Archive for August, 2010

Mike Esterman - Celebrity Booking Agent interview for UtoldUsTo continue the topic of paid celebrity appearances at  nightclubs we got together with Mike Esterman – currently the most renown Celebrity Booking Agent. He is a CEO of Esterman.Com, agency that currently represents over 200 reality TV stars, music artists, models, actors and movie industry kings and queens. Currently himself a celebrity, Mike shares with us his story, gems and pitfalls of his industry and his opinion about the future of nightclub promotions.

Mike, please tell us how did you start.

It all began when I was about 16. I was a dancer entering various local competitions. One of them was “American Bandstand”, 50-80s version of “So You Think You Can Dance”. I spent eight months on “Bandstand” as a spotlight dancer, six months on “Dance Party USA,” and on the others maybe a few months after. While having very active nightlife I got introduced to nightclub business and began assisting a local Washington nightclub owner. Part of my job was act as a VIP host for the artists and celebrities that performed at our venue.

So, you acted as a Promoter for a Washington club?

Yes. I organized promotions and created new ways to popularize our venue such as record release parties, listening parties, after-concert parties, music video locations, etc., many of these concepts were still new at that time in Washington.

When exactly did you officially open the agency?

In 1998. While promoting a club, I developed contacts and established friendships with most of the artists I met. As I was in contact with music stars I started to be approached by other venues who were interested in booking talent at their clubs and events throughout Maryland. I realized that my heart was in talent management and went to open Esterman Entertainment, a full service talent booking company. I began receiving calls from promoters and club owners like Angel Sanchez, Philip Neary and Kevin Novak outside Maryland to set up after-concert parties for artists performing in their cities. Now I work with club owners worldwide like Mike L. in London and Eddie Perez in Dubai.

Who were your first celebrity clients?

Roger Lodge of blind Date TV Show, Carmen Electra and Rob Base and EZ Rock to name a few…

My current celebrity list is long and growing.  I work with many artists such as Kim Kardashian, Pamela Anderson, Antonio Sabato Jr., Tito Ortiz, Garth Brooks, Jessica Simpson, Don King, Paris Hilton, Carmen Electra, Mario Lopez. I also work on events and after parties for music artists like, POISON, Third Eyed Blind, 3 Doors Down, Lady GaGa, Jay Sean, Colby O’Donis, Alicia Keys, Usher, Nelly, Beyonce, Fabolous, P. Diddy, Vince Neil, LL Cool among others.

What are the types of events various types of celebrities commonly appear at, and what they are expected to do?

Music artists like events that promote their business. These include album release parties, concert promotions, music festival after parties etc. Music artists are often expected to perform when booked at events, play a song or a few. This makes a great win-win for both clubs and artists.

Models and movie stars are a fit for a wide range of appearances that span from meet & greet, conventions, health clubs, radio stations, nightclubs, autograph signings, hosting contests or promotional campaigns of their shows or movies to the public.

We hear sensations such as Paris Hilton being paid $350,000 for a few hour club appearance. Is it really that expensive to book a celebrity?

No, it is quite affordable for most of venues. It is true that the price can range anywhere from $500 to a few millions. It all depends on a celebrity profile, scale of the event and how many people are involved. Playboy models and reality TV stars are very affordable. There is a difference between a Playboy model and a Playboy Playmate though. You can get a model for about $500. A Playmate is about $1000. You can get reality stars, kids from MTV shows like The Real World and Laguna Beach or The Bachelor for about $1000.

When we are talking a private concert, say, Justin Timberlake, price can shoot over $2 million. But remember, a concert takes time to prepare, there is a back vocal and dance team attached in addition to full blown music entourage that comes on stage with the artist. Payoffs are also different. Private concert will typically get ticket sales, on occasion it is a corporate event and budget is allocated in advance.

What should a venue keep in mind when booking a celebrity?

Celebrities are very busy people, they work long schedules and often book 12 months ahead. Clubs should always keep this in mind as it will help them get right people and for the better price. As a part of booking arrangement a venue is expected to cover a flight, hotel, meals and ground transportation. If the celebrity is already going to be in your area, that’s a good way to save money on travel because you don’t have to pay for some of it. For example, many of the MTV Real World kids go around the country speaking at different colleges and like to pick up a nightclub appearance as well. Or a musician who is already performing a concert on Thursday may want to pick up a nightclub appearance on Friday. Then you don’t have to pay for airfare, just an extra hotel room night.

