Category Archives: Entertainment

Performance Clauses In Entertainment

Producing and editing a masterwork of recorded music is obviously a specialized art form. But so is the entertainment lawyer’s act of drafting clauses, contracts, and contractual language generally. How might the art of the entertainment attorney’s legal drafting a clause or contract affect the musician, composer, songwriter, producer or other artist as a practical matter? Many artists think they will be “home free”, just as soon as they are furnished a draft proposed record contract to sign from the label’s entertainment attorney, and then toss the proposed contract over to their own entertainment lawyer for what they hope will be a rubber-stamp review on all clauses. They are wrong. And those of you who have ever received a label’s “first form” proposed contract are chuckling, right about now.

Just because a U.S. record label forwards an artist its “standard form” proposed contract, does not mean that one should sign the draft contract blindly, or ask one’s entertainment lawyer to rubber-stamp the proposed agreement before signing it blindly. A number of label forms still used today are quite hackneyed, and have been adopted as full text or individual clauses in whole or in part from contract form-books or the contract “boilerplate” of other or prior labels. From the entertainment attorney’s perspective, a number of label recording clauses and contracts actually read as if they were written in haste – just like Nigel Tufnel scrawled an 18-inch Stonehenge monument on a napkin in Rob Reiner’s “This Is Spinal Tap”. And if you are a musician, motion picture fan, or other entertainment lawyer, I bet you know what happened to Tap as a result of that scrawl.

It stands to reason that an artist and his or her entertainment lawyer should carefully review all draft clauses, contracts, and other forms forwarded to the artist for signature, prior to ever signing on to them. Through negotiation, through the entertainment attorney, the artist may be able to interpose more precise and even-handed language in the contract ultimately signed, where appropriate. Inequities and unfair clauses aren’t the only things that need to be removed by one’s entertainment lawyer from a first draft proposed contract. Ambiguities must also be removed, before the contract can be signed as one.

For the artist or the artist’s entertainment attorney to leave an ambiguity or inequitable clause in a signed contract, would be merely to leave a potential bad problem for a later day – particularly in the context of a signed recording contract which could tie up an artist’s exclusive services for many years. And remember, as an entertainment lawyer with any longitudinal data on this item will tell you, the artistic “life-span” of most artists is quite short – meaning that an artist could tie up his or her whole career with one bad contract, one bad signing, or even just one bad clause. Usually these bad contract signings occur before the artist seeks the advice and counsel of an entertainment attorney.

One seemingly-inexhaustible type of ambiguity that arises in clauses in entertainment contracts, is in the specific context of what I and other entertainment lawyers refer to as a contract “performance clause”. A non-specific commitment in a contract to perform, usually turns out to be unenforceable. Consider the following:

Contract Clause #1: “Label shall use best efforts to market and publicize the Album in the Territory”.

Contract Clause #2: “The Album, as

delivered to Label by Artist, shall be produced and edited using only first-class facilities and equipment for sound recording and all other activities relating to the Album”.

One shouldn’t use either clause in a contract. One shouldn’t agree to either clause as written. One should negotiate contractual edits to these clauses through one’s entertainment lawyer, prior to signature. Both clauses set forth proposed contractual performance obligations which are, at best, ambiguous. Why? Well, with regard to Contract Clause #1, reasonable minds, including those of the entertainment attorneys on each side of the transaction, can differ as to what “best efforts” really means, what the clause really means if different, or what the two parties to the contract intended “best efforts” to mean at the time (if anything). Reasonable minds, including those of the entertainment lawyers on each side of the negotiation, can also differ as to what constitutes a “first-class” facility as it is “described” in Contract Clause #2. If these contractual clauses were ever scrutinized by judge or jury under the hot lights of a U.S. litigation, the clauses might well be stricken as void for vagueness and unenforceable, and judicially read right out of the corresponding contract itself. In the view of this particular New York entertainment attorney, yes, the clauses really are that bad.

Consider Contract Clause #1, the “best efforts” clause, from the entertainment lawyer’s perspective. How would the artist really go about enforcing that contractual clause as against a U.S. label, as a practical matter? The answer is, the artist probably wouldn’t, at end of day. If there ever were a contract dispute between the artist and label over money or the marketing expenditure, for example, this “best efforts” clause would turn into the artist’s veritable Achilles Heel in the contract, and the artist’s entertainment attorney might not be able to help the artist out of it as a practical matter:

Artist: “You breached the ‘best efforts’ clause in the contract!”

Label: “No! I tried! I tried! I really did!”

You get the idea.

Why should an artist leave a label with that kind of contractual “escape-hatch” in a clause? The entertainment lawyer’s answer is, “no reason at all”. There is absolutely no reason for the artist to put his or her career at risk by agreeing to a vague or lukewarm contractual marketing commitment clause, if the marketing of the Album is
perceived to be an essential part of the deal by and for the artist. It often is. It would be the artist’s career at stake. If the marketing spend throughout the contract’s Term diminishes over time, so too could the artist’s public recognition and career as a result. And the equities should be on the artist’s side, in a contractual negotiation conducted between entertainment attorneys over this item.

Assuming that the label is willing to commit to a contractual marketing spend clause at all, then, the artist-side entertainment lawyer argues, the artist should be entitled to know in advance how his or her career would be protected by the label’s expenditure of marketing dollars. Indeed, asks the entertainment attorney, “Why else is the artist signing this deal other than an advance, marketing spend, and tour support?”. The questions may be phrased a bit differently nowadays, in the current age of the contract now known as the “360 deal”. The clauses may evolve, or devolve, but the equitable arguments remain principally the same.

The point is, it is not just performers that should be held to performance clauses in contracts. Companies can be asked by entertainment lawyers to subscribe to performance clauses in contracts, too. In the context of a performance clause – such as a record label’s contractual obligation to market and publicize an album – it is incumbent upon the artist, and the artist’s entertainment attorney if any, to be very specific in the clause itself about what is contractually required of the record company. It should never be left to a subsequent verbal side conversation. In other words, working with his or her entertainment lawyer, the artist should write out a “laundry-list” clause setting forth each of the discrete things that the artist wants the label to do. As but a partial example:

Contract Clause #3: “To market and publicize the Album in the Territory, you, Label, will spend no less than ‘x’ U.S. dollars on advertising for the Album during the following time period: ____________”; or even,

Contract Clause #4: “To market and publicize the Album in the Territory, you, Label, will hire the ___________ P.R. firm in New York, New York, and you will cause no less than ‘y’ U.S. dollars to be expended for publicity for and directly relating to the Album (and no other property or material) during the following time period: _____________”.

Compare Clauses #3 and #4, to Contract Clause #1 earlier above, and then ask yourself or your own entertainment attorney: Which are more hortatory? Which are more precise?

As for Contract Clause #2 and its vague unexplained definition of “first-class facilities and equipment” – why not have one’s entertainment lawyer instead just include in the contract a laundry-list clause of the names of five professional recording studios in the relevant city, that both parties, label and artist, prospectively agree constitute “first-class” for definitional purposes? This is supposed to be a contract, after all, the entertainment attorney opines. “Don’t leave your definitions, and therefore definitional problems, for a later document or a later day, unless you truly want to make a personal financial commitment to keeping more litigators awash in business debating bad clauses and bad contracts before the courts”.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Through the entertainment lawyer, the artist should make the label expressly sign on to a very specific contractual list of tasks in an appropriate clause, monitor the label’s progress thereafter, and hold the label to the specific contractual standard that the artist was smart enough to “carve in” in the clause through the entertainment attorney in the first instance.

Again, consider Contract Clause #2, the “first class facilities and equipment” clause, from the entertainment lawyer’s perspective. Note that, unlike Contract Clause #1, this is a promise made by the artist to the label – and not a promise made by the label to the artist.

So, an artist might now ask his or her entertainment attorney:

“The shoe’s on the other foot, isn’t it?”

“‘First class’ in that clause is as vague and undefined a contractual standard as ‘best efforts’, isn’t it, entertainment lawyer?”

Entertainment attorney answer: “Right”.

“So, entertainment lawyer, there won’t be any harm in me, the artist, signing onto that contractual clause, will there, because I will be able to wiggle out of it if I ever had to, right?”

Entertainment attorney answer: “Wrong”.

The fact is, a contractual ambiguity in a performance clause is a bad thing – in either case – whether in the context of a label obligation to artist; or even in the context of an artist obligation to a label. The entertainment lawyer should advise that any contractual ambiguity in any clause could hurt the artist, even in the context of one of the artist’s own obligations to the other contracting party. Don’t rest on the linchpin of ambiguities in clauses when conducting business and relying on contracts – even if, in your musical art form itself, as Cameron Crowe once suggested of my first guitar hero Peter Frampton, you may happen to write “obscurantist” song lyrics while taking your own artistic license. Contracts need to be handled differently.

