We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately from people who are wondering, “How do I book a celebrity to perform at my event?” So we sat down with Sean Timmons, Senior Talent Buyer at Mole Street Artists to discuss just that.
First question! Sean, can anyone book a celebrity to perform at their event?
In theory, yes. If the artist is available on the date you have in mind, you have the budget to make a proper offer, you guarantee you can provide their technical requirements to their professional standards, and you represent a cause or brand that they would want to be aligned with…your stars may align. However, the challenge that most people face typically isn’t in the executional details I just listed—although they are not to be taken lightly—the challenge is usually that the ordinary person outside of the music industry doesn’t always know how to professionally contact a celebrity’s management team to get a legitimate response.
The advantage in working with Mole Street Artists is that you tell us who you want, and we make the contact and do the negotiations. I’ve worked with a lot of agents and managers in my 35 years in booking A-list acts, so I’m very good at getting someone to pick up the phone. Being backed by a music booking agency helps to legitimize my initial reach-out, and there’s often a good chance I’ve worked with the agent before. You’d be surprised how these things come back around.
What’s the #1 thing to keep in mind when booking A-list entertainment?
It’s okay to dream big and it’s fun to shoot out names of your favorite celebrities. The #1 thing to think about is finding the right kind of artist or celebrity that will be the best fit for your event. What is the purpose of the event? Who will be attending? How will the celebrity fit into the programming planned for the evening? If the celebrity doesn’t feel that he or she is a good match, then they’ll be less inclined to agree to perform at your event.
Give us an example of when booking an A-list musician had a profound effect on the event: the event itself and perhaps the ticket sales.
First one that comes to mind is when the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia hired Mole Street to produce an opening party to kick off a citywide mural unveiling. The program itself was a big reveal, featuring street artists like Shepard Fairey and MOMO, and they wanted the opening party to create a buzz in Philly so that people would interact with the program. They wanted to reach out beyond their core audience and engage with millennials in the city. We recommended indie rock performer Washed Out, who was known for his live show and dynamic DJ sets. When we announced Washed Out as the headliner of the event, we saw a dramatic increase in ticket sales and the event had record-breaking attendance despite heavy downpours on the night from the passing remnants of a coastal hurricane.
I understand you booked Leslie Odom Jr. for a university fundraising gala last year. How did that come about?
This was a milestone event for The University of the Arts. It was their 140th Anniversary and the inauguration of a new president. They were looking for a high-profile celebrity to bring attention to the event while supporting their philosophy. Leslie Odom, Jr. had become a very popular artist through his role in Hamilton on Broadway. Leslie grew up in Philadelphia, so he had local roots. As soon as we discovered that he was interested in the gig, it became a no-brainer, we had to book him.
Mole Street assisted The University of the Arts in closing the contract with Leslie. We also coordinated all of Leslie’s technical requirements with his management team. On the day of the gala, we ensured the stage was set—quite literally—to the proper specifications, received Leslie in a professional manner, and remained committed to the timeline and scope of work that we had all agreed upon. The performance went off without a hitch. Leslie was a pleasure to work with and his performance on the night was a highlight for all in attendance.
Every year you book a nationally touring act as the headliner for the Molestice music festival in Philadelphia. How do you choose?
Molestice is an exciting and dynamic event that is growing each year and attracting the attention of music agents and managers. It is a celebration of community and music and we look for acts that will bring a high-energy, infectious, and memorable performance to the Molestice stage. One of our favorite headliners was Low Cut Connie, a Philly band that is breaking out nationally and internationally. President Obama and Elton John are among their publicly declared supporters. Once we opened a dialogue with the band it was clear that there was excitement on both sides to make it happen. The audience response to their set on the day proved that it was the right choice.
Before Mole Street Artists, you were the Artistic Director at Appel Farm Arts and Music Center. Who did you book for the annual festival?
Over the years I had the pleasure of booking many great artists including Jackson Browne, The Avett Brothers, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Rufus Wainwright, Aimee Mann, Fountains of Wayne, Dawes, Randy Newman, Joan Armatrading, Mary Chapin Carpenter and many more. I had an amazing support team of staff and volunteers to handle ticket sales and cater to attendees. I was bottom-line responsible for the artists—everything from contracting to overseeing artist hospitality and technical specifications. As a result of my industry relationships and my experience in booking high profile artists, as well as a trusted team of professional staff, we had an amazing lineup year after year.
Do you have any A-list bookings in the works right now?
I do but I can’t reveal a name as our client wants to surprise everyone on the night. They put a lot of thought into their choice and I am looking forward to the event as it will be a very special experience for all of the attendees. The special guest performer will no doubt win over many new fans that night!