Before we start we just wanted to say that this gig sucks!
December 5, 2007 3:21 PM   Subscribe

So, how do you hire a big-name band to do a private event?

I work at a medium-to-large sized non-profit in a well-to-do area that is going to be having a 50th anniversary celebration in late 2008. It's going to be big, and there is a big opportunity to raise a lot of money for the organization. As such, we're going to be spending relatively lavishly for the event. We've allocated about $40,000 to hire a band (though the organization is willing to pay up to $100,000). The questions I have are: how do you go about hiring a somewhat well-known band for an event like this? Is it really just a matter of going through their management, or are there any tricks involved? How well-known a band can you even get with that amount?

Oh yeah, bonus points for band/artist suggestions, though that's not really necessary.

(One of the administrators had quixotically wanted to see if we could get Bruce Springsteen to do it—someone had some sort of connection in the office—but when we contacted his management they politely told us that his asking price [$2.1 million] and our offer weren't exactly a match. If only we were Mr. Burns.)
posted by Weebot to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I believe many "name" bands have contracts with gig promotors and touring agents. If you found a directory of these, you could probably see who represents whom.

On the other hand, it'd be a lot more fun to pick a band first, and then see if they're available. If you want suggestions from the hive-mind, though, we're going to need a lot more contextual information than you've provided. For starters, what's the nonprofit's issue area, geographic area, who are the invitees, ...
posted by electric_counterpoint at 3:28 PM on December 5, 2007

The best thing to do would be to contact some of the larger booking agents and ask them which bands on their roster might be available at that time, and within your price-range. With that kind of money you can probably afford most of the biggest indie rock bands, and many were-really-famous-once major ones. That is, if they're willing to do private gigs...
posted by Marquis at 3:38 PM on December 5, 2007

I am actually in the middle of doing the same exact thing. I've found a local event production company who is doing everything for me---for their cost. We're looking at ~$1-3.5 million dollars of total income from the event, with sponsorship of the act, security, rigging, crew and everything. We're looking at summer 09 though as our date.
posted by TomMelee at 3:38 PM on December 5, 2007

If it is a non-profit, then trying to find a band/name that has sympathetic viewpoints may get you more profile for your money.

"We like your views and understand that you share our feelings on the issue we represent and as such, we'd really like to invite you to perform at our 50th Anniversary. I am not sure we can meet your usual fee, but perhaps we can come close, would you be interested in talking further about this, or perhaps negotiating?"

I'm not sure how you'd find out this link, but a good search through some charity event style 'celebrity members' or talking to some 'Hello magazine' types may give you something to go on. Aim high. Why not.
posted by Brockles at 3:41 PM on December 5, 2007

of montreal, the shins & arcade fire all do charity events regularly, or so i heard from a promoter friend, fyi.
posted by luriete at 3:54 PM on December 5, 2007

Here's the clear channel price list for college bookings, which should give you some idea of price range for various bands.
posted by david1230 at 3:56 PM on December 5, 2007 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: electric_counterpoint: Nonprofit's issue area, geographic area, who are the invitees
Well, the solicitation for suggestions was more of an afterthought than anything but I'll furnish the hive-mind with specifics:
  • We provide free and low-cost civil legal service for those who are at or around the poverty line.
  • We're based in Orange County and provide service for Orange County and Los Angeles County.
  • I don't know who would be attendings—I'm asking this for someone else, so I don't have all the detail—though I wouldn't be surprised if some of our local congressmen and women decided to show up.

posted by Weebot at 4:56 PM on December 5, 2007

You will want to call an agency and ask for "avails". William Morris has a list of artists who may do corporate events here.

You'll have a much easier time if you narrow your list. You can go to Pollstar to find an artist's agency. Be aware that lots of better known artists may not want a date like this unless they are already advocates of your cause.

You'll encounter many, many challenges if you're not used to putting on shows like this. Consider hiring a local promoter who does shows of this caliber to consult with so that things go smoothly for you. I don't mean at all to be discouraging but it will go much better if you get some help beyond the green for your first time doing this!
posted by quarterframer at 5:11 PM on December 5, 2007

I know that many of the brass bands in New Orleans are affordable, lots of fun, and could really use you support.

rebirth, dirty dozen, hot 8, bonerama, and trombone shorty are all good choices.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:21 PM on December 5, 2007

2nding the idea of finding bands who are already behind your "cause."

Sometimes those high fees are "Things We Wouldn't Otherwise Want To Do" tariffs. Each band has its own arrangement with its record company, agents, management, etc. But as lureite mentioned, some bands are all about helping out if they are able to.
posted by Rykey at 5:45 PM on December 5, 2007

Consider Los Lobos. Probably closer to your price range, based in Southern California, likely sympathetic to your work. They are all really nice guys and anti-rockstar. Great party band, they can play anything. They can go more Mexican or more Rock 'n' Roll, even pretty psychedelic. Popular across various different subcultures. Their management can be contacted through their website.
posted by bephillips at 6:11 PM on December 5, 2007

Surely as a nonprofit you would be able to negotiate a lower price. One of my best friends is a TV celebrity here and often gets requests for MCing/hosting. She has her costs (and they're pretty high), but if it's for a charity or non-profit she does them for free.

I also know of a youth development organization who managed to set up a massive concert in Australia, with U2 as the headliner, and I think a lot of the acts came on board for free or low cost.
posted by divabat at 6:21 PM on December 5, 2007

"Here's the clear channel price list for college bookings, which should give you some idea of price range for various bands."

College bookings are usually priced significantly higher than other events, because they're a) a pain in the ass, and b) colleges usually have state money that they'll blow without thinking things through. Seriously, talking to touring agents, they can easily get triple what they'd normally ask for a guarantee from a campus event.

I'd call William Morris, since you're here in LA and you want staid acts. If you wanted the hottest-shit up and coming indie bands (who'd be more than happy to play a gig like that for less than you're offering), I'd be able to put you in direct contact with 'em.

If you shoot me an email, I can also tap a music editor pal of mine who has a lot of experience coordinating events like that.
posted by klangklangston at 7:13 PM on December 5, 2007

Prices are different for private events than they are for public events and colleges.

If you find a band you like that is repped by Red Light Mangement (Dave Matthews, Robert Randolph, N. Mississippi All-Stars, etc.) send me a MeFi mail and I will TRY to introduce you to someone pretty high up in the organization.

I do know that they are pretty picky about what charities they will send a band to play for even at the right price.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:08 PM on December 5, 2007

I used to do the overall production management for events very similar to the one you're describing - charities or meetings trying to host big-name acts. I VERY strongly recommend getting a local production company to handle much of an event of this size. There will likely be a lot of things that a person outside event production will entirely miss. (A few that pop off the top of my head ... Power - They'll likely want 200-400 Amps, Sound Reinforcement - Are you providing, or is the act? If you are, does your system meet their requirements... Technicians and stagehands ... dressing room, greenroom, showers, security, et cetera, et cetera.) If you have any specific questions, mefi mail me, I'd be happy to answer.
posted by frwagon at 8:44 PM on December 5, 2007

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