Here’s how ambiguity in your own contractual commitment to a label hurts you, from the entertainment lawyer’s perspective. The old-saw contractual principle of music “delivery” often finds the artist required to hand over documents to the label, as well as physical materials such as the album itself in the form of masters, digital masters, or “glass masters”, in order to get paid. By virtue of a contractually-delineated procedure vetted by and between entertainment attorneys, the label may be entitled to hold some (or even all) monies back, and not pay those monies to the artist until “delivery is complete” under the delivery clauses and delivery schedule in a contract. As one might therefore guess, “delivery” is a definite event whose occurrence or non-occurrence under the contract is oft-contested and sometimes even arbitrated or otherwise litigated by and between artists, labels, and the entertainment lawyers and litigators that represent them.

It is incumbent upon the artist and the artist’s entertainment attorney to prevent the label from drumming-up a pretextual “failed delivery” under any clause in the contract as an excuse for non-payment. In the context of Contract Clause #2 above, “first-class facilities and equipment” could easily become that pretext – the artist’s Achilles Heel in the litigation-tested contract contested between entertainment lawyer litigators. The label could simply take the position through counsel or otherwise that the delivered materials were not created at a “first-class” facility as contractually required in the relevant clause, no matter what facility was used. Why? Because “first-class” was never defined in any clause in the contractual document by either entertainment attorney on either side, as any particular facility.

And if no clause in the contract explicitly defined “first class” as an entertainment lawyer would have advised that it should do, then the artist could well be out the money, at least for the entire duration of an eminently avoidable multi-year litigation over what 2 dumb words mean. Worse yet, meanwhile, the label might be holding the money and laughing at the artist behind the artist’s back for his or her lack of contractual prescience. From the artist-side entertainment lawyer’s perspective, both of those horror-show possible eventualities and scenarios, are intolerable. They could have been avoided by a single, better clause – often the narrow reed upon which an artist’s success ultimately rests. (Ask Billy Joel. Ask Neil Young. Ask Bruce Springsteen. Ask George Michael. Ask John Fogerty).

What about prescience? How can this foreseeable contractual delivery dispute in the context of Contract Clause #2, be avoided by the entertainment lawyer? The simple solution in this case, again, is for the artist’s entertainment attorney to take a few extra minutes during the negotiations, and textually list-out, in a reply draft counter-proposed contract sent to the label, even if a single succinct clause, the actual facilities intended to be used. The artist-side entertainment lawyer can seek to make the label explicitly contractually pre-agree to the list of facilities, by name and address, in the body of the contract’s text. That is what a contract is for, anyway, as an entertainment attorney will tell you. When used correctly, a contract and its clauses really just comprise a dispute-avoidance tool. An entertainment contract should be a dispute-avoidance tool exchanged between entertainment lawyers. Also note that a contractual ambiguity in a clause could hurt an artist, regardless of whether it is embedded in one of the artist’s performance obligations, or even in one of the label’s performance obligations! The moral?: List all performance obligations. Break them down into discrete and understandable tasks, clause by clause. Approach it the same way an entertainment attorney would. Better yet – enlist the assistance of one before forming an opinion about the clauses or signing the contract.

The Golden Rules for Booking Live Entertainment

Booking Live Entertainment

The Golden Rules When Booking Live Entertainment for Your Event

Tips & Tricks For The Entertainment Buyer

Having worked as a professional magician and mind reader for the past sixteen years, I have seen hundreds if not thousands of venues all over the world. From Boston, where I am based, to Singapore, where I work for a few weeks once per year, and many cities and countries in between. A similarity that crosses all borders is the consistent lack of knowledge the client has when booking live entertainment. This is true for that of a variety type. (e.g magicians, jugglers, clowns, etc.).

Now this can be forgiven (to an extent), as most people have not booked live entertainment before and know absolutely nothing about how the process works. These individuals can be forgiven and kindly instructed by the performer on how the smooth the process can and should be. That said, when you as the entertainer are working through a seasoned booker (e.g someone who works for a company that plans all large and small functions), there is really no excuse for poor booking processes.

After speaking with several performer friends from all areas of entertainment, we have come up with a list of guidelines any future client should be at least familiar with before hiring professional entertainment.

When To Book Live Entertainment

So you want to hire some entertainment for your party, event, graduation, anniversary, etc. Whatever the case may be, you want to spice it up with something live and fun! First thing you should know is that performers of all varieties whether magicians, fire eaters or live bands, need time to prepare their shows. Most of us specially design our performances around your event, and this does take some time and will go into the price of the performance. You will want to give at least 3-4 weeks notice to a performer before booking. This is my suggested time frame for me, other performers require much earlier notice, and some can take an event with just a couple days notice. It depends on our schedules, current bookings and flexibility and of course, the performer himself (or herself). Our schedules are very strange, and totally non-traditional – we can have gigs at all hours of the day, night, and even into the very early mornings. Please Note: If you call a performer a day or two, or three, or even four before your event, they will most likely charge a little more for the short notice. It takes time to make your event special, whether by creating custom routines as I do, setting up a music set list, or getting required licenses or permits for more dangerous acts like fire eating and sideshow stunts.

What Are You Looking For

Hiring entertainment for your event can really enhance your guests’ experience. Whether it’s a live band, DJ, caricaturist, or magician, live performances create a truly unique experience that your guests will share with their friends and families when they leave. You want to determine what kind of entertainment best suits your particular event. For example: If you’re getting married at a golf resort. With 200 guests and a traditional setup (cocktail hour, plated dinner, speeches, dancing, etc.), then you will want to determine where and when entertainment makes sense. If you’re interested in magic or mind reading, which is very popular at weddings, then you would be best to place it into the cocktail reception for what is called “strolling” or “walk-around.” This is where the performer wanders through your cocktail hour performing small, up close effects and routines for small groups of guests. This offers a personal experience you sometimes lose with a full length show. It also breaks up the occasional repetitiveness of such portions of the event. Magic, mind reading or a little light music can really make a difference. Have an idea of what you want, lay out your event, and see where it makes the most sense. Maybe a full length comedy mind reading show after a three day corporate retreat? Or perhaps you’re celebrating your child’s birthday and want some entertainment to keep all the little guests entertained? A children’s magic and balloon show is a perfect fit here. Look into my other article on Magic & Mind Reading for Adults vs. Magic for Children, for more detailed information.

Determine Your Budget

This is by far one of the most important points a soon-to-be entertainment buyer must understand. It should be known that every performer, no matter what persuasion, charges differently. A fire eater will charge differently from a juggler or clown. A mentalist will charge differently from a magician or stilt walker. This is based on how they value their time and expertise.

Have at least a rough idea on what you’re looking to spend on entertainment. Do not be afraid to ask a performer if he or she can work within your budget. Be realistic about it and think about your event and the kind of image that you want your guests to take home with them, and try to get a rough idea on what you would be willing to spend achieve that image. You will not insult us with your budget. We will just say no politely or even recommend someone who could better work within your financial parameters.

Entertainers usually know each other and bounce work around quite a bit. We almost always know what our friends and competitors charge. The more unique the performance style, the smaller number of performers. If you have $200 for a full length hypnosis performance, you may want to look into another form of entertainment. Most hypnotists don’t leave home for less than triple that amount. If you have $5,000 for entertainment, then you’re in a whole new bracket of entertainers. More on that later.

Details, Details, Details

Now you know what you want. The next thing to do is get your details together. These include the following in order of importance for the performer to know:

1. Date of the Event

2. Time You Want The Entertainer To Arrive & To Begin Performing

3. Type of Event (birthday, corporate lunch, trade show, etc.)

4. What You Want From The Entertainer in Detail

5. Budget!

6. How Many Guests You’re Expecting

7. Description of the Venue (indoors, outdoors, theater style seating, tables, etc.)

8. Will There Be Other Entertainment (what kind, how long, etc.)

9. Have All Of Your Info Available (phone number, email, mailing address, etc.)

Having this information ready when you call an entertainer will make your booking process go much, much smoother and usually result in only one, maybe two phone calls or emails. Missing information does happen. Maybe you don’t have your venue nailed down yet? No problem, try to give us a rough idea of where you’re looking so we know how to prepare. If you’re thinking a typically busy, dark restaurant but then go for a show at the beach, in the sun, with wind… This will be a little frustrating for the entertainer.

Know Your Venue

As stated above, the venue is very important. To most of us, we can perform practically anywhere (within reason). I’ve worked on moving boats, trains, and even on a private jet. Some of us who work with dangerous items, such as sword swallowers or fire breathers, require very specific environments in which to work safely for themselves and the guests in attendance.

Let’s look at a few examples of common venue locations for a mentalist or magician:

1. The Country Club – always a popular location for a little walk around magic/mind reading or even a full length performance. Usually everyone is well-dressed, having formal meals, and looking for a more sophisticated form of entertainment. This is not the best place for a chainsaw juggler.