Knowing who will be in your area is often tricky. I list the ones I do know about on my Web site at www.Esterman.com. If it is a music star, you most likely can get their schedule off their website, or check the ticketmaster.com to see who is in your area during the dates you are working on to fill.

What is the process of booking a talent through you?

First, you tell me a few names you want to book. You can check my website for ideas. If a name you are interested in is not there, I can still contact them and make them an offer. The ones who are listed on my web site are actively looking to book these types of engagements, so it may be easier to get them as a result. If you don’t have names or ideas, you can tell me what kind of event you are doing or perhaps type of celebrity: film, model, music, reality TV and I will make a few recommendations.

So you choose a celebrity, tell me how much you’re willing to spend. Then, I make the offer to the celebrity, and if they’re available I draw up a contract and you put down a deposit. It’s that easy. Contract is more than just a bunch of legal terms, in fact, it’s nothing like that. It is a working schedule that spells out everything you need to know in advance about your actions, celebrity responsibilities and mine.

What happens if a star cancels? Has it ever happened?

When cancellations happen which are very rare, the purchaser gets their deposit refunded and a new date may be scheduled.

What is venue responsibility in area of security?

The purchaser always provides the security requested in each instance per the rider which usually includes only 1 personnel assign to them at the venue.

Besides the daily business is there anything new and unusual you are working on now?

I’m now in the process of expanding the scope of operations by venturing into new areas of branding and entertainment. I will be working with E! TV to produce its own TV show “The Real Life Entourage” type of program to highlight the daily grind that goes on behind the scene to make the end result possible to book any celebrity at any location worldwide.

You can see some of my past TV appearances here: http://www.youtube.com/estermanentertainmen

Another area of development is to provide in-house marketing and endorsements for clients and some Management roles with select clients where needed.

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Many of us heard that single nightclub appearance can make Zac Efron or Jude Law $10,000 a night. Historically successful artists, show biz figures and movie stars have been giving out speeches in their  spare time and it was common to pay high fees for such skilful entertainment and motivational acts. This is still highly practiced today, but over the past 10 years a new trend has emerged – to pay celebrities for simply showing up.

The highest paid celebrity appearance recorded in a nightclub industry was $350,000 paid to Lindsay Lohan by Pure Nightclub, Las Vegas. Although diva had to later repay the fee because party was cancelled due to scheduled rehab session, the fee was record breaking so far. Same club paid Paris Hilton $200,000 to celebrate her 24th birthday a few years ago. Britney Spears has also earned $350,000 for hosting a New Year’s Eve at the Pure, but this event was more than just appearance. Britney had to do more work than hang out, she gave speeches, made introductions and was expected to perform.

Another club famous for such promotion techniques is Tao Nightclub, Las Vegas. Records show $50,000 cash to Kim Kardashian and $110,000 to Pamela Anderson. Shore Club in Miami cashed $150,000 to Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz.

Why would a night venue pay such a high price for celebrity clubbing? Some clubs do state that they never pay celebs. Of course we do see photos of stars coming out of clubs posted on People, Yahoo and other websites and it is often the case that they just came to party along with everyone else. ­There is also a number of clubs owned by famous persona such as Viper Room, Los Angeles (owned by Jonny Depp), Eve, Las Vegas and Kiss, Los Angeles (both owned by Eva Longorina) where it is a given that occasionally you may spot a rightful owner who is there for a completely different reason.

There are instances, however, when clubs recruit a celebrity as part of a promotional effort to attract customers to a special event such as New Year or Prom Night. When marketing is done right, celebrities can generally account for substantial increases in business. In case of featured appearances, or so called “celeb nights”, a higher cover may be charged or much more people are expected to show up. If you do a simple math, with a cover fee of $40, all it’s needed is additional 250 people to break even on average celebrity cost. Visitors also tend to spend more on bottle service as mood is better and calibre of event is higher. Such marketing trick also becomes an instant PR as generated buzz lasts for weeks after party is over giving more credibility and fame to a club.

