Posts Tagged ‘elephant’

A Secret Agent

February 6, 2014

Thursday January 30th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

My friend Marc Schultz is a second generation talent booker who has been around the business his entire life. His father had an office in downtown Chicago, and Marc has been able to see with his own eyes how the game of live entertainment has evolved since the ‘60s. It’s a new ballgame.

Marc has been able to adapt and change with the times, and is still in business today. He knows what he’s doing, and I have great respect for his lifetime of hands on experience in the field. We have lunches regularly, and I constantly learn from him about the bigger picture of the business.

Marc’s father used to book a lot of circus acts, and Marc still does. If you need an elephant or a high flying trapeze act, Marc is your source. There aren’t many people anywhere that know how to find those acts, and it’s been a successful niche for decades. Marc is a straight up guy and very honest, and everything is above board with him. That’s why he’s been able to stay in it so long.

Part of his evolution has been having to expand into other areas, and that’s where I come in. He gets requests for cabaret type acts on occasion, and I’m on his list for comedians. He books a few magicians, jugglers and other variety acts, and comedy falls into that category. I probably get one or two bookings a year from Marc on average, but they’re always good and they pay pretty well.

The thing that stands out about Marc is that he knows the acts he books inside and out. When a client calls and tells him what kind of entertainment they’re looking for, Marc can offer the right list of people that will do the best job for the best price. He has invested a lifetime in learning it.

That was something he learned from his father, as that’s how the game worked then. A client’s trust was placed with the booker, and it was up to the booker to deliver the goods. They had the responsibility of determining which acts were competent enough to do the job and hiring them.

As with a lot of fields, the internet has changed everything. Clients no longer need to develop a trust with an experienced booker, because every bad act and their grandma’s uncle has a website and there’s no real need for a middle man anymore – or at least that’s what most clients assume.

Marc doesn’t have a website at all, and he’s proud of that fact. He thinks the internet has ruined the entertainment business, and the more I see the direction it’s all going the more I have to agree with him wholeheartedly. It’s now a big unorganized mess, and that penalizes the professionals.

Most people that book live entertainment only do it on rare occasions. They might use it as part of an annual event like a corporate holiday party for example, and they aren’t familiar in the least with what they’re doing. They can – and often do – easily make a stupid mistake based on price.

Booking the lowest priced entertainer sight unseen is about as smart as looking for the surgeon that’s offering the best deal on a quadruple bypass. It’s always better to go with the experienced one and pay a little more, rather than save five bucks and get completely stung. It’s a no brainer.

Unfortunately, most people that book entertainment like that have no brains. They THINK they may know what they’re doing, but they totally don’t. Then prices come down for the good acts.

This has become a real problem, and I talk with Marc about it quite a bit. His clients and he are on the same page, but it has taken a lifetime to get there. He has developed a satisfied client base across North America, and much of his business comes from word of mouth. He’s done the job.

When someone that has no clue takes a stab at booking live entertainment, it’s a total crap shoot with the odds favoring the crap. If all that’s available to consult are the acts themselves, they will of course make lofty promises to “do a good job”. Then they’ll tank it and blow it for all eternity.

I’ve seen this happen in the standup comedy world too many times to count. Somebody is hired for a private show for big money because they knew someone in the company that had the ear of the person in charge of hiring, and then they’re terrible and the company never hires anyone else.

This is one of the main reasons I’m now looking to brand myself as a “business humorist”, but that’s also no guarantee there aren’t leakers in that field as well. I’ve made a point to check out a few of those people, and quite frankly I’m not all that impressed. Not many are able to pull it off.

The ultimate goal for any entertainer is to eventually have name recognition. I do to a very tiny degree, but most of that is with bookers. Marc Schultz knows what I can do, and knows I am one of the most versatile acts he can use. I have vast experience, and won’t embarrass him in a pinch.

Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago know it too. I have worked for them so long without an issue and produced consistent results, they know what they’re getting every time. They can send me to any of their clubs or any private event and know they don’t have to worry. That’s good for us all.

Dealing with higher paying private clients isn’t like that. They often go for someone that won’t be the best fit only because they happen to have a flashy website or a five minute video that may catch their eye. Five minutes isn’t a full show, and like a movie trailer often has all the best lines.

People like Marc are a lot more important than clients may think, but they don’t realize it. He’d charge them a fair price for the entire package – even though it may seem like it’s higher than the process of scouring the internet looking at random websites. In the end, it’s worth the final price.

Even worse is dealing with the dreaded “committee”. Every one of my orifices pucker instantly just thinking about that word. This is just the spreading of incompetence to a group rather than an individual idiot that has no clue whatsoever. I’ve lost many a booking to a committee’s brilliance only to find out they booked the wrong act and it was a total disaster. Welcome to show business.

