Have your heard this before?
“By the way, we have some exciting news! Our (fill in the blank –CEO, Gala Chairs, Executive Director, Big Donor) met ABC the Number One Recording Artists this year, or perhaps, XYZ, star of stage, screen and television. This fabulous person has offered to perform at no charge for us at this year’s Closing Session, Dinner, or whatever.
“No fee” . It does happen. Once in awhile, a client who has contracted us to do their event planning or event management will tell us that they have secured free celebrity talent. We ask for the talent rider and generally there is complete silence. We ask to speak with talent management. More silence. You see, they’ve made a special arrangement directly with the talent.
After some prodding, the client will email The Rider, asking us to explain what it’s all about as they didn’t think it could be very important. We do inform them, that it is very important to the performance and to their bottom line, much to their horror! We explain that talent wants to be sure that their performance is professionally staged, and produced. Generally, the rest of the discussion is with their management. Sometimes they ask for very specific items in their dressing room. It could be a pitcher of room temperature water, a specific brand of crackers, candies, etc, or perhaps a particular type of chair, pillow, towels, flowers. To some, this may sound demanding, but in most cases, much of it is important and sometimes like a security blanket in order o have familiarity.
Back to the staging and production. The talent may ask for their own band or audio engineer and equipment to be brought in, others will ask for very specific back-line or piano or keyboard make and model. If we’re speaking of a group, they’ll be sending a stage plot and possibly a lighting plot.
All of this is negotiable to a point. We have discussed logistics with management and generally come to a reasonable and fair compromise. Sometimes the celebrity talent will offer to forgo much of what is in the rider. If management and talent know that you want to do a good job for them so that they are presented well, they’re generally pretty amenable. However you must discuss, with knowledge, all that the rider contains with management. I recommend that you leave this task to either your producer, technical director or theatrical or stage director.
With all this said, sometimes, the “free” talent can amount to thousands of dollars. With a good producer or technical director, being the liaison with management you have a really good chance to have many of the rider requests deleted or adjusted.
However, the best idea is not ask for favors from talent, but to have your producer or event management secure your talent and most likely they’ll work with a reputable talent agency or speaker’s bureau that also handles entertainment. Know what your budget is.
Just think that if you had, for example, a $20,000 budget, the entertainment agency would know who to recommend, But, if you secured through social circles, a name celebrity whose normal fee is $75,000 and they tell you that they’ll be there are no charge. Remember, that the rider and all that it entails could be $40,000 or twice your budget.
You are a professional, so bring in the right professionals to help you with your corporate event.
The cost for contracting professionals is minimal in comparison to the problems that could occur if you don’t.
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Lighting Hire, thank you for your comment and insight. I agree completely that all must be fully analyzed to avoid disappointment.
Booking a major name for your event should be an exciting experience. However, prioritizing the favored performers, defining their budgets, availability, venue space,production and travel requirements and among others should be fully analyzed.