2. The Nightclub – usually dedicated to bachelor/bachelorette parties, adult birthdays, company buy-outs, holiday parties and practically any event you’d book to have some serious fun! Usually it is very loud, crowded, and drinks are flowing. This is not the best time to have a palm reader or full length magic show. Instead you could opt for some strolling entertainment, live music, or even a dance group.

3. Your Residence – Probably the most common location for family events, graduations, anniversaries and private holiday parties. You won’t normally see a lot of craziness as you would in the nightclub. Such events are normally filled with family members, friends and children. Everyone knows each other, is very comfortable and is not scared of being a little silly from time to time. A great time for a hypnotist! Or even personal tarot readings. Definitely a great time for a mind reading performance.

The point is to use your venue to its absolute potential. Play out the scenario in your head with the entertainment you have in mind. If it seems like it could work, go for it. Chances are you’re right!

Price Shopping

As performers we all work insanely hard to provide the absolute best entertainment for the best possible value. Our prices are all different, but with variations based on what we offer, where we live, how much equipment we have to transport, etc. Customers should know that there is A LOT more that goes into the booking on our end then you might think. This can include organizing our material, writing up contracts, invoices, and riders, getting to and from the gig; setting up; tearing down; packing at home; unpacking at home; re-setting our equipment; writing emails; making phone calls; updating schedules and social media; and more. What the customer sees is a small portion of the work performers do for a single booking. All of that goes into our fees as well. Please keep this in mind if you live in northern Maine and you really want the face painter from New Jersey at your party.

That said, price shopping does not mean you will get the best show for the lowest price. Also, the highest price artist out there is not necessarily better than the one who charges half or more less than that. Your selection should be based on recommendations, referrals, skill-set, and your budget. Not everyone can afford to book Aerosmith. For example; say you are hiring a children’s magician for a birthday party. In New England, the rough booking fees range between $275 and $500 for an hour long show, with the ability to have add-ons like balloon animals, teach-a-trick, or magic goody bags. If you’re getting offers at $100 or even Less! you should seriously consider what you’re getting. Watch videos, call past clients, check the quality of their website, marketing materials, etc.. Do your homework! You wouldn’t by 100 pairs of socks for $1.00 would you?

Referrals VS Resume

This can be a tricky section for a buyer. A lot of entertainers, especially when they’re just starting out tend to fluff their resumes with big name clients to draw attention. In many cases they’re not totally accurate. That doesn’t mean they’re not good performers, they’re just trying to get some business. Then again, a lot of professionals out there have very thick resumes that are all 100% legit. You can usually tell from observation who’s on the level and who isn’t.

The best way you can make a decision is through referrals, testimonials, video demonstrations and reviews. Any magician or mentalist worth his salt will post a video of a portion of his show, as a teaser. This is the hardest hitting material that makes the audience go wild. I would be leery of a performer who didn’t have at least some kind of video, even a poor-quality one. It’s 2014 after all; most of us have cameras in our phones that shoot better than handheld cameras just a few years earlier.

I’ve found that the best way I book events is through word-of-mouth and my website with a link to my YouTube channel.

Actual VS Perceived Value

Like referrals vs. resume this can be a tricky section to explain correctly. As a quick definition, the actual value of a performer is connected to the following: his or her performance quality, attitude (courteous, respectful of clients needs, friendly without being annoyingly friendly or overly familiar, etc.), dress sense/style, and uniqueness of the performance. Now these are just examples and include quite a few other points that you’ll notice after you hire entertainment. Notice how price was not a part of the actual value. The fee a performer requires for the event is based around the points I made above in point 6. You will not know the actual value of your performer until you’ve hired him or her to perform. Now, perceived value is what we do when we look at the artists’ website, bio, pictures, videos, social media pages, etc. We determine if we like them within the first minute – or usually a lot sooner.

It should be known that the perceived value can absolutely work against you. There are performers out there who spend thousands of dollars on top quality websites, advertising materials, search engine optimization, and promotional videos, but when you see them live, you are quickly hit with just how bad they are. This happens quite a bit, especially amongst the younger generation of performers. Video editing software and the right person behind the keyboard can make anyone look amazing. Do not let the perceived value of a performer determine whether or not you want to book them. Use that information as a reference to what you can probably (not always) expect when the show begins. Focus on referrals, reviews (from real people), media write-ups, and recommendations from friends or family that may have booked entertainment in the past. The best advertising for a performer is word-of-mouth!

Free Work VS Donated Work

Ask any performer how many times they’re offered “great publicity” in exchange for performing for free. It happens to all of us, a lot. I personally am asked to perform for free at least once a week. Nine times out ten I have to decline the event. Entertainers who are starting out may take the booking even though it doesn’t pay. They’re looking for “flight-time” or time in front of a real audience to practice, rehearse material and get comfortable in their field. This is perfectly acceptable and should be encouraged to young or new performers. However, a professional entertainer, be it a magician, mentalist, juggler or human blockhead, will probably not take a free show in exchange for an ad in the magazine, free publicity, or free food.

Almost all of us entertain as a full-time job. We work solely as performers and we expect to be paid for our time, just as you expect to be paid where you work. You will probably insult a performer if you offer publicity in exchange for money they’d use to pay bills and buy food. After all, you found us so the publicity is already working right?

Now when it comes to donated work, it’s a much different story. At least for me. Please be aware I am not speaking for ALL performers working. Everyone is different and structures his business differently. Some performers will probably not agree with things in this article and it’s totally fine! Donating our time to a cause is something in which a lot of us take great pride. Every year I donate at least 10 hours of performing to various charities around New England. These are ones that are very close to me, such as The American Cancer Society, Horizons for Homeless Children and The American Red Cross. I love giving my time to these organizations and being a small part of making a difference. We entertainers are all full of emotion and big hearts and we love to see the expression of happiness on people’s faces who otherwise would be sad or in pain.

Be aware of your situation when offering an event to a performer for very little or no money. If it’s a cause that we believe in and we can spare the time on our schedules, we will jump at the chance. If not, please do not take it personally and understand we need to work and earn as much as possible in order to keep providing entrainment to people around the world.

Contracts, Invoices, Agreements, Riders

The boring details of the booking process, lots of invoices, contracts and specifications that almost every performer requires are vital to the quality of the performance. Contracts are absolutely essential for a performer to have, and we will use them for the smallest to the largest event. Most of us have had the experience of “being burned” on bookings because we didn’t have an agreement in place. We learn quickly (well most of us do) and adopt the contract policy to ALL bookings, even donated time bookings. Do not take offense if your children’s magician requires a contract for his performance.

Most of us keep very detailed records of every gig we work. Invoices, contracts and emails are all essential pieces of material for our tax purposes, marketing strategies, and general peace of mind. I personally require a contract, invoice and performance rider for my shows. Most of the points in my agreements do not apply to every single show. However, a lot of the time they do. If we ask for a table or access to plugs, that the windows be closed, or that we’re in the shade if outdoors, understand these are important factors that will go into the quality of our performances. We can usually perform in most places under most conditions, but some entertainers can not be indoors without proper licensing (such as people who work with fire or dangerous objects) or outdoors without a tent or waterproof area. Basically, it’s common sense. The DJ you hired for your daughter’s wedding will not want to work in the middle of the sun for five hours with hundreds of feet of extension cords running all over your event. Plan accordingly and your event will be a huge success!

Understanding What You’re Paying For

I know I have covered this in earlier points but it is very important to understand what you’re actually paying for when booking a performer. Remember we spend years and years perfecting our skills to make them look flawless when showtime comes. Some of us live far away from your venue and have to travel quite a distance to get to the gig. I personally drive about 35,000 miles a year just for performances, and fly about 40,000. We spend a lot of our time in airports, cars and traffic! Our fees are constructed by us based on what we believe our performances are worth. This includes the years of practice, travel to and from the event, all the work we do before the show itself, what kind of event it is, and how popular and in demand we are. Cheaper does NOT mean better!

Paying Your Entertainer(s)

I would say I’ve waited probably two years’ worth of days on being paid for some events. That does not happen anymore. It is not acceptable to make a performer wait longer than the agreed upon time of payment. As I said before, we are full time entertainers and expect to be paid before or immediately after we perform. Our shows are all one-of-a-kind demonstrations and no show is the same (at least as a mentalist). So what you’re getting is a totally unique experience. A good way of looking at it is this: If you worked for a week straight and your boss said “Sorry, but would it be okay if we paid you in three weeks for this week?” You would probably lose your sh*t. That is exactly how we feel when we have to wait for payment for our services. We arrived on time, performed, and were professional, and we expect to be paid accordingly.

It is customary to pay an entertainer prior to the start of the performance. Most of us require a deposit of some kind along with our contract or invoice signed. Those who don’t require a deposit (well, they should) should be paid in full on the day of the event. Please be aware of this when hiring entertainment for your next party. Not only will your performer thank you kindly, he or she will be sure to make your event a huge success.