My speaker friend Todd Hunt talks about dealing with committees all the time. He often sends me emails of rejection he gets on an almost daily basis, and they’re beyond ridiculous. But that’s how the game is played, and if I’m going to get in it and win I need to be aware of all the aspects so I can play it correctly. The focus needs to be on marketing, and that’s what I am working on.

I’ve been compiling testimonials of late, and I’ve never done that before. In the comedy world that wasn’t an issue. Now it is. I’ve got a proven track record for decades, but people hiring have no idea about any of it unless I tell them and provide people they can call to verify. I am going to do what it takes to succeed at this game. I’ve come too far to get clumped in with everyone else.

If you ever need to book a circus, my friend Marc Schultz can get you any act you need - including an elephant.

If you ever need to book a circus, my friend Marc Schultz can get you any act you need – including an elephant.

Not sure where to find this guy, but I hope he doesn't put his wallet in his back pocket.

Not sure where to find this guy, but I hope he doesn’t put his wallet in his back pocket.

My speaker friend Todd Hunt has to deal with idiots all day that are too cheap to use an agent with experience. Despite the look on his face in this picture, Todd is very good at what he does. www.toddhuntspeaker.com.

My speaker friend Todd Hunt has to deal with idiots all day that are too cheap to use an agent with experience. Despite the look on his face in this picture, Todd is very good at what he does. http://www.toddhuntspeaker.com.

I QUIT!

May 23, 2013

Tuesday May 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   There’s a major upheaval going on inside my head, and I couldn’t be more excited. I know that I need to completely rewire my beliefs down to the core, and as scary as that may be I’m ready to dive in with both feet and make a full commitment. Upgrading my car was a very positive start.

   The next thing that needs to be tweaked heavily is my model for career success. The world I’m in now both professionally and as a whole is completely different than the world I started in, but that can be said of anyone. We’re all learning to adapt and adjust, but the older we are the harder it is to do. Comedians of my generation were spoiled. We got to experience those fabulous ‘80s.

   That was an amazing time to be a comedian – probably the best ever. I’m delighted I got to see and experience it firsthand, but those days are gone forever. I can’t go on conducting business as if times haven’t changed. They absolutely have, and comics from my generation are hit hardest.

   We all clearly remember when there were more clubs than acts, and anyone with a phone and a functioning car could get booked enough to at least squeak out a living. It only lasted for a short time, but boy was it fun. It’s nothing like that now, and that means I have to come up with a new plan – or have a plan period. Back then nobody thought about anything other than their next gig.

   We were able to easily bring in a livable wage almost immediately – even as an opening act – so that virtually NOBODY even thought about merchandising except my friend James Gregory from Atlanta. Kudos and then some to James for being the nationwide leader years before I saw anyone else do it. People used to snicker at him for selling his wares, but who’s laughing now?

   James was smart enough to treat comedy like a BUSINESS. That’s exactly what it is, but most of the rest of us weren’t that smart. We stupidly assumed everything would ‘just work out’ for all us and even stupider than that we assumed it would last forever. I’m embarrassed that I did too.

   Nobody pictures getting older or the times changing, and NONE of us saw the internet coming – not even James. That was the giant fire breathing cross between an elephant and a dragon that mysteriously appeared out of nowhere and completely changed the game. It took a while, but it’s here to stay. Anyone who enters the game today has a whole new set of paradigms to deal with.

   I can’t speak for the others of my generation, even though I know more than a few aren’t liking the way things have evolved. I’m not thrilled with it myself, but I have to enter into a mindset of today in order to continue or you can make my next check out to ‘Mr. Edsel’. It’s a new world.

   Unfortunately, funny has little or nothing to do with the game today. It’s all about being able to get noticed. Who has the most Facebook friends? Who can put asses in seats? It wouldn’t matter in the least if the ‘next big thing’ in comedy wouldn’t get ONE laugh. If he or she could fill seats in a comedy club, they’d be instant headliners. I didn’t create this world, but it’s where we live.

   If Charles Manson and O.J. Simpson were to be released from prison and decide to do a tour of comedy clubs, they’d sell out coast to coast in minutes. Again, I’m just reporting the truth. I wish it mattered who’s funny and ethical and nice, but none of that has anything to do with anything. I don’t have to like the way things are going, but I do have to deal with it. The ‘80s are over on the calendar, and they have to be over in my head too. It was a great time, but I can’t live there now. I am now an internet marketer specializing in humorous content. As far as a comedian – I QUIT!