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Booking Major Acts FAQ New Concert Promoters and Talent Buyers
This FAQ has been written in an effort to provide you with the basic qualifications you will need to secure an “A” list artist. Some of our competition may not want us to pull back the curtain and go into these details, but we believe our clients should know who they are paying and what they are paying for.
What do I need to have in place before I make contact with an agent for the acquisition of an artist?
You need to have at least 50% of your total production budget in the bank prior to making any “firm” offers. Please read the entire document to understand. This is not for us, but for the artist immediately after they issue a contract if we successfully negotiate a deal for you. We will not make offers on artists if you are not prepared to move forward. We will though, still answer your questions to help you get to that point or to help determine the feasibility of you creating a successful event.
How much would I expect to offer for an “A-List” artist or band?
The answer to this question can be an enigma. Artist prices are not published. When you want to secure an artist, you have to make an offer, but you don’t know what to offer. You don’t want to be too high or too low. Unless you know somebody on the “inside” or deal with a buyer agent like us, you are not in a good position.
With some research, we can come up with a range based upon historical data but we would need to take a number of things into consideration like:
Does the artist have a current hit? Did they just win an award? Did they just win American Idol? How often do they perform? What size crowds have they performed for in the past six months? What were the ticket prices of those performances? What is their tour schedule? Do they sell out?
The performance prices can fluctuate on any given A-List artist depending on many factors. Corporate gig offers are higher then public concerts. There are also artists that won’t even leave the house for less then a million dollars because they have been around for 20+ years and do not have regular tour schedules.
There are different kinds of offers. Some are “flat fees” to perform and some are based upon a fee guarantee PLUS a percentage of the NET profit above the promoters break even point which is a “rev share” deal. The artists will also look at the potential net profit of a deal to determine a price.
So how do I determine the correct number for my offer?
This is where we come in to help…
Based upon the recent history of the artist, how many seats have been sold at each event? What percentage of seats were sold at each event? Was it a sellout?
What venues do you have available in your area that can handle the historical ticket sales for that artist? How many seats are in that venue? What is the ticket pricing?
In addition to the artist’s fee, what is your budget for all of the other production costs related to your event including the venue, staging, sound, lighting, security hospitality, MARKETING, backline, etc? Basically everything else.
As an example, here is some math that helps to figure out what you should offer.
You have a venue with 10,000 seats. Your research shows there is an artist out there that can sell out this venue. Your average ticket price is $50.00. If you sold out the venue, the gross ticket sales is $500,000.
Your production/marketing expenses, not including the artist cost is $100,000. That leaves $400,000 NET before the artist cost. Your artist cost could be at least half this amount and you might even have to share in the NET profit over and above your break even point.
Risk is always considered. If you have a 5000 seat venue but history shows you will probably only sell 4000 of the seats and you need at least 3500 seats to break even, they may agree to a lower guarantee with a higher percentage of the profits over the break even point.
This is our job to figure this out. I am not trying to discourage you, but unless you are booking an oldies band or an up and coming artist you are generally looking at a minimum of $50,000 all the way through six figures to over a million for any major artist. And if you are trying to make a name for yourself as a new promoter, and at the end of the day you did not lose money, you had a good day.
How much do I have to pay the artist up front?
At the point a contract is issued by the artist or agent, you will need to send a full 50% deposit at the time you send the contract back after you have signed it. This is usually within 2 weeks of the offer being made. This goes directly to the artist management and usually not through us.
Can I pay 10% now and more later as we sell tickets?
Absolutely not! Setting the fact aside you need the 50% up front, by even asking this question, you are telling the agent you are not in a financial position to promote a concert
When do I have to pay the balance of the artist fee?
Unless you have a “Door Deal” where the artist tour manager has control over the box office, the balance of the artist fee will be required when the tour manager gets off the bus. In some cases if the artist is performing overseas, you may have to have the balance in escrow a week prior to the artist’s performance date.