Tipping: Gratuity for a performer, DJ, or artist lets us know you really enjoyed our work. We do not factor gratuity into our fees (at least I and my friends don’t) so any extra tip you have for us will be greatly appreciated. Don’t be afraid of what to give for a tip – we are grateful you thought of it at all. Most people don’t usually think to tip entertainment, so when it comes we are always very happy. This is especially important amongst entertainers you didn’t book, like street performers and carnival or fair artists. Most of them accept tips and some get paid ONLY in tips. Keep that in mind after you watch the street performers in Fanueil Hall in Boston during the spring and summer months.

That should give you a pretty good understanding on how to go about booking live entertainment for your next event. Remember, not all of these points are followed by every performer and some will require things not listed here. If you like them, and they have great references, work with them and you will have the best event possible.

The Need For An Entertainment Lawyer In Film

Does the film producer really need a film lawyer or entertainment attorney as a matter of professional practice? An entertainment lawyer’s own bias and my stacking of the question notwithstanding, which might naturally indicate a “yes” answer 100% of the time – the forthright answer is, “it depends”. A number of producers these days are themselves film lawyers, entertainment attorneys, or other types of lawyers, and so, often can take care of themselves. But the film producers to worry about, are the ones who act as if they are entertainment lawyers – but without a license or entertainment attorney legal experience to back it up. Filmmaking and motion picture practice comprise an industry wherein these days, unfortunately, “bluff” and “bluster” sometimes serve as substitutes for actual knowledge and experience. But “bluffed” documents and cture production procedures will never escape the trained eye of entertainment attorneys working for the studios, the distributors, the banks, or the errors-and-omissions (E&O) insurance carriers. For this reason alone, I suppose, the job function of film production counsel and entertainment lawyer is still secure.

I also suppose that there will always be a few lucky filmmakers who, throughout the entire production process, fly under the proverbial radar without entertainment attorney accompaniment. They will seemingly avoid pitfalls and liabilities like flying bats are reputed to avoid people’s hair. By way of analogy, one of my best friends hasn’t had any health insurance for years, and he is still in good shape and economically afloat – this week, anyway. Taken in the aggregate, some people will always be luckier than others, and some people will always be more inclined than others to roll the dice.

But it is all too simplistic and pedestrian to tell oneself that “I’ll avoid the need for film lawyers if I simply stay out of trouble and be careful”. An entertainment lawyer, especially in the realm of film (or other) production, can be a real constructive asset to a motion picture producer, as well as the film producer’s personally-selected inoculation against potential liabilities. If the producer’s entertainment attorney has been through the process of film production previously, then that entertainment lawyer has already learned many of the harsh lessons regularly dished out by the commercial world and the film business.

The film and entertainment lawyer can therefore spare the producer many of those pitfalls. How? By clear thinking, careful planning, and – this is the absolute key – skilled, thoughtful and complete documentation of all film production and related activity. The film lawyer should not be thought of as simply the cowboy or cowgirl wearing the proverbial “black hat”. Sure, the entertainment lawyer may sometimes be the one who says “no”. But the entertainment attorney can be a positive force in the production as well.

The film lawyer can, in the course of legal representation, assist the producer as an effective business consultant, too. If that entertainment lawyer has been involved with scores of film productions, then the motion picture producer who hires that film lawyer entertainment attorney benefits from that very cache of experience. Yes, it sometimes may be difficult to stretch the film budget to allow for counsel, but professional filmmakers tend to view the legal cost expenditure to be a fixed, predictable, and necessary one – akin to the fixed obligation of rent for the production office, or the cost of film for the cameras. While some film and entertainment lawyers may price themselves out of the price range of the average independent film producer, other entertainment attorneys do not.

Enough generalities. For what specific tasks must a producer typically retain a film lawyer and entertainment attorney?:

1. INCORPORATION, OR FORMATION OF AN “LLC”: To paraphrase Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko character in the motion picture “Wall Street” when speaking to Bud Fox while on the morning beach on the oversized mobile phone, this entity-formation issue usually constitutes the entertainment attorney’s “wake-up call” to the film producer, telling the film producer that it is time. If the producer doesn’t properly create, file, and maintain a corporate or other appropriate entity through which to conduct business, and if the film producer doesn’t thereafter make every effort to keep that entity bullet-proof, says the entertainment lawyer, then the film producer is potentially shooting himself or herself in the foot. Without the shield against liability that an entity can provide, the entertainment attorney opines, the motion picture producer’s personal assets (like house, car, bank account) are at risk and, in a worst-case scenario, could ultimately be seized to satisfy the debts and liabilities of the film producer’s business. In other words:

Patient: “Doctor, it hurts my head when I do that”.

Doctor: “So? Don’t do that”.

Like it or not, the film lawyer entertainment attorney continues, “Film is a speculative business, and the statistical majority of motion pictures can fail economically – even at the San Fernando Valley film studio level. It is insane to run a film business or any other form of business out of one’s own personal bank account”. Besides, it looks unprofessional, a real concern if the producer wants to attract talent, bankers, and distributors at any point in the future.

The choices of where and how to file an entity are often prompted by entertainment lawyers but then driven by situation-specific variables, including tax concerns relating to the film or motion picture company sometimes. The film producer should let an entertainment attorney do it and do it correctly. Entity-creation is affordable. Good lawyers don’t look at incorporating a client as a profit-center anyway, because of the obvious potential for new business that an entity-creation brings. While the film producer should be aware that under U.S. law a client can fire his/her lawyer at any time at all, many entertainment lawyers who do the entity-creation work get asked to do further work for that same client – especially if the entertainment attorney bills the first job reasonably.

I wouldn’t recommend self-incorporation by a non-lawyer – any more than I would tell a film producer-client what actors to hire in a motion picture – or any more than I would tell a D.P.-client what lens to use on a specific film shot. As will be true on a film production set, everybody has their own job to do. And I believe that as soon as the producer lets a competent entertainment lawyer do his or her job, things will start to gel for the film production in ways that couldn’t even be originally foreseen by the motion picture producer.

2. SOLICITING INVESTMENT: This issue also often constitutes a wake-up call of sorts. Let’s say that the film producer wants to make a motion picture with other people’s money. (No, not an unusual scenario). The film producer will likely start soliciting funds for the movie from so-called “passive” investors in any number of possible ways, and may actually start collecting some monies as a result. Sometimes this occurs prior to the entertainment lawyer hearing about it post facto from his or her client.

If the film producer is not a lawyer, then the producer should not even think of “trying this at home”. Like it or not, the entertainment lawyer opines, the film producer will thereby be selling securities to people. If the producer promises investors some pie-in-the-sky results in the context of this inherently speculative business called film, and then collects money on the basis of that representation, believe me, the film producer will have even more grave problems than conscience to deal with. Securities compliance work is among the most difficult of matters faced by an entertainment attorney.

As both entertainment lawyers and securities lawyers will opine, botching a solicitation for film (or any other) investment can have severe and federally-mandated consequences. No matter how great the film script is, it’s never worth monetary fines and jail time – not to mention the veritable unspooling of the unfinished motion picture if and when the producer gets nailed. All the while, it is shocking to see how many ersatz film producers in the real world try to float their own “investment prospectus”, complete with boastful anticipated multipliers of the box office figures of the famed motion pictures “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” combined. They draft these monstrosities with their own sheer creativity and imagination, but usually with no entertainment or film lawyer or other legal counsel. I’m sure that some of these producers think of themselves as “visionaries” while writing the prospectus. Entertainment attorneys and the rest of the bar, and bench, may tend to think of them, instead, as prospective ‘Defendants’.

Enough said.

3. DEALING WITH THE GUILDS: Let’s assume that the film producer has decided, even without entertainment attorney guidance yet, that the production entity will need to be a signatory to collective bargaining agreements of unions such as Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Directors Guild (DGA), and/or the Writers Guild (WGA). This is a subject matter area that some film producers can handle themselves, particularly producers with experience. But if the film producer can afford it, the producer should consult with a film lawyer or entertainment lawyer prior to making even any initial contact with the guilds. The producer should certainly consult with an entertainment attorney or film lawyer prior to issuing any writings to the guilds, or signing any of their documents. Failure to plan out these guild issues with film or entertainment attorney counsel ahead of time, could lead to problems and expenses that sometimes make it cost-prohibitive to thereafter continue with the picture’s further production.

4. CONTRACTUAL AFFAIRS GENERALLY: A film production’s agreements should all be in writing, and not saved until the last minute, as any entertainment attorney will observe. It will be more expensive to bring film counsel in, late in the day – sort of like booking an airline flight a few days before the planned travel. A film producer should remember that a plaintiff suing for breach of a bungled contract might not only seek money for damages, but could also seek the equitable relief of an injunction (translation: “Judge, stop this production… stop this motion picture… stop this film… Cut!”).

A film producer does not want to suffer a back claim for talent compensation, or a disgruntled location-landlord, or state child labor authorities – threatening to enjoin or shut the motion picture production down for reasons that could have been easily avoided by careful planning, drafting, research, and communication with one’s film lawyer or entertainment lawyer. The movie production’s agreements should be drafted with care by the entertainment attorney, and should be customized to encompass the special characteristics of the production.

