
  6. Drive sales.

Some planners may ask themselves, “Why do I even want entertainment for my meetings and events? What a headache!” Think of your guests, VIPs, your attendees. To hear, to see, to meet a headline entertainer is a high-perceived value for most attendees. It also creates an emotional connection to your customers. People closely identify with music. A certain song, for example, can evoke pleasant memories and helps to create a favorable product tie-in. Furthermore, it is a powerful motivator.


John Penn, vice president of marketing for Sony Music Special Products, says, “Just turn on the radio or TV or go to a movie. You will see that music is everywhere. When you bring music and entertainment into your [meeting or event’s] promotion plans, you add a unique mix of power and effectiveness for reaching your objective, whether it is to drive traffic, sell more products, reward employees and customers, or establish a bond with your customers.”


How much is a “small budget?”


Talent costs vary considerably due to routing, workload, one-offs (not being on tour), bringing in production staff, transportation, etc. You can hire artists for a little more than $10,000, whose price does not usually include sound, light, stage, backline (instruments/amps), transportation, hotel accommodations, local ground or food and beverage. (All of these items are spelled out separately in the artist’s rider.)


Hiring entertainment acts, whether national, regional or local talent, is an effective promotional vehicle these days. Having a headliner at your convention or meeting almost automatically increases attendance and visibility, thus increasing sales, retail sales support, general awareness, image enhancement, sponsors and publicity. Even more important, it can turn an otherwise ho-hum event into an unforgettable experience!


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