5 Tips for Booking Celebrity Talent

This past Sunday marked one of the biggest events in the US: The Oscars. We still have celebrity fever, and so we got some great tips from entertainment and event industry expert Brett Ihde, CPCE, on how to add celebrities to your next event. Brett has managed tours across the US, UK and Europe, and worked in award-winning roles in talent booking, celebrity talent management, event production, and private event facilitation.

While it may not always feel realistic, there are lots of celebrities out there, and they can help boost ticket sales or simply add that “wow” factor to your next event. So if you want to add a celebrity component, Brett’s tips will help you come to the table prepared.

1) Know Your Budget

Obviously, this is the “cherry on the sundae” for all events. Nonetheless, you should have a healthy enough budget when approaching this subject. Speak with your entertainment provider and ask questions as to what is possible and realistic with the budget you are working with.

2) Be Prepared to Fulfill Rider Obligations

Most celebrity talent is going to have additional costs on top of their booking fee. Unless they live around your event area, odds are that they will be traveling from some other location. Different celebrities have different personal needs, so it is important to keep this in mind when figuring out your overall costs.  Common considerations include travel needs (assume business or first class round trip tickets, not coach), ground transportation, lodging and food costs. 

3) Be Clear On Your Expectations

When speaking with your entertainment consultant, make sure you give a clear breakdown of what you want your hired celebrity talent to do. In my experience, most celebrity talent is easy going and will work with you and your needs if they know everything up front. They want everyone to have a good time, and also appreciate being a part of the event. It’s the “curve ball” questions or expectations that they don’t care for. For example, if you hire a famous singer to attend an event to take pictures and do a meet and greet, but when they arrive you ask them to sing a few songs, that would be a curve ball. Keep in mind that you’re working with people who keep a polished, professional image and would want the opportunity to sound check, warm up and so on before taking the stage.  For some celebrities, they also have different overall requirements and fees for an appearance versus a performance, which is the other important aspect of being clear about expectations so you can ensure that the experience delivered matches your anticipated results.

4) Plan for a Dedicated Assistant

If you are making the effort to bring in a celebrity, be prepared to not only work with their own team or personal assistant, but to invest in a person representing you and your team who will be solely responsible for them.  Things will flow smoother when you assign a go-to person who can handle everything from airport pick up and drop offs, to just knowing how to get around your event. Do not rely on the celebrity’s assistant to handle all of these details for you.  While they will likely be the person working with you on coordinating details, their assistant is working for the celebrity, so it will be your job to book and manage all details that relate to your event, and be prepared to handle any issues. Make sure that whoever you have assigned to the celebrity is professional and understands that photo and autograph requests are not allowed.  Your entertainment consultant may be able to provide this service for you, which would ensure that details are handled in an appropriate and professional way.

5) Work with an Entertainment Consultant Who Understands the Overall Scope of Your Event

The entertainment industry is a sea of people who are all connected. It takes a lifetime of working within this network to know who to speak to, who handles who, and what is the best way to secure a certain person. Your entertainment consultant will also know who would be able to accommodate your budget, and so on. It also takes a lot of experience with events to know how to make the right recommendation of who will be the best fit for your event and audience. Make sure the person you’re working with knows celebrity entertainment and has worked successfully with them before. Even though you can hop on Twitter and send a quick note to someone, this approach will not get them to come to your event. You need someone who knows how to navigate those waters and negotiate a fair and firm commitment.

Brett Ihde began working in the entertainment industry from the age of 17, performing as a
guitarist with the band Every Day Use. Graduating from Columbia University in Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in Entertainment Media Management, Brett has played and managed tours across the United States, United Kingdom and Europe. In addition to his experience as a performance artist, booking agent and manager he spent 2 years working with the iconic House of Blues in Chicago as a Production Department Lead supporting many National touring acts. Brett has also served award-winning roles in talent booking, celebrity talent management, event production, and private event facilitation rounding out his experience and cementing his reputation as one of Chicago’s top event professionals.

Brett is a Certified Professional in Catering and Events and has served on the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Catering and Events board from 2013 with consecutive two-year terms as treasurer and then president. He then moved on to serve as a member on the NACE National membership committee in 2018, followed by a year on the NACE National governance committee in 2019. Brett will be returning to the NACE National membership committee in 2020 to continue his work in advocacy.
Two Chicagoland organizations, Stitely Music and the Shore Club Chicago, will be welcoming industry dynamo Brett Ihde to their teams in 2020.

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