What if our pre sales were slow and we know we will have the money after the show from walk up ticket sales?
This is not the artist’s problem. If the balance in not paid to the artist in cash or certified funds when they arrive on the day of the concert, they will get back on the bus and leave. Secondly, they get to keep the deposit AND they can sue you for the balance. So in other words, if you do not have the financial means to guarantee the performance fees, find an investor.
What else should we be prepared to pay when we pay the deposit to the artist?
Generally there will be a deposit for the venue along with any pre-production fees and talent acquisition costs.
Can I get a discount because this is for a private event or fundraiser?
No. In most cases, private event fees are higher than public event fees.
We also get requests for Sweet 16 and private parties all the time. No discounts.
If you want an artist to donate their time for a fund raiser, keep in mind they get hundreds of requests a year which is why you will see artists focus on one or two major charities. It is not that they don’t care about your cause. There are just not enough days in a year. If you are making contact with us to secure an artist for a donation of time, we cannot help you. You will have to make contact directly through the artist website or management company. If you have a reasonable artist budget we will work with you on the date.
2) Choose a date.
Generally speaking, you should allow at the very least, 120 days for marketing your event from the date you have a signed contract with the artist. Six months is better.
Why is it important to book at least 120 days out?
Statistics show you need at least a full 120 days to market an event. You cannot promote an event until you have contracted the artist with the deposit.
Are there any benefits to booking 6 months out?
Yes, If you have at least 6 months or more, you could possibly save money on the artist by choosing a date within the artists tour routing. Secondly, they would probably have all of their backline equipment with them.
What is “backline”?
If your artist is flying in to perform at your concert, they are generally only bringing their guitars and horns. At your expense, you would need to provide Back Line, which can consist of the drum set, keyboards, amplifiers, risers, special monitor equipment and other items listed on their “fly in” performance rider.
3) Contract with a Venue
Artists may not contract until you have a written contract with the venue for the performance or at least the date held in writing. First, you have to research to see if the venue you have chosen, based upon your forecast of ticket sales, will be available on the date you have chosen or the date that fits with a specific artist’s schedule. If you at least can show that the date is cleared, we can contact the venue for confirmation.
We can look at the past venue or artist ticket sales to help you determine what sized venue will fit your need.
Other then the venue rental cost, are there any other costs related to the venue that I need to be aware of?
Yes, there are many other costs to consider which you should allow for in your proposed budget. First, in addition to the venue rental fee, they may require a ticket fee or a small percentage of the gross revenue. They may require the ticket sales to go through Ticketmaster or other ticketing agency which would also have a ticket processing fee attached. They may also require a percentage of the merchandising.
They will have insurance requirements, security requirements and may require you to use a specific stage, sound and lighting requirements. And, you might have to pay union labor rates. It is good to know all of these costs before proceeding to the talent acquisition.
Do not ask for a specific artist until you have researched the artist. When was the last time that artist was in your city? Do they already have a gig scheduled in your city? Are they even available based upon their tour schedule? Are they scheduled for a gig within 200 miles of your city?
What other events are scheduled the day/night of the show? You would not want to schedule a concert on the start of the World Series. What other similar Genre concerts are scheduled 2 weeks prior or after the show? In other words, if you are planning a County music concert, is Tim and Faith scheduled to perform a week before your concert? If so, the concert goers you were expecting have already spent their entertainment budget for the month, especially in these economic times.
5) Production Experience
If you do not have a track record producing or promoting concerts, you will have to partner with a company that does, especially on the larger dollar artists. If you do not have a successful track record you will NEVER get a major artist. Even if you are swimming in cash. It is the agent’s responsibility to conduct due diligence to determine the feasibility of the gig. Professionalism is everything.
Is this what a PROMOTER does?
No. The promoter is usually the client purchasing the artist and is responsible for all of the marketing and advertising and holds 100% of the liability including recipient of any profit or loss. What you are looking for is an event/concert management company who has long standing relationships with artist management and artist agents. This is where our concert management team can come in to fill this role.