As an entertainment lawyer, I have seen non-lawyer film producers try to do their own legal drafting for their own pictures. As mentioned above, some few are lucky, and remain under the proverbial radar. But consider this: if the film producer sells or options the project, one of the first things that the film distributor or film buyer (or its own film and entertainment attorney counsel) will want to see, is the “chain of title” and development and production file, complete with all signed agreements. The production’s insurance carrier may also want to see these same documents. So might the guilds, too. And their entertainment lawyers. The documents must be written so as to survive the audience.

Therefore, for a film producer to try to “fake it” oneself is simply to put many problems off for another day, as well as create an air of non-attorney amateurism to the production file. It will be less expensive for the film producer to attack all of these issues earlier as opposed to later, through use of a film lawyer or entertainment attorney. And the likelihood is that any self-respecting film attorney and entertainment lawyer is going to have to re-draft substantial parts (if not all) of the producer’s self-drafted production file, once he or she sees what the non-lawyer film producer has done to it on his or her own – and that translates into unfortunate and wasted expense. I would no sooner want my chiropractor to draft and negotiate his own filmed motion picture contracts, than I would put myself on his table and try to crunch through my own backbone adjustments. Furthermore, I wouldn’t do half of the chiropractic adjustment myself, and then call the chiropractor into the examining room to finish what I had started. (I use the chiropractic motif only to spare you the clich√© old saw of “performing surgery on oneself”).

There are many other reasons for retaining a film lawyer and entertainment attorney for motion picture work, and space won’t allow all of them. But the above-listed ones are the big ones.

The Psychology of Entertainment

On the private and public forms of entertainment and the psychological mechanisms in entertainment

Entertainment has many dimensions and could be personal/private or more general and public forms of entertainment. When we play with our mates that is a personal form of entertainment and when we sit and watch a movie on the screen that is a more general form of entertainment as we are sharing the experience with many others. There are some differences in our perception of private and public forms of entertainment as personal entertainment will always be based on personal experiences, our personal worldview and will be determined by personal interactions.

The more general and public forms of entertainment are less interactive and there seems to be this basic contradiction as all personal forms of entertainment are more interactive and public forms of entertainment are more personal and private. This scenario has been changing with television programs increasing audience participation in the program however interaction patterns between entertainers and viewers in any public entertainment scenario remain within strict limits and boundaries.

Entertainment takes us to a different world and feeds our need for fantasy and an escape from real life. This is especially true for entertainment that is more public or provided by the media and entertainment provided by films, theatre, music, and all forms of creative art. Films and theatre transposes us to a world of fantasy and grabs our attention so we remain engrossed as almost a part of this alternative reality. Entertainment could also be in the form of magazine stories and gossip or even celebrity culture and the psychology of entertainment could also explain the extreme craze of celebrity culture that we have in the modern world.

Celebrities seem to open up a world of fantasies and for some people knowing every move of celebrities could bring immense satisfaction as it would almost mean participating in fantasies. Fantasies help in overcoming frustrations and serve as therapeutic as they aid in the escape from realities of life. Real emotions and real life are stressful and entertainment helps us to move beyond real life and moments of stress to participate in fantasies that are soothing as we do not have to be directly involved in these fantasies and yet as spectators we can still participate in a tacit or passive manner.

Participation in any book, film or creative art is almost like sitting on a reclining chair that has the technology to soothe your muscles while you relax. In the case of entertainment we participate almost in a passive manner and although we may be very alert and awake in the process of watching a movie, entertainment gives us the illusion of non participation as we don’t have the opportunity to get voluntarily involved in the scenario. Anything that gives us some form of pleasure could be considered as entertainment although entertainment could also give us pain as when we cry when we get emotionally involved with characters while we watch a movie.

Entertainment could trigger emotional involvement and emotional reactions such as happiness, sorrow, anxiety, fear and despite these strong emotional participation, there is little or no physical activity necessary on the part of the viewer. This active-passive process is the main attraction of entertainment as entertainment enables us to be both active (in terms of emotion) and passive (in terms of physical or voluntary mental involvement). Entertainment means like films are influential yet they influence subtly rather than aggressively and this subtle influence seems to work better on the human mind than any aggressive forms of influence. We see work as duty and entertainment as pleasure although both involve some form of emotional involvement. Work at the same time requires voluntary participation, decision making and physical involvement along with emotional involvement.

Yet why is work perceived as something heavy and entertainment as methods of relaxation? The answer is unpredictability. In case of entertainment, in most cases we may not even know what to expect from a movie or a music video. This unpredictability triggers our interest as we are unable to predict what emotional states would be evoked during this mental adventure. Entertainment is usually a form of mental and emotional adventure. In cases where we do know what a movie is about, it is the feeling of emotional familiarity that drives us to experience what we already know. Suppose a video game gave us a pleasurable feeling or evoked aggression and competitiveness in us, we go back to feel the same emotion as it was pleasurable or exciting. Stretched too far these forms of entertainment could easily become addictive.

Coming back to the distinction of work and entertainment or play, work involves responsibility and despite the emotional involvement in entertainment, apart from being a passive participant, we do not have to be responsible for anything, there is no problem solving or decision making and that is how entertainment in all its form is so pleasurable as the right brain activities of decision making and the cortical regions of the brain are not activated completely yet the pleasure sensations and emotions such as the hypothalamus and left brain activities are usually activated so we tend to associated entertainment with emotions rather than problem solving and decision making.

We humans are rational beings and yet emotions still seem to rule our lives and form the core of our existence as emotions still draw us to do things that may be irrational. Entertainment being primarily emotion provoking rather than reason provoking has a major impact on people’s lives. Appreciating any forms of entertainment could switch from the stages of interest to emotional involvement and finally addiction. The celebrity culture is a direct result of the last stages of appreciation for entertainment.

An interest in celebrities comes from emotional involvement with characters in movies and there may be substantial lack of differentiating fantasy and reality so fans of celebrities are more in love with the characters these celebrities play or the traits they project rather than the personality of celebrities. The celebrity culture seems to take people to a persistent fantasy world and individuals are seen as discussing all aspects of celebrities from their shoes to their hairstyle to the cars they possess. This sort of culture could however be explained with individual need to escape reality and identify with someone in a fantasy world and would be an important element in the study of fantasy.

The study of entertainment brings out many psychological aspects of active-passive participation in emotional or mental adventure and these could be

1. Identification – Viewers often identify with characters in movies or figures in art and this strong identification helps explain the value of entertainment. Young children have seen to imitate film stars as they begin identifying with movie characters.

2. Fantasy – Entertainment feeds on the need for fantasy in people and provides an escape route from the real world. Addiction to entertainment could be the basis of reality anxiety in people.

3. Projection – Individuals tend to project their own emotions or state of mind on to a painting or a song and could derive pleasure from this

4. Regression – Entertainment could often remind individuals of their past or a part of their own life they may have forgotten and in some cases bring out the child in them. For example when older people enjoy video games, it brings back their childhood and they may become addicted to this sort of entertainment.

5. Sublimation – Entertainment is also a form of sublimation of our impulsive desires and this especially true when we participate in entertainment as in the interpretation of art

6. Displacement – In non participative and passive forms of entertainment, individuals tend to escape from reality and displace their emotions from real people to characters in movies. For example a teenager in love with a girl whom he cannot attain may fall in love with a character of a movie who may have similarities with his dream girl.

All of the above processes are ego defense mechanisms delineated by Freud and the interplay of so many defense mechanisms in entertainment suggest that entertainment is more than simply a source of pleasure and could trigger complex psychological processes in the human mind. More research would be required in this field of psychology for a complete understanding of the advantages or disadvantages of entertainment in modern society.

Live Corporate Entertainment Options

The warm climate and endless selection of tourist attractions makes Orlando, Florida an ideal location for conventions, conferences, and trade shows. In fact, Orlando hosts literally hundreds of national and international meetings every day of the year.  As your attendees attention will often be drawn away from your convention to the theme parks and nightlife in Orlando, it is important to provide extra live entertainment and activity incentives at your event. Whether your event is at the Orange County Convention Center or Walt Disney World, this article will give you helpful tips for hiring live entertainment for your Orlando meeting.

The first step is to decide what convention activities you would like to have live entertainment at. Be creative in your scheduling, because adding a little unexpected fun throughout the convention will help keep your attendees energized and positive. Everyone expects a show after the gala dinner, but what about before a morning session to wake everyone up or during a break of one of a long afternoon meeting. Thinking outside the box with your entertainment will help make your convention a stand-out event.

