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Are Private Dates Even Private Anymore? Today’s Corporate Buying Experience

Moderator: Stephen T. Gudis | The Production Department
Michael Boltzman | AEG Live / Events
Chris Burke | WME
Greg Janese | Paradigm Talent Agency
Robert Norman | CAA
Wayne Sharp | Career Artist Management
Kevin White | OnStage Talent Group

Private gigs aren’t so private anymore, with not only the locations being “semi-public” but social media further blurring the lines.

“Artists are always concerned about how much exposure they get playing supposedly private events, corporate events, both from the brand tie-in side, and just the exposure that it brings to their fans,” said CAA’s Robert Norman. “We want to try to create events, but it’s just about managing all of our expectations, the things that the buyers want from the artist and the things that the artist is willing or not willing to do.”

But in these private settings where maybe one wealthy individual writes a big check and thinks he or she owns the artist for the day, “Things happen you can’t plan for or control,” said Paradigm’s Greg Janese.

He told of a private backyard party gig where in the middle of the afternoon the buyer asked if the artist could come to his child’s bedroom and do an acoustic set.

“You also have to worry about birth-day parties to please buyers and the guys signing the check,” said Wayne Sharp of Career Artist Management, who represents artists including Maroon 5, Miguel, and Robin Thicke. “But then you’ve got a bunch of drunk people in the green room who want pictures and want to tweet. It just makes a bad experience for everyone.”

He said it’s important to remember he has to make it a positive experience not only for the ones writing the big check. “It behooves everyone to keep this private side growing and beneficial to everyone,” he added.

Expectations do differ at private events, putting people like the panelists in a difficult spot at times.

“On the corporate side, if an artist comes in 20 minutes late or we tell someone, ‘hey you can’t do that,’ we’re out the door. That’s the most delicate part,” AEG Live’s Michael Boltzman said. “As buyers or pro-ducers, we don’t get a second chance, because ‘Nobody tells me what to do as a CEO.’ We’ve had to have those conversations and it’s very challenging to do that, to balance between the ones writing the check and the artist that earns that check.”

What usually ends up being most important is communication between the artist side and buyer, which means – hopefully – no surprises later on.

“We get offers that have setlists in them,” said WME’s Chris Burke. “We have offers where they want five or six songs, some of them the artist hasn’t done in five or six years, so we have to go back to them and just manage that. But again, it’s better to know that from the onset than figuring it out after.”

“Any good buyer will kind of walk corporate clients down the lane, and say let’s be realistic about what we’re asking,” Boltzman said. “There’s a lot of things that don’t make it to the offer. I’ve got a whole list of funny requests. It’s all about managing expectations.”

Janese added, “Social media requests, meet-and-greets, that all needs to be part of the offer. There’s nothing worse than that being a complete surprise. The more information on the front end, the better.”

And in the world of benefit shows and fundraisers by wealthy donors, it becomes important to work with established concert professionals.

“You always want a professional involved,” Norman said. “The worst-case scenario is you get the call from someone at the hospital or the secretary of the president of the company, and somehow they found the way to your phone. And they don’t know how to do this, they’re just finding out, ‘How do I book Lionel Richie?’ That’s not a mix that’s good for any of us. We always require that there’s a professional event producer involved.”

“The websites that you see out there that don’t go directly to the agents, stay away from them,” said Stephen Gudis, who is in charge of production at The Production Department and among many other duties has acted as stage manager for Farm Aid for 29 years. “Go directly to the people that represent the artist. It will save you a lot of time and effort and make the corporate dates work.

“And do hire people like myself and other people in the audience who can represent you if you are not a show producer or don’t have a production manager. So spread the wealth around a little bit.”

– Ryan Borba