What to Expect From a Professional Entertainer
They may require a deposit upon signing a contract for a performance date.
They will arrive on time (Don’t hesitate to ask for it in writing in the contract.)
They will be willing to forego the consumption of alcohol at the function.
They look professional and dress appropriate to the venue or theme.
They will provide you with up-to-date promotional material.
They will be able to identify their exact production requirements.
They will handle production and logistical details well in advance of the function, not at the last minute.
They will treat you and your guests respectfully.
They will not mingle, eat or drink with your guests unless specifically invited by the coordinator of the event.
They will facilitate the planning process by having questions for you.
They will not make unnecessary demands on the event planner or production team.
They will finish their performance on time if this agreed upon in advance.
They will provide two weeks notice prior to cancellation unless it is an unavoidable emergency.
They will help you find a replacement act if necessary.
They will want to be paid at the conclusion of their performance.
8 Steps to Success
1. Research The Market
2. Determine A Budget
3. Check References
4. Review Promotional Material
5. Ask The Right Questions
6. Sign A Contract
7. Coordinate Production Requirements
8. Support The Presentations
1. Research The Market
Most people, when they think of hiring an entertainer for an event, will think of a band, DJ, or comedian followed by anything they’ve been exposed to lately. The options in terms of entertainers available in the greater Vancouver area is quite astounding. If you do some looking around on the internet you are bound to get turned onto possibilities you’ve never considered in the realm of live entertainment and performance. Belly-dancing, physical comedy, accapella music, a hypnotist, a mentalist, roving variety acts, customized caricature drawings, musical murder mysteries, body art, moving sculptures are just a few of the lesser utilized possibilities.
There are many hidden gems, wonderful entertainers in the greater Vancouver area who are underexposed. This means that even if your guests get out a lot or attend many functions, hiring such an act will open up a new world that will delight your audience. People often see the same things over and over again and are simply thrilled when they get to be part of something that is new and different.
2. Determine a Budget
The entertainment at a function is more pivotal to the success of the event than most other factors. An event is an experience, a lasting impression which carries either a positive, negative or neutral charge. Event attendees will remember what they felt while they were there, and the emotional flavor of their experience will color any memories they have about the function or its associated elements.
A good entertainer has a much better shot at putting one of your guests in touch with feelings of delight, joy, power, elation, wonder, or excitement than the food (although food probably ranks close) or the lighting, or the décor, or the centerpieces, or the bar, or the scenery. Ideally all of these factors are tailored toward having an integrated impact which is favorable for the attendees of the event, but the right entertainment is arguably the most bang for your buck in terms of making an extraordinary impression.
3. Check References
Its always wise to ask performers for recent references. Ask if you can call the individual or the contact identified at the company to inquire about their experience of that performer. If a performer does not have at least three or four glowing reference letters either available on their website, ready to fax, mail or courier to you right away, then move on. Any professional entertainer ought to be collecting such things and be sparking experiences with their audiences which generate positive, if not glowing, written responses.
I would go so far as to recommend that the primary basis of making a decision about what entertainer to hire should be the experience of recent clients. The reason for this is that you can often view the promotional materials for an entertainer and either be impressed by the material and then disappointed with what you get, or unimpressed with the promotional material (which is simply poorly designed) and miss out on a wonderful act.
Certain types of acts who work frequently, like some music groups, can be seen live in person at a public venue prior to making a decision about hiring them.
4. Review Promotional Material
There are two things to consider here. The first thing is that any entertainer worth hiring should have ready for you to review-
recent letters of reference
photos and descriptions of their performance
a video, audio cassette or CD of their material
a website to which you can refer
Unfortunately, there are some very worthwhile entertainers who do not have their “act together” in the promotional department, even though they would be well worth employing. This is why its worth relying heavily on client references in the decision making process.
When you are looking at the performer's material you can ask yourself the following questions -
Do I feel excited by this performer?
Is the performance unique?
Is the performer evidently skilled in his or her craft?
If you don’t get an immediate yes to at least one of these questions then take the tape out of the VCR and go on to the next acthopefully you’ve at least a small stack of tapes to choose from.
When reading the letters of reference or speaking directly to the entertainer's referrals try and get a sense of the type of audience the performer has been successful with in the past. A performer who can keep a room of elementary school children in rapt attention will not necessarily be able to translate this to a room full of business people, although that is more likely than the reverse.
A performer’s promotional material may not be indicative of his or her performing talents, virtuosity as a musician, skill as a juggler, or talent as an actor or comedian. The material will, however, give you a sense of the performer's professionalism, attention to detail and ability to interface effectively with the production aspects of your event.
5. Ask the Right Questions
Finding the right act or performing group for your event, whether it is music, comedy, environmental roving characters, or a celebrity to emcee your award ceremony, depends upon satisfying a number of crucial components.
Is the entertainer of high quality?
Is the entertainer suited to the audience?
Is the entertainer suited to the theme of the event or the venue?
Can the entertainer be adequately supported with his or her production needs?
Can you afford to hire the act?
Is the entertainer a team player?
Will the entertainer work well with the any other entertainment which might be at the event?
What are the entertainer’s production requirements and are these expenses included in the contract or will you be billed additionally for them, or even expected to provide them?
6. Sign a Contract
Rarely, if ever, would it be a good idea to make an agreement with an entertainer without signing a contract. No matter how clear things may seem in a conversation with respect to the details of an event, it's imperative that your understanding be represented in writing. Anything other than that is a recipe for trouble.
Questions to Ask Before Signing a Contract:
Will you provide your own transportation?
