Tired of dealing with demanding speakers, moody comedians, flaky artists, drunk DJ’s and out of control musicians? Filled with unconventional advice from a fellow moody artist, Stacy tells you how to make your next event a stress free, raving success.
It’s Simple. Artists are complicated. Performing is complicated. That’s why every event-no matter who you hire- gets annoyingly-well-complicated.
A Peek Behind the Curtain-Inside the Minds of Artists
I’ve been a stage actress, playwright and director. I’ve been an event coordinator for a wide variety of shows, outreach events and fundraisers. Ultimately this experience brought me to comedy and motivational/inspirational speaking. In addition, I am married to a musician. Crazy right? I’ve experienced and performed in some seriously CRAZY set ups. I’ve realized over time that a lot of people who are not performers don’t understand performers or performer’s needs when it comes to an event. Which is ok-because they’re not performers! There’s some really simple things you can do to help facilitate success for your performer, your audience and your overall event.
Take it from me, some artists have it all together and can follow through with exactly what you expect from them. THEN there are some artists who are so caught up in their art form, they forget to send back a signed W-9. (After you’ve asked them 800 million times….)
Are All Artists Flakes?
The job of an artist, speaker, musician and performer, is not simply to entertain. Edgar Degas, a French artist, states it perfectly. “Art is not what you see, it’s what you make others see.” Artists facilitate a change of perspective for their audience. To accomplish this, they themselves often see and experience the world differently than the average Joe. In other words, they live life at a different speed and with a different focus than you might.
“The Care and Feeding of Artists” OR “How to Hire Me and Find Out What I Require”
Your set of rules and priorities are not their set of rules and priorities. Many performers are not focused on the practical side of the overall event such as admin. They are focused on the practical side of their performance-the rehearsal, writing, etc. This is why you can’t get the signed W-9 back. You have to set a CLEAR timeline for items needed. (It’s okay to give them an earlier date than the actual deadline to give them a buffer.) Great performers perform OFTEN. When booking them, have them make sure that not only your event, but your admin requirements, fit into their schedule. If they’re doing a 100 day 90 city tour right before your event, you may want hire them next year.
Every time you send an e-mail asking for something, make sure you give a specified date of when you need it back. Sure you can send them your timeline, but keep reminding them of it! They will reward you with doing the thing you can’t do PERFORM! You help them do the thing they can’t do-the “day to day”. Also, in the end of your email, be sure to ask them to reply that they received and understood your email. This assures they have read it, and it gives you some piece of mind.
Artists are NOT “flaky” when it comes to their actual art form. Gifted performers have spent their entire lives; their childhood, their free time, their education and boat loads of money, developing their talent that they will now share with you. Some of them have a hard time with the “day to day” tasks, you know like brushing their teeth, and combing their hair, but that doesn’t mean they won’t rock it on the stage. Lack of organizational skills is not an indicator of lack of talent.
There seems to be this correlation, although not scientific, gives you a baseline of what you are dealing with. The greater the talent, the more muddled headed a person seems to be when it comes to the business part of their business. Remember they are artists, not CPAs. Flip the script- how many CPAs do you know that can sing and dance while playing the fiddle?
The Devils in the Details- Contracts and Tech Riders
Most Performers Hate Contracts. They are a necessary evil. No artist wants to handle contracts, but most of us have to unless we are represented by a Speaker’s Bureau or talent manager. If your contract is different than a standard “Everybody Uses it” contract, be sure to point out the differences Before. There’s a really good chance an “artsy” person didn’t actually read it. Point out any unexpected clauses or expectations to the artist. Sure it is up to them to do their due diligence, but you are saving yourself the headache of a shocked-“about to see a real mood swing”-artist when an issue comes up. Spending the extra time to go over unique details of your contract with them will be appreciated.
What’s the deal with the long complicated riders?
When It Comes to Tech (Especially with Musicians) – Riders matter!!!!
