As any nightclub operation knows, booking an artist is one of the more stressful parts of the job. Not only do you have to ensure that you get the kind of artist that people will pay money to see, but you also have to make sure the artist is kept happy throughout the process. You also have to take into account your own financial considerations; after all, the cost of the artist is usually one of the biggest – if not the biggest – costs of the night.
Cut Out the Middleman
If you’re unfamiliar with the booking process, you might be tempted to use a talent buyer, also known as a middle buyer, to help guide you through the steps of getting in touch with an artist’s representation and securing the artist for your venue. Unfortunately, those middle buyers come with a cost, and in most cases, the work they do isn’t necessarily worth the amount of money they’ll charge for doing it (usually 10% of the artist’s fee). From your standpoint, all a middle buyer does is add an additional layer of communication between you and the artist. Sure, they can save you time and hassle in some cases, but it’s not the route to go if you’re looking to save money.
Know How to Negotiate
You should also be willing to negotiate (and know how to effectively negotiate) the artist’s fee. 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. Being willing to negotiate on their fee can save you a lot of up-front costs. As with any negotiation, though, you have to know when to push and when to ease off.
There are a few easy ways to give yourself a leg up on the negotiation process. First, do your research – try to find out what similar artists make for live performances, or what the artist was paid in other markets. If the artist you’re targeting is significantly more expensive, use that data to drive down their price. Second, make sure never to make your first offer your best offer; set a limit for yourself, then take a reasonable percentage of that number as an initial offer. If the artist doesn’t go for it, you can work from there, but at least you’ve given yourself some wiggle room. And finally, 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.
Consider Booking an Artist for Hosting or a Walkthrough
Many artists have a tiered fee structure depending on what they’re expected to do. Often, an artist will charge a certain amount for a performance, but their fee for hosting or doing a walkthrough will be much lower. If you want to save on costs, consider asking an artist to host or do a walkthrough instead of putting on a performance. You can still take advantage of the artist’s name recognition and built-in fanbase without having to pay full price for a show.
Piggyback Your Bookings
Booking an artist doesn’t just mean giving them a place to perform and making sure they have the right equipment. There are plenty of other costs (such as those associated with the artist’s travel), and they can add up very quickly.
One way to lower these costs is to do a little research. If an artist is currently on tour or about to begin a tour, take a look at the dates they’ll be in your area and see if you can get them to add a date for your venue. If they’re already touring, you will still be responsible for hotel and other travel expenses, but since touring artists work their way through one particular area at a time, you’ll spend less on their travel costs. And if an artist is on tour but not willing to do a performance, you can consider hiring them to host an after party at your nightclub. 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.
As with most business considerations, the best thing you can do before setting up a show is to perform your due diligence. Having a budget in mind ahead of schedule will help you navigate the negotiation process, and it will also give you a clear picture of how much you’re able to spend.