“Everyone pays celebrities to come to their clubs,” says Andrew Sasson, co-owner of Jet Las Vegas. “It’s all part of the marketing in this business. Anyone who tells you they don’t is lying. The question is: Do you pay with cash, or provide a jet, a meal, drinks and hotel rooms?”

As to Canadian clubs, most common to host celebrities are Muzik (David Beckham, Jude Law), The Fifth (Paris Hilton, Matt Damon) and Ultra (Lady Gaga, Perez Hilton, Lindsay Lohan).

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Pauper Pub from UtoldUs reviewToronto is one of the oldest Canadian cities, dating back to the late 18th century. Now standing as a fifth largest city of North America, Toronto has very interesting and turbulent history. First established as city of York in 1793, city has been attracting settlers from Europe and during the past 40 years from all over the world. As history captured creation of important governmental, educational and humanitarian organizations it was also kind to record creation of bars, taverns and nightclubs. In this article we present to you the oldest and most historically attractive nightlife places of Toronto.

The Wheat Sheaf Tavern (King & Bathurst) is known as Toronto’s oldest tavern (est. 1848). Even today the Wheat Sheaf’s interior still retains its charm. Its simple wooden tables and chairs create welcoming atmosphere and its simple menu is most likely not too different from 150 years ago. This tavern is hugely popular among tourists and locals and is believed to be the main drinking destination for soldiers of Fort York.

Bloor Annex area (Bloor St. & Spadina Ave.) of Toronto has more than one bar holding historical value. The Brunswick House has been established in 1876 and during the first 50 years attracted local working class. Nicknamed as “the Brunny”, this bar nowadays is a very popular among University of Toronto students due to its large menu and attractive prices. Although inside does not look like much, style and decor has maintained the history of The Brunswick House giving its visitors a feel of 19th century Toronto’s social life.

Just few buildings away from the Brunny the Paupers Pub stands as one of the most beautiful pubs in Toronto. Pub itself is relatively young, but it occupies one of the oldest buildings on the street. First built in 1914 for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce the building holds its original architecture and impresses with exterior richness. Pub takes all three floors that uniquely retain all internal bank structure with its brass posts, teller platforms and lights.

Murphy’s Law in the Beaches area is also a transformed bank. It is believed to once be a Canadian Bank of Commerce, although only a few records surfaced when we did this research. Murphy’s Law is a traditional Irish Pub that delivers the story of the largest ethnic population of the 19th century Toronto that was formed as a result of the Great Irish Famine escape and immigration to Canada.

Clinton’s Tavern located in Toronto Entertainment District opened its doors in 1937. This pre-war establishment was once divided in two distinct areas – upper for “members only” and lower for everyone else willing to spare a change for a drink. Clinton’s Tavern was reborn in 1985 to become a fully blown dancing and live music venue. According to our research Clinton’s is the oldest night club in Toronto.

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There are over 500,000 social networks today. This number is growing very fast. UtoldUs, just like other 500,000, has responded to the market readiness to embrace the concept of dynamic website with “social” features. Yes, this is how we define social network – it is nothing but a website that has functionality letting you communicate alternative to e-mail or in-person meeting. It is a new concept – as new as blog was 10 years ago.

We decided that there are enough people who want to take advantage of this concept and socialize on the topic of nightlife. When doing our research we also discovered that there are no social networks for professionals operating in a night life industry. So we decided to build UtoldUs. It was very expensive to build and when we were done, it was most natural to invite our best friends to join first. To our great surprise 90% of them didn’t join. Even after multiple invites they still didn’t join. In the meanwhile many of these friends were joining other niche social networks that their friends didn’t built and they were inviting us! Did this hurt? Yes it did. If you were to spend 8 months to build a store, let everyone know about it and then your best friends would never visit you, would it hurt?

We quickly learnt that people who were responding to invites or just finding UtoldUs on the Internet and joining were people who we had no personal relationships with at all. The least we knew the people, the more likely they joined. We also learnt that if we get mad on our friends for not joining we will have no friends. Perhaps it is just a simple human nature. Many of us have friends who own their own stores and service businesses but we still give business to their competitors because they suit our needs more.

We are quite curious and would love to hear your experiences with other social networks. It is still a new trend and it will take a while for it to become as established in everyone’s mind as blogs are today.

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