by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | January 01, 2005

Harsh realities in the entertainment industry, such as declining sales of concert tickets, merchandise and CDs, have artists looking for other income avenues, allowing skilled planners to pursue top performers who are usually out of reach.
    Intrigued? Follow the parameters below to pull off what used to be impossible.

Agent Provocateurs
Choose wisely whom you deal with to hire the talent.
    Event promoters. Companies such as San Antonio, Texas-based Clear Channel Communications and Berkeley, Calif.-based Another Planet Entertainment promote big concert series and usually own their own venues. Many are seeking corporate event work. They offer services such as production and vendor subcontracting but can be weak on branding, marketing and event management.
    Talent brokers or booking agents. These firms, such as Sports Marketing and Entertainment of Los Angeles, deal with agents or directly with performers. They often work with corporations and sometimes offer event-managing services.
    Agents. Firms like Monterey Peninsula Artists in Monterey, Calif., represent and negotiate for the talent.
    The talent. Sometimes you might be able to start the negotiation process at the source. The advantage is enormous especially for charity or nonprofit events since most artists are kept completely out of the negotiation loop when you deal with promoters or agents.
    When working directly with, say, a rock band, the performers personally can weigh in on extras, such as agreeing to a longer meet-and-greet or donating items to be auctioned. You’ll have more work, though, finding vendors such as lighting designers and set designers, who often are provided by an event promoter.

Get Many Bids
Performers usually are represented by a combination of the above brokers. So do your homework once you know which performer you want.
    Get at least three proposals, but don’t be sidetracked by the costs until you evaluate each bid. Paying more for the service, experience and relationships of a venerable player could give you more value, but you could be paying for some hidden agendas. For instance, they might push an entertainer to whom they owe a favor, rather than finding the talent you want. Working with a younger firm might offer the more logical and devoted return for your event.
    After identifying a reputable team with experience (and testimonials to prove it), find out which ones have worked with your industry. For example, if you are planning a nonprofit event, testimonials from a corporate planner might lead you astray.
    It is extremely important to convey to the performers’ managers that the organization’s message always takes precedence over the entertainment. If the talent agrees to play these types of events, they have to understand they are not the main focus.

If any firm attempts to convince you that contracts are not typical for A-list performers, cut off negotiations and find another promoter.
Insist on using your own contract, and ensure it is fully executed before publicizing any event information. Otherwise, you significantly weaken your leverage.
    Don’t sign a contract without a solid mutual indemnity clause. Remember, as the event planner, you are liable for any potential mishaps.
Similarly, if your force majeure clause is not accepted, don’t sign the contract.
    Performers’ riders lists of things they want generally are not enforceable. They will ask for universe; tell them you only agree to give them a few planets. Of course, the hotter the talent, the more you might want to comply.