To 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.
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.