There’s a famous story regarding the rock band Van Halen’s ridiculous rider requesting no brown M & M’s. It was written in Van Halen’s contract that if brown M & M’s were not removed they could cancel the show immediately. This was not a high needs, “I’m so special” move on Van Halen’s part. It was actually brilliant. Their stage show had so many technical aspects to it-some of them dangerous-and many that had never been done before. They knew if the brown M & M’s appeared, the rider had not been read thoroughly and the show, and ultimately the band, were at risk. Tech matters.
The “You’re Not Barbara Streisand. You Don’t Need Rose Petals in Your Toilet” Rider.
Put in the contract EXACTLY what you WILL provide, then state any remaining needs will be the performer’s responsibility when it comes to the offstage, “roses in the toilet”, portion of the rider. Done. They have a problem with that they can do a different event. No performer needs champagne and a limo. Most professional speakers, comedians, and successful musicians I know are extremely low key when it comes to what they really need “backstage” because they perform so often. If someone’s rider is super ridiculous, there’s a lot of other REALLY good performers or speakers who can take their place and would be thrilled to do it. A lot of good performers are picky about their onstage needs but easy going about their offstage needs.
Things that you DO want to consider:
-Water. Onstage while we are speaking or singing nonstop for an hour or so.
– Coffee and/or tea. Caffeine is our friend.
-Lemons. They reduce phlegm and give us a vitamin C boost.
-Mints or gum. You want us to mingle? Your audience wants us to have a mint.
-A Green Room. If you don’t have one, any room within a reasonable distance to the stage, that is climate controlled, lit and has a place we can sit down privately to get mentally and physically prepared will do. Why do I put this in there? Because I have gotten ready in cabins with no running water or electricity, back parking lots, a mouse infested trailer, a giant refrigerator (YES-refrigerator), rooms that were completely dark, and my car. These were actual paid events I was hired for. I’m not at my best when I’ve bathed in an outhouse, almost sat on a dead mouse or froze for 30 minutes prior to taking the stage. I don’t need the Ritz but warmth, a mirror and a lamp or two is helpful because I care what I look like and want to be focused and ready for when I take the stage.
-Snacks. If you love us, please let us know whether or not you’ll be feeding us. You know the term starving artist??? There’s some truth to it. We want to prepare and bring something to eat if no food will be provided.
* Interesting fact if you do provide food: chocolate, dairy and some types of caffeine can effect vocal range. Some performers choose not to eat certain things 24 hours before speaking or performing for this reason-not because they’re ‘high needs”.
Things We’re Demanding About That Should Be Respected:
The Hotel Banquet Room Sound System Does NOT Count as a Sound System for Musicians
The first question to fly out of a musician’s mouth is, “Will there be a sound system and someone to run it?” The hotel sound system with speakers in the ceiling DOESN’T count. Many musicians will provide their own system for a fee that is cheaper than you hiring out sound. (A fee is reasonable, as transporting does cause considerable wear and tear on the equipment and a size-able chunk of extra time to load, set up, and tear down. Sound equipment is also very expensive.)
Your Nephew Who Runs Sound at Church Doesn’t Count
I love performing for fundraisers. I am well aware that every penny saved is a penny earned for a good cause. However, if you are spending the money to bring in musicians of ANY type-you need to set aside a healthy budget for sound. Sound is an art. Hire a professional. It requires a unique ability to blend levels, think quickly on your feet, and engineer the right set up for every room. It’s rare and difficult to find someone who is great at it. No matter how incredible a musician or band is, they can’t compensate for bad sound.
Microphones-Let Us Know EXACTLY What You Have Before the Event
With the exception of musicians, magicians, or certain specialty acts, a lot of us don’t care what mic we use, we just need to know ahead of time. Every aspect of our performance can be effected by the mic. This includes-but is not limited to-hair, clothing, props, and our ability to move. If you provide a handheld wired microphone, it requires a long cord please. Imagine the performer walking onto the stage and being flipped into the air bungee cord style because they are using a 4-foot cord on a 30-foot long stage. Funny visual, maybe, until they hit the stage with a thump.
