Save Money Booking Entertainment: Four Things Managers Don’t Want You To Know

Save Money Booking Entertainment: Three Things Managers Don’t Want You To Know

The entertainment industry can get a little complicated and end up costing you more money than it should. Our agency has seen clients agree to thousands of dollars in food costs for a band, and unknowingly agree to pay for the sound system that costs even more thousands. These mistakes can wreak havoc on your events profitability, and we’re going to walk you through a few things that booking agents and managers hope you ignore!

1) Riders & Green M&M’s

Ever heard of an artist requesting only green M&M’s in their dressing room? This was actually put in a rider once just to see if the purchaser was actually paying attention! If the band showed up and green M&M’s were in a bowl in the green room, they knew that they likely had everything they needed to have a good show.  They just want to know if you’re paying attention to their riders!

What is a rider? A rider is an additional document that outlines additional needs on behalf of the band and its crew. Even though you signed the contract booking the band for your date and agreed to a price for their performance, riders can sometimes add several additional items that need to be  delivered on behalf of the purchaser.

The three most common riders are hospitality, tech, and travel. These riders act as additional deliverables attached to a contract. Often times booking agents will fail to address additional expenses once you agree to the guarantee (the fee for the performance). Always request all of their riders, and review them in detail. Ask the agent what parts you are responsible for and what parts can go away.

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2) Hospitality Riders

Water bottles, good meals, snacks, and towels are very common to see on a hospitality rider. But the bigger the band or artist, the bigger the ask will be! Don’t be afraid to tell the agent you won’t be providing those two bottles of Dom Perignon chilled to 43 degrees Fahrenheit accompanied by six crystal flutes. It’s all a negotiation and you can often save a lot of dollars by negotiating those riders down.

Tech riders highlight their needs for the stage, sound system, mixing consoles and more. Travel riders discuss how the band will be transported to your venue, if they have specific vehicle or flight requests after and during the show, and more.  Always read these riders and know that nothing is finalized until those have been thoroughly inspected and negotiated.

3) Backline

So your band shows up at your event and they want to know where the stage is. You walk them to the stage, the drummer asks “Where’s our gear?”. This is a nightmare situation and we have seen it happen multiple times. If a band requests backline, don’t just say yes and expect things to go smoothly.

Backline is the bands equipment that is on the stage. It does not include the stage or sound system often provided by an AV company, but it does include drum sets, guitar and bass amplifiers, keyboards, cables, pedals, and sometimes even instruments.

Often times a band is unable to travel with a bus or van and trailer to an event. Because you can’t fly with huge amplifiers and drum sets, a purchaser will sometimes need to provide these items via a backline company. These companies will take the backline/tech rider and provide a quote to deliver all of the necessary equipment. Most of these companies will even setup and tear down the gear for your artist!

We highly recommend verifying if backline is provided by the band or artist you are booking. If this is a purchaser provided item, always make sure you account for the guarantee (performance price) and the expense of the backline in your budgets. We also recommend bidding out the backline companies, which can often save money for you and your client.

4)  Spot Dates

Routing a tour across the country is a tedious process and lining up dates and cities can be a complex task for booking agents. Venue availability and distance between an artists shows is paramount, so it’s important that artists spend as little as possible getting from one show to the next. It would be a poor decision to play a show in Seattle and then Oklahoma City the next night. Even major label bands will avoid these types of routings due to charges in bus overdrives or an additional fee payed to a driver for after hours hauls. Large bands will also have crew, and if that crew is sitting in a luxury bus because it has two days off before their show halfway across the country – the artist and management are losing money paying for a crew that can’t work. That’s bad news for the band, but leverage for you!

So how do you take advantage of spot dates? We take a look at the artist we are interested in hiring and see if we can spot dates where the artist is traveling out of in route to another destination. Confusing? Let’ me give you an example…

Let’s say you want to Bruno Mars for your next corporate event, but you don’t want to pay primo rates. After all, Bruno Mars can likely sell out arenas and gross millions in one night. But let’s say he’s playing Indianapolis, IN on June 1st and then he’s playing Nashville, TN on June 4th. Ticketmaster and his website show he has two days off (June 2nd and 3rd).

Now there’s a possibility he’s playing a private event those dates. Or perhaps he’s flying out to LA on those dates to film a cameo spot in the new Lord of the Rings Netflix series. Who knows, the guy is talented! But there is also the chance that the booking agent just couldn’t find a live show opportunity on those dates.  And this is where you can jump in and try to work a deal!

You as a purchaser can recognize this gap in dates, and reach out to the agent to see if Bruno is interested in filling June 2 or 3 to play your corporate gala in Louisville, KY. If they are interested in this, there’s an opportunity to have some serious leverage in negotiating his performance fee. Why? Because talent buyers have some leverage when we have the opportunity.  The booking agent can choose to stay at their normal price, or they can pass along a discount if they know their crews, truck drivers, and musicians are working instead of sitting in a hotel parking lot waiting for the next show.

You can use a website like to review past and present artist tour dates, including their tickets sold. This is often helpful in determining where the artist performs well in terms of ticketing. You can even reverse engineer these numbers and get close to figuring out how much an artist is grossing! But we’ll save that trick for another day…

King Sixteen is a turn-key talent buying and event management agency specializing in brand launches, corporate events, catering, and staffing.

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We are a collective of event producers that work directly with national brands seeking to activate in unique markets across the United States.


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