Once you know where you want the entertainment, then you can begin focusing on what type of entertainment you want. Nowadays, corporate entertainment options are virtually limitless. You could choose to entertain your guests with costumed stilt walkers, magicians, comedians, hypnotists, fire eaters, bands, headline singers, fortune tellers, or acrobats. If your event has a theme then you might want to try to fit that theme. The theme of The Magic of Customer Service fits hand in hand with a magic show. A Mardi Gras event may benefit from fortune tellers, jugglers, and other street entertainers. If you are opening up a session with some entertainment, perhaps you want to consider a comedian or a comedy actor who could present a fake motivational speech to get everyone laughing. Don’t be afraid to break away from tradition. If you always have a stand-up comedian at your dinner, try a comedy hypnotist or corporate game show to give your guests something fresh and new.

When you have narrowed down your selection to one or two types of acts, then you need to begin your search for specific entertainers. You can make your search easier by first deciding on the criteria for what you want in your entertainment. Do you want a national act or a local act? Does the act have to be squeaky clean or is a little PG-13 or R rated material appropriate for your group? Do you want a show that is interactive and involves members of the audience? How long of a show do you want? (Planning hint: Most after dinner shows run between 45-60 minutes, any longer and you risk your audience getting restless). Does the performer have to work with any special performance restrictions (is the show outside, is space limited, etc)? All of these items on your list should be used to screen potential entertainment choices.

You can start your search for entertainers online. There is no shortage of entertainers with websites. If you find a site of an entertainer that interests you, contact the entertainer to find out their fees, availability, and to see if they are able to meet your list of criteria. If they are not on the web site, be sure to ask for references or letters of recommendation from past clients. If the performer is a true corporate entertainer, they will have already performed for a client in the same industry as your company. Also, be sure to convey any special requests or potentially unique situations about your event with the booking manager before signing any contracts. Conversely, it is also important to ask what the entertainer is going to need you to supply for the performance. This will allow you to budget for any audio visual or staging rental needs, and avoid any unpleasant last minute surprises.

When you are searching online for an entertainer, beware of directory sites such as Gigmasters, who list thousands of entertainers who have paid to advertise on the site. Many of these websites will take your contact information and send them to dozens of their entertainers, and you will be barraged with emails and calls from entertainers you are not even interested in.

The Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts both have live entertainment departments that organize entertainment for the theme parks as well as for conventions held on resort property. If you are holding your event at a hotel or venue on one of these theme park properties, you can ask your site contact about entertainment options available.The positive side of booking theme park entertainers is that it allows you to bring a little bit of the theme park magic to your convention guests. The drawback is that you will be paying a premium for entertainment that your guests could often see for free while visiting the parks.

The stress-free way to hire an entertainer is to go through an entertainment company who specializes in corporate entertainers. Corporate Funny Entertainment helps companies and associations hire entertainment for Orlando meetings by negotiating the best possible performing fees with their comedians. When you book through Corporate Funny, you can afford to bring national entertainment to your meeting. Their goal is to give you “the most funny for your money”.

Corporate Funny makes the selection of a comedy entertainer easy, because they have reviewed hundreds of national acts to bring you the top six for corporate audiences. These acts have been selected based on having a clean comedy show appropriate for corporate audiences, flawless references, professionalism, and the total entertainment value of their performance.

For Orlando meetings, Brandy Swardson, the booking manager for Corporate Funny, recommends comedy magician, Chris Linn, who has an act that is fresh, exciting, and unlike any magic or comedy show audiences have ever seen. Chris was named best comedy variety entertainer by the 2008 Best of Corporate Entertainers and Speakers awards.

A Guide to Hiring Entertainment for Company

A Word About Agents

In the article ‘How to Plan a Banquet,’ we included a limited discussion about entertainment, and our basic advice was to hire a competent talent agent who specializes in “casuals,” which means one-day or one-night events, such as parties, weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and other
fun events.

Some agents represent actors and actresses, and unless they have a department that handles variety acts and bands, they would be of no help to you.

Some other agents handle only major attractions and celebrities, and unless you’re working with a serious budget, they won’t be able to help you get a band for Aunt Sarah’s 50th anniversary party.

A variety agent is able to help you get that close-up magician, band, and sometimes even name entertainers like Reba McEntire or The Temptations. Those that specialize in variety entertainment are sometimes called “full-service” agencies.

How do you tell who is a competent agent? That’s a good question, because if you asked an agent if he’s competent he’d be a fool to say anything but “Of course!”

Having been in the entertainment business for over forty years, I’ve seen a lot of people set up shop as agents. Some last, some don’t.

A huge percentage of my business comes from people who either have used my services before or were referred by someone who has used my services.

Finding Talent

Finding your own entertainment can be fun. I have spent years watching other acts, bands and attractions, and I never fail to enjoy it.

The internet or the Yellow Pages are a good starting place. Try using a search engine to find what you’re looking for. You’ll find listings in the Yellow Pages under entertainers, party planners, entertainment bureaus, and maybe some other categories.

Try a search for something like “bands in los angeles” or “juggler orange county” or whatever is appropriate. See what you come up with.

Beware that a beautiful website may not mean the best entertainer. Many website are not built by the entertainer and even it is, a nice-looking website does not translate to great entertainment.

Referrals from friends might be useful to you if you follow the reviewing procedures outlined below.

Watch your local newspaper for entertainers that are scheduled to appear for other groups in your area, and make it a point to catch their acts if possible. Of course, if you start going to other events, you’ll see some poor entertainment, too. (I guess it holds true that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince!) But even that can be helpful, if you are observant and make a note of what made the act good or bad.

Reviewing An Act/Band

If you’re not working with an agent, you will need to review the act yourself. There are three methods of reviewing an act: You can (1) go see the act perform live, (2) watch a video of the act, or (3) have the act come audition for you.

By far the best way is to see the act perform under roughly the same set of circumstances as your event. Seeing people perform in Las Vegas to a night-club crowd does not mean they’ll be able to perform for little Gloria’s 10th birthday party (or vice versa).

The problem with going to see live performances is that it is certainly very time consuming, and you will only be able to see a limited number of contenders before it’s time to make a decision. But on the other hand, think of the fun you’ll have!

Watching DVDs is an excellent method, as you can cover a lot of ground in an evening. Unfortunately, not all acts have DVDs or videos, and it would be a shame to eliminate a topnotch act just because they could not supply one.

Another BIG problem with video is that many acts supply a short, edited version of their act. This can be very deceptive. When reviewing an act by video, I always insist on (but don’t always get) an unedited version of the show. I never hire an act based on an edited video. I’ve heard of instances where an act was hired because they had a very powerful video, only to find that in their entire show, the only part that was any good was those few minutes on the video.

Don’t be overly impressed by a DVD or video of a movie appearance, guest spot on a TV show, or commercial. That still does not mean they can do the job you want them for.

Unless you’re an agent, you can just about forget about having the act audition for you. Maybe an act will drop off literature. In the case of a magician, mime, or similar variety act, you may receive a short demonstration. However, this small segment along with its glib pitch can be very deceiving.

Don’t take chances; be sure of what you’re buying!

When you talk to an entertainer on the phone, ask him to send his “press kit” or literature and a DVD or video tape.

Most variety acts will have printed literature or a complete press kit (which includes a photo, biographical information, letters of recommendation and references or list of past performances).

Please don’t be taken in by good printed material. Usually, but not always, you can get a pretty good idea of their level of professionalism by the materials they send you.

I do know some really great acts that work all the time and have virtually nothing in the way of printed materials. Of course I’ve also seen some really outstanding printed materials but was disappointed when I saw the act. I have a band that I send out to a lot of small weddings and installation banquets, and it took me almost a year to get a photo from them. (I’m still hoping to get a song list some day.) I’ve got another band that is absolutely tops in promotional material and their band is absolutely tops, too!

Some performers no longer use paper press kits but instead prefer an electronic press kit either contained on a DVD they send you or simply up on their website. That’s fine. It’s certainly a more contemporary method of promoting one’s self.

Arrangements

It’s important, once you’ve decided what entertainers or band you’re going to hire, that arrangements be made clearly and in writing. I’ve enclosed a sample letter you may wish to use. Some entertainers have their own contracts, but many do not, making it necessary for you to put everything down on paper and send it to the entertainer. I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know how enforceable the letter is, but at least you have the information down on paper and you both understand and agree to the terms.

If I’m serving as Agent, I fill out a contract based on our conversations, and then forward it to my client for a signature. I try to collect as much information as I can about the event so that I can prevent any surprises. The entertainers also receive a binding contract.

By the way, this might be a good place to mention that talent agents are like travel agents in that they don’t charge you for their services, but instead charge the entertainers. The agent is really looking out for your interests and can draw from countless entertainers and bands, being reasonably familiar with what each act does. There is an internet subscription service that lists thousands of entertainers, who their personal manager is (if any), and/or how to reach them. All entertainers are available to a full-service agent, rather than just a handful of acts that the agent has been able to put together.

