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Securing Your Event Headline Artist.

Andy Robertson

For any event to work you need to secure the best talent you can afford, irrespective of it being a music, comedy or other performance related event. Assuming you are in business to make a profit, you will need to figure out the metrics that make it work by considering anticipated audience numbers and the ticket prices you will charge.  


On a simplified basis if you anticipate an audience of 5,000 each paying £100 you will have a pot of £500k to work with (excluding VIP package sales and sponsorship deals). Deduct all your operating and venue expenses and you can figure out your budget for artists. The bulk of your artist budget will go on a handful of popular known artists, and this should leave a smaller budget for 2nd tier artists. For events where you are running a large number of acts the lower tiered artists may perform for expenses only, they want the exposure and are not in a position to command any significant fee. 

Looking for and booking artists can start as early as a year before your event date, certainly you will be competing against other events to secure those artists and this can end in a bidding war to secure a confirmed booking. The advantage of getting artists confirmed early is that you can use them in your event marketing to sell tickets. The big music festival players often sell out within hours of announcing their headline artists up for a forthcoming event. 

How you source artists will depend on a number of factors; do you have a personal relationship with an artist or their manager? If you do that is really going to help in the negotiation and booking process. If you don’t have contacts and are stretched for time you may have to use a booking agent (talent buyer) who can match your event requirements to artist fees and availability. Using an agent will be at a higher cost as they will include their commission fee (10% to 15% of the total artist fee) but you will get the benefit of their experience and their ability to know up and coming or underground artists with cheaper fees that they anticipate will be more popular by the time your event comes around in a year's time. 

A quick online search with a reputable booking agent quotes a fee of $20k to $50k for Groove Armada and $40k to $75k for Basement Jaxx for example. Getting the balance between quality and quantity is an important factor too so balance that with your budget restrictions. 

Make sure once you have a confirmed artist booking you get a radius clause in your contract where the booked artist is prohibited from performing within a specified geographical area and time period in relation to your event. Beware of odd deals you will come across, a well-known artist that offers a reduced fee in exchange for you funding their lighting and pyrotechnics show might seem a good deal until you discover these extras cost more than double the artist's fee. 

Using an event software solution like FestivalPro that already has artist management functionality built in will help organise your artist booking arrangements. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and are performance artists themselves. Using FestivalPro will take the stress and worry out of managing artist's contracts and schedules as everything is controlled electronically. 

Andy Robertson
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