Industry lingo you need to know if you want to book bands!
Navigating through the world of entertainment booking can be complicated if you aren’t familiar with the industry. Artists are often represented by agents whose primary job is keeping them booked and elevating their pricing throughout their career. The sooner you understand the language of these agents, the faster and more efficiently you can negotiate a deal to book your favorite act. I’m going to dive into some of the most common terms you will hear from agents, artists, and managers. These terms are important to understand if you plan to book your own entertainment… so pay close attention!
Most artists will require a guarantee in order to perform at your event. This is very simply the monetary payment the artist is guaranteed to receive for their performance. In some instances this guarantee is also known as a honorarium, or a price point that the purchaser (you) will honor for their services.
Keep in mind that there are many types of deals when it comes to booking entertainment.; door splits, net percentage deals, and guarantees with bonuses. In the vast majority of scenarios, artists prefer a “flat guarantee” which is simply a locked in price for their performance. Great talent purchasers must be wary of hidden costs - but more on that later.
Artists require many things beyond compensation - and the more popular the act the bigger the requirements for their performance. Have you heard of the no green M&M’s industry rumor? Most people think this is has to do with a diva artist that has to have everything absolutely perfect in order to perform. And although these needy and entitled artists do exist, the real reason has to do with attention to the fine print. Why?
First and foremost, there are many different types of riders. Technical (or tech) riders, hospitality riders, and even transportation riders. These documents outline the artists additional requirements for their performance. For example, a tech rider will outline the type of sound system and sound board (console) they require. It will also outline their stage dimensions, ramp needs, amperage requirements, line inputs, IEM and monitoring needs, union labor allotments, schedules and much more.
Am I speaking in a different language? Don’t worry - just remember that riders can have a lot of hidden costs if you fail to read the fine print. Green M&M’s being removed from their bowls in the dressing room is just a way for the artist and/or tour managers to know if you PAYED ATTENTION. Artists have an important job to do, and you are paying them to do that to their best abilities. Their riders make sure they are comfortable and prepared for their job - but it’s important to make sure you understand what’s in them. A private driver and Range Rover on-call for 24 hours a day can be expensive, and often riders outline additional needs.
Major label artists will not even consider your opportunity to perform without a formal offer. This is a business letter that outlines the pertinent information of your event, and it includes an offer for the artist. For example, most formal offers will include the date, venue, confirmed talent, merchandise splits, buyers information, and more. Without this document, agents won’t even take your request to the artist.
The primary reason for this requirement of a formal offer is to weed out inquiries that aren’t serious. Anyone can send an email to CAA or WME (two of the largest talent agencies) and ask for the booking cost of a band or singer. If you are doing that, it’s very clear to the agent you don’t know what you’re doing.
A formal offer sends two clear messages: 1) That you (the purchaser) have capital and you’re ready to make a move. 2) You are nearly guaranteeing the agent will present this to their artist, or else lose a potential paying gig. It’s both efficient and standard in the industry. Formal offers are a huge poker chip for a purchaser - it’s the first move that says you have the opportunity and the power. Artists want and need business, and talent buyers are their gateway into meeting new fans and making money. Never forget this!
Venue Sell vs. Artist Sell
Merchandise sales are an important revenue stream for touring artists. Performers like Garth Brooks can average $20 in 'per head' sales (more on this later) and make $560,000 off of t-shirt and CD sales alone at one arena show! Because of this, talent buyers and venues will often want to profit share in this cash flow. This is a way for the venue to offset its operating costs and elevate its profits night of a show, and the booking agents will typically negotiate this fee as low as possible on behalf of their artists. A common venue fee is between 5% and 15%, but can sometimes be higher based on the artist and venue.
A venue sell is precisely that - the venue and its staff will be responsible for setting up, selling, counting out, and settling an artists merchandise sales. Venue sells retain higher percentages of the merchandise net sales, and this is sometimes advantageous for an artist because they don’t have to travel with a merchandise manager.
An artist sell is when the artist has a dedicated merchandise manager out on the road. This person is in charge of everything merchandise related - and it includes inventory management, drop shipments, settlements, and sometimes direct negotiating with the venue on the fees. Most artists prefer their own merchandise managers who are connected to the tour and are compensated through “net deals”. These deals give their merchandise person a bonus per show based on how well they did on net profit.
This is a common term that measure an artists average earnings from merchandise sales. Imagine you are playing a club show for 500 people, and at the end of the night the artist is told they sold $1,000 in merchandise. Now let’s say the next night they play a theatre for 2000 people and they made $3,000 in sales. Per Head allows you to better understand your averages for each person attending the show. The club show made them $2.00 PH and the theatre show was $1.50 PH. Even though they made more money on the theatre show, we know that their Per Head Avg. declined. This is a great indicator when you are touring as it allows you to modify pricing, shirts you are selling, combos you are running, etc.
Force Majeur Clause
In latin, this means "superior force" and is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event occurs. This can be anything from famine and war, to ‘act of God’ as it pertains to catastrophic weather (tornado, hurricane, blizzard). These are very common clauses in major label contracts - but are often non-existent in local and indie artist contracts. King Sixteen always highly recommends a force majeure in our performance agreements and contracts. This is a safety net that protects both parties from circumstances beyond their control.
Although this is a short list of terms, these are guaranteed to help you in navigating the world of entertainment purchasing. If you aren’t experienced in booking your own entertainment - we always encourage our clients to let us do it for them. More often than not, we save our clients money and relieve headaches along the way. King Sixteen has over 12 years of international touring experience with artists like Switchfoot, Cold War Kids, Lumineers, Paramore, and many others. We know most of the agents and we’ve advanced and negotiated contracts from everyone from Kimbra and Chris Rock to Darius Rucker and David Cook. We’re here to help!