OK, so I have all my ducks in a row based upon the above information. Who do I contact to get the talent?
Every major artist has a Responsible Agent (RA). This is the booking agent who directly represents the artist on behalf of the artist and the artist’s manager. The RA usually works for a major agency. In addition to the RA, there are regional agents within the firm. In a perfect world, you would be able to contact these agents directly to inquire as to the availability and price of the artist. Even though this can happen, if you do not have a track record with the agency or do not know the business, your likelihood of success is very low.
Can’t I just make contact with the RA to get a list of all the artists and their prices?
Not usually. There is no set pricelist for artists and the prices are not published. There are many things for the artist to consider and supply & demand comes into play. Do they have a sponsor? Is the label supporting them? Also unless you have an existing relationship with the agent, you are not going to get pricing. You would need to make an offer, but in making the offer you would need to know where to come in. You could be too high or too low. And if you think you are going to get a “Top A List” artist for cheap, you will be laughed at. Also, we don’t quote prices. We can tell you a range based upon history but until you are in a position to actually make an offer we will not contact the RA.
So what are my options?
If you do an internet search to book a specific artist, you will come up with a long list of sub-agents, entertainment brokers and promoters all “claiming” to represent the artist you are seeking. While they may not be the RA for that artist, some of them have direct contact with the RA’s and can negotiate for an artist on your behalf like us.
An advantage to using an outside agency is they generally know what an artist is going for and have an understanding of riders and other artist requirements.
How do I choose the right sub agent?
1) Look over their website and look for a track record. Look for how long they have been in business. Generally the agencies that have been around for awhile are a good bet.
2) When you make your initial contact, be aware of an immediate response that they can get the deal done. If they have not qualified you as a buyer or made any initial inquires as to the availability of the artist, prior to asking you for a deposit, you would want to proceed with caution as they are too eager.
3) GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING. If any details are discussed over the phone or promises are made orally, ask them to send you the details by e mail. Create a paper trail which is all you would have to stand on in court prior to a contract being issued by the artist. Again, GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING
4) Never pay more then a 10% deposit PRIOR to a performance contract being issued. If the sub agent has integrity, they will already know that the artist you want fits within your budget, their availability and that you are OK with their rider requirements. At the time you authorize the sub agent to make an offer on your behalf, you will usually be asked to pay a 10% deposit to go along with your offer. Generally, if the offer is accepted by the artist management, and a contract is issued, and you choose to back out of the deal, you will lose your deposit. But, make sure you have a refund clause signed by the sub agent that if your offer is declined, that your deposit is immediately refunded. GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING.
Next, at the point the offer has been accepted and you have the contract in your hand, then and ONLY then would you send in the remaining 40% or 50% deposit along with your signature on the contract. And, pay the balance of the performance fee only after the artist arrives at your venue.
Am I contracting with the artist or the agency?
This depends on whether the agent is reselling the artist to you or if you are paying them a fee to negotiate a contract directly between you and the artist.
What is the difference?
1) If your contract is with a second tier booking agency, and you are buying a lower level or regional artist, contracting with the agent is the normal deal.
On most deals where you are contracting with a sub agent and not the artist, they are conducting a “buy/sell deal”. Basically, because the buyer does not have reputation yet and the agency has a track record, they are contracting with the artist and are exposing themselves if the client does something wrong, like not pay the balance of the artist fee so this is also the norm. But, you don’t know what the markup is on the deal and could be as much as 25% of the usual artist fee.
2) If the agency is offering a contract directly between you and the artist, they are either the “RA” for that artist or you are paying them a fee to act as YOUR agent in the negotiations for the artist. This is actually the cleanest method to acquire talent and ensures you get the artist at the lowest possible cost. If you retain an agency working under this method, expect to pay from 2 to 10 percent depending on the artist cost and the time to negotiate the best deal for you. This is how we do business.
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