It’s Best to Ask How Dependent Their Talk is on Power Point.
Most speakers don’t rely on PowerPoint solely to get their message across. It’s an added visual aid. However, there are some who require and will die without it. Ask up front so you can have a backup, such as printed copies, or even an extra projector and laptop on hand. Some speakers can live without food and clean water, but no PowerPoint can mean the end of the world for them.
The Stage-The End All Be All for All of Us
We don’t wing stuff. We don’t like surprises when it comes to our set up. We’ve rehearsed, envisioned, and worked hard based on the information you gave us. Some things we can flow with-such as length of performance time, unexpected rearranging of the event schedule, or impromptu additions to the event-but staging-not so much.
If you have a unique performer you’re debating on hiring, or even a musician, and they don’t bring up stage size and setting, I’d be a little leery. The stage matters TREMENDOUSLY. You need to be very clear with what the stage set up will be. This includes the size, the height, and where the audience will be placed. MOST stages, including those in hotel banquet rooms, are based on something called a “Proscenium Arch” stage. (Think of a movie theater with that tiny little black stage sticking out.) Basically, the stage is square with almost the entire audience placed in the front. We need to know if it will be a ¾ thrust, split audience, arena, or any other unusual stage/audience set up. If we arrive and see a stage that is different than what we were told; your performer and subsequently you, yourself, will not be happy.
If We Can’t See an Audience Member, They Can’t See Us
Using different types of staging takes practice because different portions of the audience cannot engage or see the performers face with certain set ups. Speakers may not be familiar with your type of set up and it can completely kill the flow and connection for their talk. Also! Be prepared to move flowers, balloons or anything else that obstructs our view of the audience-especially those on the far side or the front row.
Discuss this with the performer in ADVANCE.
Always let a speaker or performer walk the stage before they go on. Schedule the stage walk during the set up time. Speakers and comedians want to be safe and not fall off the stage.Ever see a performer fall off a stage into the orchestra pit because they misjudged the depth of the stage? Worse yet is the jungle gym of chords, stage gaps and uneven or shaky platforms that a performer needs to be aware of. A performer or speaker wants to walk the stage to become aware of these things so they don’t have to consciously look down during their time in front of the audience.
Musicians will be less concerned with the stage than they are with sound, as many could care less if they fall off, but care greatly if they sound terrible. Each speaker and performer is unique. Ask in advance before the date of the event what their needs are regarding scheduling time for checking the staging, tech and sound. Everyone will require something a little different.
Why Do They Need Two Nights Hotel When They Are Only Speaking for 1 Hour?
Ahhh. What’s up with that? So ridiculous…
Here’s the deal. I’m one of those speakers that requests two nights hotel. I do NOT like to travel and perform the same day. Here’s why. Anyone who travels for a living knows travel and time can’t be trusted. Car accidents, flat tires, delayed flights, wrong turns. Traveling on the same day is not a secure or wise choice if you want to get to your gig on time.
Then there’s what happens when you get there… Check in, clean up, iron clothes, find a contact person, check the stage, do a sound check, troubleshoot problems, eat, schmooze, perform…
One night may save the event $100, but you will have a frazzled, stressed out performer. Spring for the extra night. They will be fresh, focused, and fantastic if you give us the extra down time. We are humans not robots. Well-most of us are human… PLUS, many of us like to connect with your audience and build rapport beforehand. I, personally, also like to take notes to add comedy bits based on other speakers talks, the room set up, or any unusual fun thing happening in the room. I need to be there-rested and ready to do it.
Everyone Hates Being Paid the Day of the Event. Pay your artist up front. It’s easier because immediately after an event things get crazy with the audience wanting to talk to the performer and with tear down. If you HAVE to pay at the event, let them know BEFORE the event how they will be paid, when, who will be giving it to them, and WHERE. We don’t like standing around with our hands out. If we did we’d be performing with a hat on the ground in the subway. It’s really embarrassing.
