How cool would you look if you booked Lionel Ritchie to serenade your daughter during her wedding reception, Missy Elliot to play your backyard birthday party, or Maroon Five to surprise your employees on a corporate retreat. EastCoast Entertainment has successfully helped clients around the world plan exactly these types of events for decades.
Booking national acts can be both exhilarating and panic inducing. Who will negotiate the fee? Who will make sure the artist has the correct sound, lights, labor permits, staging, hospitality, and Eastern European down pillows placed exactly 2 inches apart and cooled to 68 degrees exactly? That’s where ECE’s National Talent Division comes in. Led by National Talent Buyer, Mark Letson, this division works with the company’s agents and national talent agencies to ensure successful artist procurement and production for events featuring nationally-recognized artists. Mark has led the National Talent Division for 20+ years, booked over 2,000 national acts (over 200 a year) and has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Tim McGraw.
It was because of this expertise, Mark was invited to be the keynote speaker during one of ILEA DC’s “Lunch N Learn” events. Last Tuesday, our DC office headed over to Sehkraft Brewery to enjoy lunch, beer samples, and great conversation between event professionals. Mark spoke and answered questions on how to navigate the choppy waters of booking these “larger than life” acts. Here are some of the questions asked and things we learned:
1. Why should I work with EastCoast vs booking the band myself?
Mark and the National Division have many years of successful events under their belts so booking agents at William Morris, CAA, and all of the major agencies return our calls and love working with us. They trust that we will take care of their artists, provide the appropriate level of production and connect the dots when it comes to every aspect of the show.
Additionally, the client can trust that they are getting the absolute best price for the artist they’d like to book. Band pricing is not an exact science and with thousands of shows’ worth of experience we can make sure the fee is reasonable and matches the level of artist/event.
2. How do I pick the right act for my event?
First, you will want to consider what type of budget you are working with? Is your budget earmarked for the band’s fee only or does it also encompass airfare, production (sound, lights, staging), hospitality, etc.
Secondly, you want to ask yourself what is the purpose of the event/demographic? If your crowd is older, consider a legacy act like Earth, Wind, and Fire. If you have a younger crowd, you may consider someone like Zac Brown Band.
3. How long can I expect an act to play?
Legacy acts like Stevie Wonder can play anywhere from 75-90 min or more. They can draw from decades worth of hits that will keep your crowd engaged. Younger artists or bands that are currently “hot” may only have a few hits so if that’s the case consider keeping their sets short.
4. What is a rider? What should I expect to find? Are these terms negotiable?
The rider is an additional part of the contract that is a direct communication from the band to the event producer with specific requests. It allows the band to arrive at a venue in Ohio or Dubai to find the exact equipment, food, etc that they need to perform at their best. Common items on a rider are:
i. Production needs such as sound, lights, power, backline equipment, and staging.
ii. Security needs both for the artist and the audience.
iii. Catering/hospitality needs. Everything from on-stage coolers with Gatorade, dressing room veggies and coffee, and after-show food preferences.
iv. Backstage access, sound-board location, # of local crew to unload semi-trucks, ground transportation from the airport, and so much more!
All items in a rider are up for discussion, but some items like autograph sessions or a specific brand of beer are much easier for bands to budge on than the number of monitors, placement of the band’s instruments or power needs.
These are just a few areas of expertise for Mark and his team, but there are many more great answers on our “National Talent Buyer 101” page.
If you’ve ever dreamed of playing air guitar backstage while Bruce Springsteen strolls through a sea of your fellow employees then let us help!
Photography Credit: Strouse Photography