Companies sometimes wonder if it’s possible to hire bands that have celebrity status for a private, corporate or charitable event. And the answer is: yes, if the price is right. The fee range is huge and, of course, the bigger the name of the band, the higher the cost. Some bands are in the tens of thousands, while others are often hundreds of thousands of dollars — or more.
Charities often want to know if, rather than hire bands, celebrity musicians will do events for free or a reduced rate. Sometimes. But usually only if they are already deeply invested in a cause or a person involved with the event. If a band does agree to play for free, there is a risk. Bands that are getting paid have a much better chance of appearing than those that don’t. They may even have some kind of arrangement with their agent that if a paying opportunity comes up on the same night that there’s a pro bono gig, the paying gig must be accepted.
Let’s say everything is going along perfectly: the bands are available on the date they’re needed and the fees have been agreed upon. Then what? A whole lot of reading. The event planner has to read each contract and every rider that comes with each one – forwards and backwards. She has to understand exactly what she is getting her company or charity into and what it will cost to hire bands for this event.
There are usually additional, sometimes hidden costs, and knowing what those are can be the difference between a responsible event and a financial disaster. Even the flight. There’s a big difference in the cost between an economy airline ticket to Calgary from Vancouver and a private jet from Japan.
In fact, there’s a very good possibility that members of the band will be coming in from a variety of cities and may have to be picked up separately. Some bands will have riders about ground transportation and will require limos or town cars and professional drivers.
Bands often expect per diems, intended to cover certain costs when traveling. Sometimes bands prefer large per diems and pay for all of their expenses out of those. Other times, travel, accommodations, maybe even some meals will be covered, in which case per diems will be smaller.
Bands usually have green room requirements, the first one being that there be a green room. A green room is simply a (usually) private room put aside for bands to gather. It is usually stocked with food, drink and other amenities. The items required are usually listed in a document from the contract, often called a hospitality rider – and that document needs to be reviewed very carefully to ensure there’s nothing in there that will break the bank.
The technical rider is another standard document that accompanies contracts and must be read before any decision to hire bands. It outlines sound, staging, lighting and other similar requirements that the host must provide. Once a deal is signed, the event is obligated to provide the band whatever has been agreed upon in the contract and any riders that accompanied it. That can be anything from table space in the lobby for one star ‘s favourite charity to metal detectors and inspection of venues by police K9 unit for another.
How seriously do bands take the riders? Very. The standard performance contract used by Van Halen famously had a line item for M&M’s with all the brown candies removed. Brown M&M’s were cause to cancel the show but still be fully paid for the gig. The band claims to have snuck that article in the technical rider to see how closely local crews were reading the contract and riders. If brown M&M’s were present, they felt they had a good indication that there would be problems ahead with the show.
Of course, most events can’t afford to hire bands from the A-list. The good news is, a myriad of options are available at almost any price point. If the boss has his heart set on the rolling stones, however, start saving now. They come in at several million dollars.