Are We Clueless or Just Crazy?
The Sexy Shirtless Musician Who Didn’t Know to Bring a Tie
Here’s the thing. Most performers, comedians and musicians don’t solely perform corporate events. They perform in concerts, bars, clubs, restaurants, and Uncle John’s backyard. Be VERY specific. “Upscale Casual” and even “Black Tie Event” means nothing. Tell them your EXACT expectations. No jeans, suit jacket that MATCHES, no sandals and please wear a bra and underwear with a dress. Yes, be that specific.
Boundaries with the Bar
Be VERY clear whether or not it is appropriate for them to drink BEFORE and DURING their set. Bars and clubs it’s almost a given that they can. Corporate events are trickier and a lot of up-and-coming performers don’t know to ask.
Did They Seriously Just &*() Say That on The Stage? I’m So @#$ Fired!
Let EVERYONE know the boundaries with content and language BEFORE YOU HIRE. This includes speakers. This REALLY includes comedians. Some will not take the job if they cannot use foul language or content. Better yet, give us a list ahead of time of what you do not want to hear so we can plan accordingly. Do your research. We have webpages and videos. If we drop “f-bomb” like snowflakes in winter, you need to know this before you hire us.
Did the DJ Just Grab the CEO’s Wife’s Butt?
Fraternizing afterward. Should they stay and talk with the audience or leave quietly out the back door? Let them know ahead of time.
Some performers want to discuss their performance afterward. In minute detail. Because artists are notoriously insecure about every performance they do, tell them how you liked it and then move on. If they won’t leave you alone, call security.
Most Corporate Event Horror Stories Are About Comedians. Here’s Why:
You didn’t hire right.
I would LOVE to throw in a sales pitch right here. “Hire me! I’m amazing.” The truth is there’s a lot of things to consider when hiring a comedian. I’m not right for every gig. I don’t want every gig. I only want a gig that’s a win for you, a win for me, and most importantly-a win for the audience.
How to hire the right comedian
- “Clean” does not mean content is “G” or “PG” rated. It usually means they don’t cuss. Content is another story. Be Specific when you ask if they have a clean act. They could avoid saying any cuss words but have a very R-rated show.
- Audience age versus Comedian age. Seems obvious, but what one person thinks is funny is NOT universal. A general rule of thumb I’ve found is hire a comedian who is within a 10 year age range of your audiences’ average age range. Example: if your average audience age range is 40-your best bet is someone who is in the range of 35-45, maybe 50. If your audience is mostly 22-23, hire someone who is in their early 30’s or younger. Someone who is 30 years older or 20 years younger than the majority of the audience-not so good. Their content may not relate.
- Audience gender versus Comedian gender. If your audience is a majority of men-hire a male comedian. Majority women-hire a female comedian. This is not a hard fast rule-and of course there are always exceptions-but I’ve found this to be a good guideline.
- Use a Committee that emulates your audience age ranges and genders. If you have a wide range of ages such as 60, 40, and mid 20’s-make sure those ages are represented in your hiring committee. If the majority of your committee likes the comedian, your audience will too.
- Watch their videos. They may not be high quality, but you are watching for content. Remember we love to post our stuff all over social media and our websites. We try to make it is easy for you to choose the right performer for the right gig.
- Read their testimonials and evaluate them responsibly! If all the testimonials are from bars… they might not do so well at a Women’s Faith Convention.
You know how to plan an event. Performers know how to perform. We all have one thing in common and that is we want the event to be a relatable, enjoyable, success for the audience. By clearly communicating expectations, respecting certain needs, and appreciating each other’s area of gifting-success can be a sure thing.
Stacy Pederson is a Colorado based Funny Motivational Speaker/Humorist who is an extremely low needs performer…At least SHE thinks so…. StacyPederson.info
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