Speaker Contracts: Advice

Jaki Baskow Speaker Contracts
Jacki Baskow, an expert on speaker contracts, in the center with Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman, one of her speakers, in the forefront

You would be hard-pressed to find someone more adept at negotiating speaker contracts than Jaki Baskow, CEO and owner of Las Vegas Speakers Bureau & Baskow Talent, a company that specializes in helping meeting and incentive planners create memorable experiences with world-renowned keynote speakers, celebrities, entertainers, and talent that has been featured in film, TV and on shows like The Voice and America’s Got Talent.

Baskow’s experience, more than 40 years in the speakers and entertainment industry, has given her much insight into the ins and outs of speaker contracts. Some of the speakers and entertainment she has had worked with include the late Anthony Bourdain, past U.S. presidents, Richard Branson, Daymond John, Magic Johnson, Lori Greiner, Michael Douglas, Terry Jones, Wayne Newton, Goldie Hawn, Susan Packard, Mark Eaton, Lou Ferrigno, John O’Hurley, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Selleck, Andy Garcia, Sharon Stone, Kevin Costner and Modern West, Keith Urban, and Jennifer Lopez to name a few.

Jaki Baskow, speaker contract expert, and actor John O'Hurley
Jaki Baskow, expert on speaker contracts, and actor John O’Hurley

When dealing with celebrities and entertainers, it is most important to remember that there will be riders on the entertainment and speaker contracts, most often more geared for a concert than a meeting. It can include everything from the food and beverage to the type of travel to the furniture the entertainer would like in their dressing room.

Some of these requirements can get outrageous. A box of sunglasses, a new shrimp tray and a bottle of Crown Royal delivered every hour, are all requests she has had. Unless you are dealing with a major star, the rider should only include the absolute essentials, says Baskow.

“All tiders can be negotiated,” asserts Baskow. Some performers ask for certain lights and sound that may be available in your general session, so explore all your resources, she advises, to save money.

Once you have a firm offer, remember it is irrevocable. “You are obligated under those words to book that act,” says Baskow.

She uses her negotiating power and her relationships with today’s major acts to help planners. “If the meeting is being held during a time when the performer is slow, I will use that to our advantage,” she says. “The bottom line is to negotiate everything, including their fees. If you do not ask, you will not get. Plus, I am not one for surprises.”

Every entertainer and every keynote speaker are negotiable.

“It’s all about saving money, working with your budget, and still producing an amazing experience,” she says. 

Baskow’s 5 Tips for Negotiating Riders

  1. Make sure the speaker or entertainer meets your budget and remember there are always add-ons that could be thousands of dollars, such as travel, meals, hotels, and backline.
  2. Before signing a contract, ask your entertainment or speaker’s agent what additional costs there are.
  3. The speaker and/or entertainment should complement the theme of the meeting or event. “Not only should you like the entertainer, but it is important he or she will resonate with all of your attendees,” explains Baskow.
  4. When receiving crazy riders, just like Baskow recently experienced with a name band, you need to take a stand, she says. “I recently got a request for numerous boxes of seaweed from Japan at $142.00 a box, plus bottles and bottles of Cristal champagne and other unreasonable demands. “I explained to the talent that the client doesn’t promote overconsumption of alcohol, and they would have to compromise. It worked,” describes Baskow.
  5. Make sure you hire entertainment or a speaker through someone who not only books the act and collects a commission, but someone you trust that has your best interest from beginning to the end to create a flawless experience.

For more information and to receive complimentary advice, Baskow can be reached at (702) 547-5119 or by clicking here.

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