Written by Doug Wisness
With the wealth of information available online, many of today’s casinos are feeling much more knowledgeable about the entertainment industry. Add in the desire to save and generate as much profit as possible, and it’s easy to see why you might be tempted to pass on hiring an outside talent buyer.
But before flying solo and venturing into an unknown business world, consider the benefits of having an empathetic and experienced negotiator on your side with strong industry relationships and connections to build your entertainment program, which is the true value of a talent buyer.
Not every venue has an outside talent buyer, but most mid to large-size casinos do. A talent buyer is the person who books entertainment on behalf of the casino, the one who not only fields inquiries from local and national touring acts and their respective agencies, but seeks out acts for the respective properties they represent.
So, let’s first tackle the elephant in the room: can you save a lot of money by keeping it in-house?
Casinos make these decisions all the time in regard to their advertising, accounting and analytics needs. Some factors include the size of your operation, the expertise you have in-house, and the time you have to commit. A key question to ask any talent buyer you are considering is how they can save you money through their established network and bulk purchasing power. That’s dollars to dollars. The other key cost savings is in contract errors and negotiations, which can mean thousands of dollars left on the table. We’ll explore more of this below.
Navigating through the booking/buying process is in the talent buyer’s field of expertise
The experience and the understanding of the complexities and politics of the music business are anchored by years of relationships and strong business track records.
The process of finding the right act for your property is a process in itself. An outside talent buyer will help decide what acts will work and what acts won’t work based on your demographics, statistical data, and what’s hot versus what’s not! Entertainment is ever-changing, that’s for sure! Once you and your talent buyer find the right act, it is time to put in the offer!
Once the offer has been accepted, the next step begins, which is working through all the legal paperwork, such as contracts, riders, addendums, and so on. Most of the time we have to reach a compromise with the artist demands and the Tribal casino’s capabilities and needs. This is again where the relationships and experience of your talent buyer are important. A fully executed contract is necessary to move forward.
Once the contracting process is completed, the marketing for the show that is booked is the responsibility of the venue, where casinos are very experienced … the billboards, the advertisements on the taxis and inside the taxis, the marquees and digital walls on the properties, all the lights on the buildings, it is an incredible marketing smorgasbord. Always remember that all the marketing and advertising have to be approved by the artist. The artist will also market the show to their fan base, which is a valuable asset for getting people in the seats!
An experienced talent buyer will have a network of business associates that they work with every day in the entertainment industry. Talent buyers work with talent agencies and their booking agents all over the country, getting the insider knowledge of what acts are touring, when they are touring, and where they are touring. A good talent buyer will have this information before the general public, which helps the talent buyers and their clients develop their entertainment program and get the best deal possible for their property, which saves them money in the long run. Talent buyers are the first place an agency looks to fill tour dates for artists. A strong talent buyer with good connections can route a tour for an artist, which benefits both the artist and the venue.
Multiple dates for an artist result in a much better price for the venue. For example, in 2019, when the entertainment world was more predictable, we got a call from a booking agent from one of the major talent agencies looking to fill a routing date of an artist that typically goes for $100K-$125K a night, since the artist had a show booked that had no other shows around it for support. We were able to book two more nights at two different properties we represent for only $75K a night! We saved each casino $25K-$50K and had sold-out shows in each venue! My properties were thrilled to have such a big name on their stages, and the artist was happy to be able to make the shows happen. A win-win for everyone!
Working for your goals
The goal of the artist’s booking agent is to get the most money possible for a show for their particular act, and the goal of the talent buyer is getting the best price for the venue, as well as the right artist. The ultimate goal is to find the happy medium so that all parties involved are getting the right deal. Say that you want an artist for a specific date and there is no anticipation for a tour. A talent buyer can help you book the artist, and in turn help the agent find more dates within their network, creating a new routed tour that will make sense for them going out on the road.
The music business walks to the beat of a different drummer
The industry is complex and varies from agency to agency and artist to artist. A casino property needs expertise managing their entertainment. Qualified and experienced talent buyers provide that expertise.