If you haven’t booked an artist event in the past, you may not realize how stressful and complex the process can be. While it seems like it should be pretty straightforward (find the artist, pay the price they’re requesting, have them show up), there’s actually a lot more that goes into an artist’s booking fees than you might think. A lot of the minute details are specific to a particular artist, but there are plenty of higher-level details that are common for every artist that you may not be taking into account.
So today, we’re going to take a look at both the big-picture items and the higher-level details that you might not have considered. Read on for more information – you might be surprised by some of the things we cover.
Know your event (and what you want them to do).
First things first, the easiest way to get a ballpark number for an artist booking is by knowing exactly what kind of event you’re having and by setting clear expectations on what you want the artist to do while they’re there. While you might think that an artist booking only consists of a performance, there are plenty of other options available to you (depending on your budget).
For example, if you don’t have the budget for a full performance from an artist, you can try and book them for a hosting or walkthrough agreement. These tend to cost less than a performance because less is expected of the artist. A hosting agreement just involves hanging out at the event or venue for a specified amount of time and interacting with guests. And like the name implies, a walkthrough agreement means the artist just has to show up, be seen at your event or venue, maybe take a few pictures, and then they’re free to leave.
A lot of artists like the hosting and walkthrough agreements – they tend to tour for most of the year, so any night where they don’t have to perform but can still get paid is an attractive option to them. For example, Nicki Minaj got paid $260,000 by a nightclub in Las Vegas a few years ago just to sit at a table in the club’s VIP section. It was a great deal for both parties; Nicki got paid to hang out at a club, and the venue brought in a ton of business from people looking to hang out with a celebrity. [Editor’s note: This is an extreme example of how a big-budget venue applies this strategy. Savvy operators with smaller budgets can do the same thing with careful planning and scaled-down execution.]
The booking fee isn’t your only cost.
One common mistake that people make is in assuming that the fee for booking an artist is the all-in cost. In almost all cases, the artist’s fee is strictly for them to show up and do what you’re asking them to do. There are separate costs that you’ll incur, and if you’re not careful, they can add up pretty quickly.
For instance, you’ll also have to spend money to cover the cost of all the requirements specified in their contract rider, the cost of the artist’s travel and hotel (and the group they’re traveling with – artists don’t travel alone), the cost of any equipment they might need, the cost of transportation to and from your event or venue, and any food or drinks the artist and their group will need while they’re in town.
A lot of bookers tend to overlook these costs or assume that they’re baked into the artist’s appearance fee, only to get a nasty surprise when they realize they have to pay extra money that they didn’t budget for. In some rare cases, you can try and include these costs in the artist’s appearance fee during the negotiation process (more on that in a minute), but don’t count on being able to do that.
When you’re booking the artist makes a difference.
An artist’s booking fee can also depend on when you want them to appear at your event or venue. Artists often charge more for weekend and holiday bookings, while weekday bookings are a little less expensive.
And if the artist isn’t on tour that means all those additional costs listed above (travel, hotel, etc.) could go up. Many bookers prefer to wait to book an artist until the artist is touring, and even then, they prefer to book the artist when they’ll already be in the area. You’ll still be responsible for the artist’s hotel and travel costs, but since the artist will already be in your area, it won’t be as expensive as it would be if you were flying them across the country to attend your event or venue.
Of course, touring is a grueling business, so there’s still a chance that even a touring artist won’t want to add another performance to their schedule. In that case, you can consider hiring them to host, either at your event or at an afterparty at your venue. This will allow you to utilize the built-in publicity and momentum from their tour to promote your event and get more people in the door.
Fees vary from artist to artist…
While it might seem like artists’ booking fees are dependent on the caliber of artist you want to book, there’s actually a lot of variance from one artist to the next in terms of their cost. For example, you might think Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey would cost the same for an appearance, but their prices are probably not as similar as you’d think.
One thing that makes it so hard to determine what you should pay for an artist is the fact that their fees are not public information. Sure, you can try a Google search and see what number comes up, but in all likelihood, that booking price is completely wrong.
…so knowing how to negotiate is crucial.
Just because an artist quotes a particular fee doesn’t necessarily mean you should pay it, nor does it mean that they expect to receive it. Knowing how to negotiate is a key way to save yourself some money, and being willing to negotiate on their fee can save you a lot of upfront costs. As with any negotiation, though, you have to know when to push and when to ease off. If you don’t, you run the risk of ensuring the artist will never consider doing a show with you again.
There are a few easy ways to give yourself a leg up on the negotiation process. First, make sure never to make your first offer your best offer: set a limit for yourself based on your budget, then take 10% off of that number as an initial offer. If the artist’s agent doesn’t go for it, you can work from there, but at least you’ve given yourself some wiggle room. And second, always be willing to walk away. In order to effectively do that, you’ll need to have some backup options in mind if your first choice doesn’t go through. But showing a willingness to walk away from a negotiation gives you significant bargaining power.
As mentioned above, each artist will likely have specific demands as a condition of their booking fees, so you’ll have to be prepared for those whenever you’re dealing with a particular artist’s agent. But using this information as a guide, you should now have a much clearer expectation of all the commonly overlooked details and fees that come with booking an artist, and it’ll prevent you from losing money on an artist booking.