A Week in the Life of an Entertainment Agency
Over the years I’ve had many conversations with people who ask what I do for a living. The responses I get when I tell them I’m an entertainment agent vary widely. Here are some of the more common ones;
- Have you booked anyone famous?
- Ah, so you’re the middle man?
- So you just answer the phone and get a cut of everyone’s wages?
- Do you know Simon Cowell?
- My son/daughter/cousin/chiropodist is in a band. Can I get them to call you?
The short answers to these are;
- Not really
- With a sigh, I suppose you could say that
- I wish
- Sure (but I hope they don’t).
It never really ceases to amaze me how little is known about what agents actually do. So I thought I’d begin an occasional blog giving an insight into some of the things we agents do, don’t do, wish we did and would rather never do again.
There’s no time like the present so I thought I’d describe some of the stuff that’s happened at Hireaband’s head office in Scotland this week. I’ll try and get my colleagues in the English offices to give me a wee bit of what they’ve been up to too – but they’re up to their eyes in it at the moment and as I just sit and wait for the phone to ring, I’ve got more time on my hands J
So this week began (on Monday the 18th of November) with the very prestigious VOWS Awards ceremony in Glasgow. VOWS stands for Voted Outstanding Wedding Supplier. The awards go to businesses in the wedding industry that demonstrate outstanding levels of customer service.
Hireaband sponsors all of the entertainment at the awards, hosted very ably this year by Scottish celebrity wummin Elaine C Smith
On Monday night we had the sensational GeO Gospel Choir opening the show with a really uplifting 12 minute set. Straight after that Elaine started to announce the first ten award winners. Despite it being a dreich Monday night in November the 700 guests in the lovely room at the Hilton Doubletree in Glasgow were obviously well up for it (we don’t get out much in the wedding industry) so by the time The Essential Elton John came on stage, mad dancing was inevitable.
Once the celebrations died down it was over to one of our favourite bands The Freshtones who provided music for dancing all the way through to 1am. The floor was full throughout their show and despite the fact that they played for almost two hours without a break they came off stage absolutely buzzing.
So obviously the life of an entertainment agent is one of glamour and non stop partying? Eh … naw, it isnae. There’s weeks of planning goes into events like the VOWS. I was up at the hotel for 3pm to check everything was in place for the performers, from the PA and lighting to the changing rooms, food and drink, parking and then sound checks.
I was squeezed into my dinner suit. These get slightly bigger every year; Slaters make a fortune out of me. In fact the last time I went in to see the wonderful Jack Blades in their Ayr store I asked him if he had a tux that would fit me. Del, he said, we don’t have a cubicle that will fit you!
One of our best DJ’s, Justin Dolan was performing at the after show party in the bar and he had the place bouncing as usual way past 2am. Obviously I was ‘networking’ hard do didn’t see my bed till well after 3. Thankfully we’d decided not to open the office until 1pm on Tuesday as the entire Hireaband Scotland team were in attendance (with the exception of Julie, our Admin Manager who was in Lanzarote getting a tan).
Needless to say, Tuesday was a long day, despite the late start but we got through it and bounced back in on Wednesday.
The problem is, miss half a day in our office and you really pay the price. So Wednesday saw us try to catch up with two days work in one. Not easy at this time of year when last minute Christmas panic bookings come in.
Just this week we were asked to provide 11 DJ’s over December for a lovely venue in Glasgow, recently under the control of an old friend of Hireaband’s who books through us wherever she goes in the industry, but sadly on this occasion we just couldn’t help as all our guys are already booked. That’s a major frustration but hopefully we’ll be able to help next year.
We had a couple of weird conversations via our chat box on the Hireaband web site – if fact there’s an entire blog could be written on that subject alone. One irate visitor asked ‘Are these band names all fake? I can't find any info on google for them.’ Could’ve been a wind up or just a genuinely bewildered person, but it reminds me of the surreal gag about the guy who goes into a sweetshop and asks if they sell Mars Bars. ‘Of course’, replies the shopkeeper, ‘There they are right in front of you’.
‘OK’ says the shopper, ‘I’ve got a few more to look at but I might be back later.’
Our Artist Liaison, Rachel, added two new English based bands on Thursday and updated the information on a couple of cracking existing bands. Have a look at the new bands; The Top Secret Party Band and The Pineapple Incident.
Thursday for me was spent in online meetings with our digital agency and doing the band and supplier payments. Normally this is Julie’s job and although she had done all the hard work before she left I still took twice as long as she normally does, plus I had my shoes and socks off to help with the counting.
At Hireaband we pay our entertainers in advance from our own funds and then get refunded from our clients account after the events have taken place. We know this is really appreciated by the artists we’re privileged to represent as it means they’re not out of pocket getting to their bookings, they don’t have to hassle their customers for payment after the event (I know from bitter experience how horrible and sometimes futile this can be) plus it serves as a final check that everyone knows where they’re supposed to be that coming week.
We actually start the ‘book check’ process months in advance. We do the Christmas book check around September and the summer book check in early February. Of course many new bookings come in meantime which is why we also have a system that tells us if any contract is unsigned (which is a red flag we never ignore) followed by another check at the beginning of each week.
Since 1999 we’ve never had the agents’ nightmare of a ‘no show’ because of our belt and braces (some would say paranoid) approach. By the way, the phrase ‘book check’ comes from a time before computers when agents would record each week’s bookings in an actual book. Early in my career I visited a busy agency office and was astounded to see piles of actual diaries all over the place, still being used to record bookings – and this would have been in 2000/2001
Today (Friday) we heard from an artist who had been booked by a venue in late summer. We’d issued the contracts that include our terms of business and the client paid what we call a reservation fee, what you’d probably call a deposit. All contracts were duly signed and the entertainer removed availability for that date from his diary.
The week leading up to the booking, the venue owner called us and told us that his chef had walked out and as a result could he rearrange the booking for a date sometime in the future. Although not obliged to do so the artist agreed to a rescheduled date some weeks in advance. This of course meant that he was giving this client two dates from his diary, but keen to help and sympathetic with the venues predicament, he was happy to accommodate.
At the start of the week leading up to the rescheduled date, the venue owner contacted us again to say that as he hadn’t sold enough tickets he was cancelling the booking. We explained that according to the terms of the contract, the entertainer was entitled to his fee less any travel expenses. There followed a long drawn out process during which the venue owner denied ever having made a booking in the first place (despite us sending him a copy of his signed contract) and then told us that he was cancelling because he’d heard that the act he’d booked was ‘terrible’ which of course gave him the right to cancel.
These situations are frustrating and no one wins, least of all us who had actually done our job twice, once for the original booking and then again for the re-arranged booking.
As agency contracts are between the booker and the entertainer, we can’t take either party to court over breach of contract, but fortunately the entertainer is a member of Equity and he decided to pursue the client for his fee.
We found out today that the venue is no longer trading and that the unfortunate artist is now out of pocket having reserved two dates for this venue. We were at least able to forward the reservation fee minus a much smaller sum in commission that we’d worked twice as hard for.
So that’s been this week in the life of an entertainment agency. Fun, frustrating, tiring, rewarding, exciting, disappointing at times but rarely dull. Hopefully you’ve found this interesting. If so, let me know and I’ll try and develop this as a regular blog. It may well get juicier and more revealing as the weeks go on.
In the meantime I’m off to have Champagne with Taylor Swift and Simon Cowell.