This is a guest post by Howard Givner, Executive Director, the Event Leadership Institute.

When it comes to booking entertainment, the more expensive the act, the more they resemble an iceberg when it comes to costs.

What you see up front is only part of your expense; there’s a whole lot more hidden underneath.

When you’re quoted a price for a band, speaker, dance troupe, or some other performer, that’s usually just the Performance Fee. The part under the water that you don’t see right away is called the Performance Rider, or often just the Rider, and if you’re not careful it can sink your budget.

Riders contain costs that get added on top of the Performance Fee, and they tend to fall into three areas.

Production Requirements include the entertainment’s needs for staging, lighting, sound system, and any other support costs that relate to their performance, and they can range from minimal to very elaborate. (Well known acts won’t just show up and be seen on a flimsy stage. I remember one fundraiser I worked on where Harry Connick Jr. had agreed to perform for free, but he travels with two tractor trailers worth of gear and support staff, and that cost made it prohibitive for the client to accept his offer).

Travel Requirements include airfare, ground transportation, and hotel accommodations.

And finally Hospitality Requirements cover things like the green room where they stay before their performance, food and beverages for the performers, and other amenities.

Here are six ways to save money when booking entertainment for your event

  1. Offer a buyout price. This is a flat amount you offer, which is to cover their fee, plus any and all rider costs. It’s then up to them on how they want to spend it, but it makes budgeting on your end a lot easier. In general, entertainment groups do not like to lower their performance fees, but they will often be very flexible on their rider costs, and this enables them to preserve their “rate integrity.”
  2. Look for local talent. This virtually eliminates most travel expenses.
  3. Reduce the performance fee by cutting the length of performance, number of performers, number of costume changes, and other elements that enable them to justify a lower fee.
  4. Book a venue that is “entertainment-ready.” Many spaces already have built-in staging, lighting, and sound systems that will satisfy most performers, saving you from costly production expenses.
  5. Offer downgraded ground transportation. Some groups will bite on this. Instead of a car service, offer to rent them a car, or reimburse their taxis.
  6. Economize hotel arrangements. Suggest that talent share rooms. Secure less expensive hotels. Bring them in early on the performance day, and fly them out the next day, to reduce the number of nights needed.

Most of these suggestions will have no impact at all on the actual performance, but can have a big impact on your bottom line.

For more insights on booking entertainment, check out the Event Leadership Institute’s video class, “Booking and Producing Event Entertainment.” Here’s a clip:

How do you save money on entertainment? Share your tips in the comments section below. And for more insights, “Like” the Constant Contact Event Marketing Page on Facebook.