When making your arrangements with entertainers make sure that you discuss everything:

  1. Location. Best to send the act a map.
  2. Date of performance.
  3. Time and duration of performance. Bands usually work 4 hours, with a 10-15 minute break each hour. Talk to them about their breaks and how much overtime will cost. Some bands supply recorded music during their breaks.
  4. Put the fee down in writing. I would hesitate to pay the act a deposit, although some entertainers and bands require it. I’m a licensed agent, so an act knows that once I send the contract their pay is guaranteed. Both you and the entertainer are acting on a trust not yet demonstrated. The entertainer wonders if he’ll get paid, and you wonder if he’ll show up! It’s the only system we have.
  5. Method of payment. Acts always expect to be paid in full following the performance. If any other arrangements are to be made, please not only discuss it with them, but put it in your letter of agreement.
  6. An act will want to know your time schedule… what time is the cocktail hour, dinner, etc. and this brings up an interesting subject: feeding the act. Usually, if you have only one individual doing a show after dinner (e.g. a magician or a singer), you should invite him to join your group for dinner. However, it would not be expected of you to feed the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Even bands are seldom fed. If you use the band for the cocktail hour, during dinner, and then have them take a break while you give out awards or conduct other business, then
  7. it would be appropriate to feed them during that hour. It’s not mandatory, however. (Keep in mind that a meal is a nice consolation for the act if they are giving you a special break on the fee.)
  8. Who supplies the public address system? Bands usually have their own equipment; other acts may not. A guitar player who sings may require two microphones. Four singers might require microphones and expect you to supply them. If you’re at a hotel or other banquet facility, you may be able to get everything you need from them. Extensive sound systems will have to come from a professional sound company. Make sure you discuss this with your performer and put it in writing.
  9. Lighting. Again, your facility may have what you need. Spotlights with an operator can be rented for around $350. Big concerts will require the services of a professional lighting company.
  10. Stage? A banquet of fewer than 50 people may not even need risers, but when you start getting up in the numbers, you’ll need to get your entertainers up to where the audience can see them. A catering facility or hotel will usually have 4′ x 8′ risers at various heights so that you can build a platform or stage for your entertainment.
  11. Is it outdoors? What if it rains? You should really specify what you will do. Will you then hold it indoors? The act or entertainer has blocked out that day for you and perhaps turned down other work. They are really entitled to their fee even if the program is rained out, unless you’ve made other arrangements.
  12. Seating. It’s very difficult for an entertainer to have a dance floor between himself and the audience. If you’re having a dance after a comedian or other entertainer, talk with the act about how close the seats or tables need to be. Maybe he/she can work on the dance floor.
  13. Does the act need a place to change clothes or set up equipment?
  14. Does the act sell albums or other merchandise at the performance? Some musical acts offer albums after the show. Is this all right with you?
  15. Parking and unloading. How nice it is for an entertainer to pull up in front of the YMCA and find a sign “Reserved for Entertainer.” You can’t always do that, but remember that some acts have a lot to carry in. If the only parking available costs money, you should reimburse the entertainers. Talk about it and include your decision in your letter of agreement.

There are plenty of things to inquire about. Take time to picture in your mind exactly how things will be. If there is a question in your mind about anything, ask. Ask the hotel, the band, the act, the agent.

Conclusion

Well, really, that was easy. Just spend months looking at acts and days negotiating and a few weeks wondering if you blew it. (Or give a call to a competent talent agent and let him worry about the hard stuff!)

Perhaps a good rule to remember is “You get what you pay for.” A friend called me and wanted Mariachis for a Church Mexican Fiesta. I quoted him a price for five Mariachis for two hours, but he went out and hired his own for less. He called me up later just sick about it. He had called a group advertised somewhere and got a low price…and low quality. It’s not a new story.

Don’t look for the lowest price; look for quality. If you can’t afford top quality, it’s probably better not to have entertainment at all rather than to hire an act that makes you and everyone else squirm in their seats.

Tips for Booking Entertainment

Finding entertainment for a corporate convention, holiday party or conference can seem like a overwhelming task. There are literally thousands of excellent, good, and down right horrible corporate entertainers available. This list will give you some advice on how to narrow down your search and find entertainment that will help make your event a success!

#10 – PLAN EARLY. The most popular corporate entertainers book up very quickly for popular dates. During the corporate holiday party season (Nov-Jan), entertainers can begin to book up over a year in advance. Avoid disappointment and start looking for entertainment as soon as you know the date of your corporate event.

#9 – KNOW WHAT YOU WANT (AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHAT YOUR AUDIENCE WANTS). You can make your search for an entertainer easier if you have an idea of the type of entertainment that would work well for your group. Popular corporate entertainment includes:

COMEDY – Comedy acts can be a great way to get your group laughing together. Comedy acts don’t have to be just stand-up comedians. Many corporate comedy acts blend magic, juggling, or other variety performances into their comedy show. This variety helps insure that there is something for everyone in the performance.

No matter what type of comedy act your choose, be sure that the comedy is going to be appropriate for your group. Many comedians have different ideas on what “clean comedy” is, so be sure to ask for a demo video to preview the show (see #1 below!)

MUSIC – Many headline singers and bands are available for corporate events.

MAGIC – There are many different styles of corporate magicians and corporate magic shows. Some magicians offer strolling magic (going table to table at your event), some perform large illusion show with special effects and a cast of dancers, others specialize in comedy magic that gets your audience laughing in involved. Whatever styles of corporate entertainment you are looking for, be sure to find a magician who specializes in only that style. There are magicians you will tell you that they do everything – illusions, comedy, strolling, but that is because they are not proficient at any specific style, so all their shows are usually only mediocre. For the best possible show, hire a professional corporate magician who specializes in one style of magic. These performers will be the best in their field in illusion, comedy, or sleight-of-hand because that is all they do.

HYPNOSIS – Hypnotists can be great for the right group. Hypnotist shows are very interactive and require a very outgoing and uninhibited group to really be successful.

#8 – BOOK DIRECTLY WITH THE ENTERTAINER TO SAVE MONEY AND HEADACHES. If you book your corporate entertainment directly through the entertainer, you will save money on entertainment. Most corporate entertainment agencies add an additional 15-35% to an entertainer’s fee. By booking a corporate entertainer direct, you also have the convenience of being able to talk with the entertainer (or their office staff) about any questions or concerns. Most corporate entertainment agencies will not let you talk with the entertainer until the day of the show. By booking direct, you can be guaranteed that there are no miscommunications about the performance. You can find direct contact information for entertainers by doing an internet search for “corporate entertainers”, “california comedian”, etc.

#7 – PLAN A REALISTIC BUDGET. The old adage, “you get what you pay for”, applies to entertainment as well. The entertainment is not a place to save a few dollars. You would never cut corners on the food you would feed your guests, and should never cut corners on the entertainment. Bad entertainment can ruin an event just as quickly as bad food. You are not going to be able to get a GOOD quality corporate entertainer to do a show for $400. Fees for a TOP QUALITY, professional corporate entertainer will range from $1500 – $100,000 + depending on the size of the show and the performer’s experience and reputation.

#6 – KNOW THE PERFORMER’S EXPERIENCE. You want a corporate entertainer who primarily entertainers for corporate audiences. Don’t be afraid to ask questions… Is the performer a full-time entertainer? Have they performed at events like yours in the past? Do they have letters of recommendation and reviews from past clients for you to read?

#5 – IF YOU HAVE A SPECIAL REQUEST….ASK! Many entertainers are happy to customize part of their performance for your event. If you have a special request in mind, be sure to discuss this with the performer at the time of booking.

#4 – DISCUSS SET-UP REQUIREMENTS BEFORE BOOKING. Set-up need for entertainers vary greatly. Some can perform in the corner of a room with just a microphone, some need a minimum stage area and special sound and lighting equipment. Be sure that your venue will be able to meet your entertainer’s set-up needs prior to booking.

#3 – LEAVE YOUR GUESTS WANTING MORE. 90 minutes of entertainment may sound like a great idea when you are planning your corporate event, but most audiences do not want to sit through a 90 minute show. A longer show does NOT equal better show. Even the TOP comedians and entertainers in the WORLD (Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, etc) only perform 60-75 minute shows. Professional entertainers and corporate event planners agree that a good length for most corporate live entertainment is 35-50 minutes. It is always better to leave your audience excited and wanting more…rather than having them get tired and start looking at the watch.

#2- KNOW WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE FEE. There are travel expenses associated with hiring national entertainers for your corporate party. Many entertainers include the travel expenses into their performance fee and for some travel will be an additional expense. Be sure to know what is included in the fee you are quoted to avoid any unexpected (and potentially expensive!) surprises.

#1 – MOST IMPORTANTLY – ALWAYS ASK TO SEE A DEMO VIDEO. A demo video is the only way you can truly judge whether a corporate entertainer will be right for your company party. The demo video should be short highlights of the segments of an entertainer’s show. The video should be filmed in front of a live audience so you can see how a real audience reacts to the show. If an entertainer’s video is nothing but split-second clips and flashy graphics set to music, then they are probably trying to cover for an inadequate performance – or worse, it could mean that they have NEVER even performed in front of a real audience.

