Posts Tagged ‘talent booker’

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.

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A Personal Victory

January 22, 2014

Tuesday January 21st, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Success! Ah, the taste is so sweet. It’s a small taste, but that’s ok. One bite of the highest grade of chocolate or finest cut of steak not only is still delicious – it makes one want more. After quite a few glitches to the point of completely starting over with a different company my new monthly “Maxwell’s Silver Humor Newsletter” has finally been sent out to a handpicked list of recipients.

In the big scheme of life I know it means less than nothing, but to me personally it’s as big of a victory as I’ve had in quite a while. When my business partner embezzled from me a while back it really rocked my world to the core. I totally didn’t expect it, and it jarred my business to a halt.

I had stupidly allowed him free reign of just about everything off stage, and when he pulled his little stunt and I had to fire him it set me back tremendously. We had a nice flow going, and I had a monthly newsletter that was very well received. This was before I started writing a daily diary.

Allegedly we had it up to 2500 recipients, but I can’t confirm that because I never saw any list. I took his word for it, but I have no reason to think he’d lie about that number. On the other hand I had no reason to think he’d steal from me either, but that’s a different story. I think it was right.

When we parted ways, not only did he not give me the mailing list he used it to try and start his own comedy classes using another teacher. I was shocked, hurt and infuriated all at once, and the whole situation degenerated into a big ugly mess. Many of the people on that list were friends of mine outside of comedy and weren’t students at all. I had to explain the situation over and over.

What a nightmare it all turned out to be, and quite honestly I seethed about it for years. I’m not the first person to get scorched by a business partner, but that was personal, messy and took a lot of inner discipline to not track him down and pound a tune on his skull with a monkey wrench.

After dragging everything through the mud for a few years he eventually moved to Australia -which still isn’t far enough away for my tastes but will have to do. I don’t know what he’s into now, and I really don’t care as long as it’s not comedy or comedy classes. The damage is done.

Once in a while I’ll have somebody out of the blue ask “Hey, whatever happened to your old newsletter? I used to really look forward to it.” It makes me cringe inside, but I always tell them I’ll make sure I add their name to the list when I start it up again. Today I fulfilled my promise.

I’ve been compiling email addresses for several years now, and our initial mailing had almost 2000 entries. I know a lot of those will bounce back, and that’s fine. We knew it would take lots of tweaking to get it going smoothly, but we just wanted to get it going. The glitches weren’t fun, and ended up delaying everything by eight days. Our target was the 13th, but we got it out today.

Kudos to my one man pit crew Eric Feinendegen for hanging in there and seeing it through. He knows the situation with the last guy embezzling, and we’ve got a different agreement altogether. Actually, it was almost a good thing I experienced all that because now it’s a much better system and I won’t have that happen ever again. It was a painful lesson, but one well learned. I received all kinds of responses today from people I hadn’t heard from in years. That’s just what I wanted.

This was a long, hard painful road back, but I’m here and it feels ecstatic. I wasn’t sure that I’d ever be able to pull it off, but I hung in there and kept pecking away for years until I could get all the ducks in a row to try again. Today is that day and the sweet taste of victory is extra delicious.

But I know that’s all it is, a taste – and a tiny one at that. This was just the very beginning of an ongoing process that needs to last the rest of my business life. I need to establish a track record to those that don’t know me but could potentially hire me, and there are too many of those to count.

Of the 2000 or so names I have on the list now, a lot of those are personal friends and/or people that aren’t ever going to hire me. There are several hundred comedians for example, and I’m glad to be in contact from a friendship angle but for business they’re not going to do me much good.

I might get an occasional referral or get thought of for a fallout, but that’s not where my target is. I want to get my name in front of bookers of the best paying work available. That’s the reason to do this at all, and that’s why I’m making it such a priority. It’s basically an ad for my services.

Sending out one email is fine, but it’s surely not the end all be all. I heard from several bookers I hadn’t had contact with in a while, and that’s exactly what I was looking to have happen. I have been pathetic at staying in contact consistently, but that ends as of today. I’m already a winner.

I’m sure it will lead to a few bookings at some point, and that’s fantastic. It’s money directly in my pocket just for reminding people I’m still here. Now I have to grow this list and find EVERY person that could possibly book me and get in front of them every month. That will take a while.

I don’t have a clue who books what in the corporate world, and I also need to delve into media as well. Jimmy Fallon is taking over The Tonight Show in a few weeks. Who is the talent booker for comedians? Jimmy Kimmel? Conan O’Brien? David Letterman? I should know all the names and have all the contact info of these people but I totally don’t. And that doesn’t include radio.

Who are the producers of the top national, regionally syndicated and local radio shows all over North America? What about The U.K. or Australia or even the Armed Forces Network? There is a LOT of work to do, and this is just the tip of the tip of a gigantic iceberg. This is where money will come from, and I need to treat this list like the gold mine it will be. It’s my ticket to success.

I know it will take time to get it really humming like I picture, but today was a terrific start and I’m thrilled to be back in the game. Eric did a phenomenal job, and I’m grateful to be teamed up with him. He’s been great to work with, but if he embezzles he’s going to have to work harder to make it happen than the last guy. I’m a lot more wary now, and that’s good. I think we’ll be ok.

It feels tremendous to finally be getting my business chops in gear. I’m going to add all kinds of valuable contacts to my list as the year progresses, and I’m finally going to be smart enough to grow them into relationships. I’m also going to reconnect with people I shouldn’t have let lapse.

The work on this project is only beginning, but today was a major step. To fight back from the lowest point I can imagine feels extra satisfying, and any bitterness I had toward Mr. Embezzler is all gone. He actually did me a favor. Without that experience, I wouldn’t be as ready as I am.

'Maxwell's Silver Humor Newsletter' is now a reality. If you'd like to get on the list, send a valid email address to bookdobie@gmail.com.

‘Maxwell’s Silver Humor Newsletter’ is now a reality. If you would like to receive it each month, send a valid email address to bookdobie@gmail.com.

Hopefully chicks will dig it.

Hopefully chicks will dig it.

Even if they don't, it should  be good for business.

Even if they don’t, it should be good for business.