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Buying and Booking Talent for a Planning a Fair, Festival or Event
by Tracy Childers, Ford Entertainment

Let's take it from the top.

The decision of what the right show is becomes a battle in itself. Committees, fair & festival boards, corporate meeting planners, and marketing departments generally end up with this task. Of course, everyone is an expert in telling others what they think is best and what they like, as it should be.

After all, they do know what they like and they should know what is best if given the responsibility of fi nding talent. The idea of knowing exactly what the right show is, staying in budget, securing the right production, fi lling the contract and rider requirements, promotion, ticketing, building rental, insurance, etc., is a breeze. After all, 80 to 90% of these folks do this once a year or even less. To think that an event would have to pay someone, or there is money on top of what the artist gets, is a tough thing to take in today's performance fees.

Before we get any further down the road let me use the term "middle agent."

Who in the world is this guy or girl and why do I need this person?

First of all, I don't know that you do. The choice is certainly up to the decision maker. Those of us who have had to make a living out here seek to serve and I hope honestly represent the best interest of the decision maker, as we affectionately refer to as buyer. After all it's your money we are striving to get the best value for. Here are some caught thoughts for your consideration, and some things I have learned in my tenure as buying talent and servicing shows on behalf several different events. If you are comfortable with what show to buy and where to get it and confi dent of the cost… go for it. If not, consult a talent buyer, yes, middle agent; after all, it's what we do. We are plugged into the necessary sources and can get there very quick with the pertinent information.

When cost and web information became assessable on the internet, the consensus was, "Well, nobody is going to need any help with buying shows now." As it turns out, there is no replacement for relevant experience and expertise.

In the old days, we had two kinds of music: rock and roll-just kidding. If you are seeking someone to help you get a show, and they have no idea of what you are looking for, they are not the right source.
A successful event is what it is: successful because someone has done some homework on the event and knows what the needs are. At the risk of giving away industry secrets (there are none), I would like to wrap up by numbering, not by priority; some things that can help ensure a more successful event.
  1. Give the person you select full privilege to buy talent on your behalf for your event or events. This is confi dence for everyone in the pipeline and keeps confusion, and most of all cost, down.
  2. We are in the information business. If you don't have or can't do all the rider requirements, let the act know through the talent buyer all the details. There is nothing that can't be worked out if you do it out front and get it in writing.
  3. Know your market and know your media. You can't have a successful event if you don't let the customers know.
  4. Barter, sponsorship, and trades with media can be very effective.
  5. Never try to get a major act with minor production: sound, lights, staging.
  6. Make the artist send the fully executed contract before your event.
  7. Rain insurance is what it is called "Insurance."
  8. Load in and load out help is not just a request, it's a requirement. Don't skimp.
  9. All catering requirements are not over the top (although most seem like it). Think of it like this. Leave your house tonight or tomorrow at midnight with two or three changes of clothes and a toothbrush. Climb on a bus with about 10 or 12 other people for a week or so, do nothing but ride and sleep. Stop in some town, get up starving, and go in to someplace and eat cold pizza. You will soon be looking for a road manager and a hot meal.
  10. Aside from superstars, #9 can be addressed with a modest lunch, one hot meal for the band, some drinks, and a few towels. As for the superstars, if you are spending that much money, I see two options. If it's a superstar, what is money-or refer to #2 in this list. Common sense goes a long way, but remember, buses don't stop at liquor stores or Wal-Mart.
  11. Your event has the right to ask for a percentage of merchandise sales.
  12. Try to avoid meet and greets of more than 20. You will make more enemies than friends and just how valuable is that picture you have with Wayne Newton anyway. You can request some signed pictures on the front end works great.
  13. A reasonable offer for a date is not there forever, put a date deadline on it. The last day, send a message that the offer will be gone at the end of business at so-and-so time and be fi rm.
  14. The word "confi rmed" means what it says, there is no show based on these words.
  15. They want to do the date but… I can get this done… Management says they want to do it…
  16. I will confirm if…
Thank you for your time and forgive the hoard of other details that were not mentioned in these words. I'm sure you will have the privilege and challenge of discovering them as all events are unique and have their own specific needs. I want to give thanks to God, my creator, for every town, every building, every sometimes grumpy artist, and even every whiff of diesel.
Have a great show!

Tracy Childers
Ford Entertainment & Productions
P.O. Box 674
Cape Girardeau MO 63701
573-335-5851 . tracy@fordentertainment.com