What are your production requirements?
What do you need me to provide at the production level?
What is your cancellation policy?
Do you require a deposit?
Do you require a change room?
What is in your rider?
Do you have liability insurance?
Details Which Ought to be Stipulated in the Contract in addition to all of the above:
The name of the entertainer and the client making the agreement.
The client's contact information including phone, email and fax number.
The contract date.
The exact date and time frame of the function.
The exact venue of the function including address and phone number.
The client contact person or persons on site at the event for the entertainer.
The production contact person or persons on site, including phone numbers if possible.
The exact times at which the entertainer is expected to arrive on site, perform (including any breaks), and finish.
A description of the act which will be performed.
Any necessary rehearsal times or site inspections.
The mailing address of the hiring individual or company.
The billing address of the hiring individual or company if different from mailing address.
Whether or not the client will require a separate original or faxed invoice for accounting purposes.
The fee which the entertainer will be paid, including taxes, and when that fee will be paid. i.e.- any deposits, when they are due, and final payment and when it is due.
Who will provide the production requirements and what those requirements are.
Details of transportation and accommodation if the act is coming from out of town, including who is bearing the costs of these and how they will be billed.
The entertainer's contact information including mailing address if payment is to be sent by post, and work, home and cell phone numbers.
A cancellation agreement which stipulates the consequences of cancellation for both parties.
7. Coordinate Production Requirements
Coordinating the details for a entertainer or entertainment group can range from being a no-brainer to being a nightmare. In general, the larger the performing group the more production and logistical support will be required to get them up and running.
Things you can ask the entertainer to make the process go more smoothly:
Do you need a power supply and how much power do you need?
How much space do you need? Is a stage or riser required?
What will happen on the stage or riser? Acts which move (dancers, acrobats, some bands, some types of comedy and theater) require staging which is interlaced, meaning the platforms need to be interlocking or held together so that there are no gaps and discrepancies which might cause an accident or disruption of the performance.
Do you require any special lighting? Some performers require the specific placement of lighting since they are dependent upon visual contact with each other, with the audience or with their equipment. (Dancers and jugglers for example.)
What are your sound production needs? Some performers may supply their own equipment. Others may need to coordinate with your sound company, might require an on-site technician to run equipment or follow cues or may need to speak with the owner of the venue to work out compatibility with equipment hard-wired into the venue.
8. Support the Presentation
Once you’ve made it this far in programming your own entertainment there is only one thing left to do enjoy it. Try and handle all the previously outlined details well in advance of the function. If you do, chances are things will run smoothly. The last thing you want to do is be in a panic on site or have your entertainer in a panic, because supporting elements have not been properly supplied. Don’t spook or rattle the entertainers by expressing your fears, hesitations, misgivings and anxieties. Let them know that you are very glad they are performing, that you trust their ability to deliver their product and that you support them as a professional. This will help the entertainer or group to shine at their best
How to Use an Entertainment Agency
An entertainment agency can save you a lot of time and energy, not to mention a potential disaster, by handling many of the details that have been discussed above seamlessly and responsibly.
An entertainment agency typically has had repeated experiences with performers they supply to event planners and party planners. They already know who they can count on, which vancouver entertainer is trustworthy in the Vancouver market and who to avoid. Some entertainers are simply high maintenance, may create a distraction for organizers, clients and production staff, or simply cannot show up on time. Reliable entertainers, and there are many of them, take responsibility not only for their onstage product, but for their conduct off-stage and in the negotiating and planning stages of the event.
If you are not accustomed to handling the retinue of details which accompany acts or groups that use lighting, sound, special effects, or have specific space requirements, it's easy to let some of the details fall through the cracks and be left with five minutes to go before the entertainment is supposed to begin and things are falling apart.
Disruptions I have personally witnessed due to what seemed like minor oversights at the time include complete power failure in a hotel ballroom, no sound available for the emcee at a major fundraiser, an empty stage where there should have been an award winning dance team, missing accompaniment tapes for performing soloists, complete darkness on parts of a stage where key performers should be well lit and glaring gaps in between entertainment segments in a full evening of programming.
Any agent who has been successful in the entertainment industry for a respectable time, (try to find one with at least ten and hopefully more years of experience in the Vancouver area) has a good sense of most of the venues in town. He or she will have programmed entertainment in many of the major hotels, will have some knowledge of hotel staff, the various ballrooms and facilities, and will be able to work more efficiently and effectively with production personnel than an individual with limited or no knowledge of the venue or the Vancouver special event industry.
Typically, unless the act is a major headliner or there several acts performing for one event, an agent will not plan to be present on site during the actual function. If you feel like you need this or would like to have the agent present to follow through with the presentation and production details, then you may need to specify that in your contract with them. It will probably cost you a little extra and in some cases it’s well worth the extra money.
The greatest benefit to having an agency handling your entertainment is that they have made more mistakes than you and, hopefully having learned from them, can avoid them in the future.
What an Agency Charges
A standard mark-up on the cost of the actual entertainer when hiring through an agency is usually anywhere from 15% to 40% of the total amount you pay. This amount may vary with the amount of work required to find the act (i.e. a clown, vs. a six-toed ballerina from Kenya) and in contracting and programming it. It may be worth it to ask some simple questions of the agent which will give you a sense of their mark-up. The question is not, “What does the agent cost?”, but, “Is the cost of using the agent worth what is being offered in return?” The answer to that question is not availed through any kind of simple formula, since the value of using an agent will be represented by the combination of the entertainer’s needs, the agent’s skill in handling those needs, and how much you are needing the help.