How to Choose the Right Corporate Entertainer

You have everything set for your employee appreciation event or customer appreciation event. Your CEO introduces the entertainment for the evening and then, slowly, everything comes crashing to a halt. Instead of the laughter and applause that you hoped to hear, you hear silence and heavy sighs. The talent, which you thought was the perfect corporate entertainer for your group, panics and starts insulting the audience. You slowly slink down into your chair and wonder if your resume is up-to-date.

As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said and forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” While the food may be great and the room looks beautiful, these will be quickly forgotten. What your group won’t forget is how miserable they felt watching the entertainer you chose to add some “fun” and excitement” to your event. It’s odd that, sometimes, an events manager will spend months on planning certain aspects of an event – food, hotel, decorations, etc – but wait to the last minute to book the proper corporate event entertainment.

Here are a few corporate event entertainment ideas that will help you to make the right choice of a corporate entertainer for your next meeting or event.

1) Hit Your Homework – Stop relying on a speaker’s agency or entertainment agency to always book your talent. Many leading corporate entertainers don’t necessarily work with agents and, therefore, you can miss out on some great talent. While agents can be a good source for talent, they are not the only way to go. Don’t think that just because a corporate entertainer is on the agent’s roster that the agent has actually worked with that talent. Should you be willing to “broaden your options,” do a Google search for terms like funny motivational speaker or entertaining motivational speaker. Here you will find many corporate entertainers that can help you add the “WOW” factor to your event.

2) Delve into the Demos – Once you have chosen an entertainer or two, carefully watch the talent’s demo and see if he/she is a good fit for your group. This is the fastest way to confirm that the particular entertainer will work for you and saves you time – because if you don’t like the video, you can quickly move on to your next candidate. While watching the demo, see if the talent has worked for similar groups. Notice the demographics of the group. Does the video reveal crowd reactions? Is the laughter and applause real or is it canned? Are there multiple performance clips or is the video mostly one performance? Did the corporate entertainer receive multiple standing ovations or just one?

3) Survey the Site – If you like the demo, peruse the talent’s site to see exactly what type of corporate entertainment he/she provides. Observe if the corporate entertainer has a number of program options. Additionally, look at the companies for which the talent has worked and then read those company’s testimonials. Many corporate entertainers flash logos of companies on their site; however, when checking for testimonials from those companies on the talent’s site, those testimonials may not be present. If a talent is showing a logo of a company, it delivers the assumption that he/she has worked with that company and, therefore, logically, the talent should have a testimonial to back up that claim. If they don’t, then what should you assume?

4) Testimonials are Tops – Video testimonials have taken the place of referrals. Instead of having to call someone to get a referral on a talent, a video testimonial will tell you everything you need to know. What you should look for in a video testimonial is who is giving the testimonial and what they said. The testimonial should be from the person who booked the talent and – for corporate event entertainment – that should be from an events manager, marketing or sales executive or higher. Audience member testimonials are fine; however, you want to hear from someone in corporate who actually booked the talent. Since most corporate entertainers who are good at their job have been doing it for some time, the written testimonials will, undoubtedly, outweigh those on video. However, there should be enough video testimonials to provide you with solid information as to the quality of the service you can expect from the entertainer.

5) Talk to the Talent – Once you have accessed that a particular corporate entertainer may be perfect for your employee appreciation event or client appreciation event, then contact the talent directly. A few minutes on the phone will shed some light on how well the talent will not only work for your group, but also work with you. As with all events, flexibility is the key. If your talent has too many demands or needs, then you may need to look elsewhere. After all, you are dealing with the demands and needs of your group and your executives. You don’t need a “needy” entertainer, as well. During your call discuss fees, staging requirements and, most importantly, how the entertainer can help you add the “WOW” factor to your event.

Bottom line: Taking the time to find the right corporate entertainer for your corporate event entertainment does require “time.” However, event managers take the time to: plan multiple site visits; make copious calls to hotel catering; agonize over decorations, strategize hotel bookings and loads more to make sure the event is a success. Don’t let your decision for your corporate event entertainment be one of the last things you do, and don’t always leave it up to one source. Remember, your group probably won’t remember exactly what they ate or the details of the decorations on the table, but they will never forget how miserable they felt watching a lousy corporate entertainer.

Entertainers Nightmares

Booking children’s entertainers for your child’s birthday party can be like playing a game of Russian roulette, you often don’t know what you are getting before it is too late. There is nothing sadder than a disappointed child on their birthday and sadly, if you have booked an incompetent entertainer, there is little you can do about it on the day.

The internet is full of people selling services as birthday entertainers and children’s entertainers but how can you tell if they are any good at what they do? Sadly there is no regulation or governing body to complain to if you have a bad experience with a children’s entertainer this means the onus is on you to do your homework before making a commitment to book.

Nightmare 1

So you surf the web and find an entertainer you feel will suit your needs, you speak to them on the phone and all seems to be in order so you make a booking. On the day you are horrified to find the entertainer who arrives at your party is not the entertainer you thought you booked.

Sadly this is not an uncommon situation; there are certain entertainers who double book or take on more work than they can handle, they then sub contract the birthday show to a colleague or friend leaving you with a stranger at your party who you know nothing about. The solution to this nightmare is to ask the entertainer directly if it is they who will be entertaining at the party, also get the booking confirmed in writing with a written contract and check the entertainers name on the contract matches the entertainer you are booking.

Nightmare 2

The entertainer simply does not show up or cancels the booking close to the event date.

Sadly there are some people that are in the children’s entertainment business to make a quick buck and if an offer comes in that is better than the agreement with you, they will drop your booking and take the better paying gig. This leaves you without an entertainer or in a position where you need to arrange a children’s entertainer at short notice.

The solution to this is to get a written contract in place at the time of booking, professional children’s entertainers issue a written contract confirming what is on offer, this acts as protection for both you and the entertainer. With a written contract in hand you have recourse through the courts should the entertainer not supply what was promised.

Make sure your entertainer is reputable by asking for references and following up on those references. A professional children’s entertainer should have testimonials on their website, take the time to read them before deciding to book with them.

Nightmare 3

The entertainer does not deliver the standard of entertainment you expected.

Being a professional children’s entertainer is not easy, if the children don’t like what they see they will not sit like polite adults and see it through, they will voice their displeasure by getting up and running around. Make sure your entertainer is experienced, ask how long they have been in business and again check for testimonials and ask the entertainer for past customers you can phone. Make sure there is a formal contract in place between you and the entertainer that fully outlines what the show entails and check the level of professionalism of the correspondence with the entertainer. Try calling the entertainers office and see if the telephone is answered professionally, if you leave a message check how long it takes for you to be contacted back. A true professional children’s entertainer should run the business side of their business well and this is notable through all correspondence, telephone calls, emails, letters and the very important contract.

The Best Entertainment Talent Agency

When you host an event, particularly a business event, you want to make sure that you not only have the tasks associated with the business or core purpose of the event arranged to ensure success, but you also want to make sure that you have the best and most appropriate entertainment that your guests will enjoy. If you are having a difficult time trying to decide the best type of entertainment and where to secure the entertainment, you will greatly benefit from booking your entertainment using the services of an entertainment talent agency.

Booking the best entertainment agency means you will have the ability to select the entertainment for your event from a variety of different types of entertainment. When you book the best entertainment talent agency, you will be able to choose from such entertainers as: comedians, bands, musical tribute entertainers, celebrity impersonators, DJs, and more. The best entertainment agency will offer a variety of entertainers of different types and will assist you with choosing the best entertainment that blends well with your specific event.

Booking an entertainment agency is easy when you search the internet. When you look for an agency on the internet, you will be able to browse various entertainment agencies and review the services and types of entertainers they offer. You will get an idea of the costs and you will have their contact information so you can call or email them about the details of your event. They will then respond and provide you with more details about their agency and services and how they can help you.

The best entertainment agency will be easy to work with and understand your specific needs. They will listen to your wishes regarding your event and provide you with suggestions about the type of entertainment your specific guests will enjoy. The agency will also be more than willing to answer all of your questions and provide you with a price estimate. You can ask for references as well as find out how long they have been in the entertainment talent agency business. Also, when discussing your event, it is important to tell them your location so they can find the right entertainment for that particular event such as a big convention room, auditorium, or a smaller office type space. The best talent agency will provide the right entertainment to fit the theme of the event such as providing a comedian that delivers a clean non profanity comedic presentation. Understanding your guests is essential to getting the right entertainment for your event.

An entertainment talent agency can really help you get the right entertainment for your event. They can advise on the best entertainment that integrates well with the event, will help to rejuvenate attendees, and make the entire event much more enjoyable and memorable for the guests. When you hire an entertainment talent agency for your event, it will help ensure that the entertainment that you book makes the event a success. If you require entertainment services for your next event, consider booking an entertainment talent agency.