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Special Events


In April, entertainment promotion powerhouse AEG Live launched its special event division, AEG Live Events. Here, the division's director of business development, Michael Boltzman, discusses event entertainment's return to center stage, and the ongoing dramas behind the scenes.

SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: Despite a rebound in business, many in-house event planners complain about facing tight budgets and tight lead times. What is the impact on entertainment?

MICHAEL BOLTZMAN: Tight budgets obviously limit the levels that you can do for an event. Shorter lead times mean it's not just calling up an artist and saying, “Hey, do you want to do this for X amount of money?” There's a lot of negotiation that we do on behalf of our clients. There are a lot of levels to reach a national artist — it's the responsible agent, the manager. So shorter lead times mean, unfortunately, you don't get quick answers all the time.

Q: How do you respond to these challenges?

A: Because we buy and produce a lot of talent, we have created an artist database that allows us to have quicker responses to our clients. So when a client says, “Suggest some {entertainer} names — I only have a few weeks,” our database allows us to look at recent quotes in certain price ranges, so we can narrow down the lead-time process for clients to make a decision.

Q: How do you work with corporate clients to measure return on their entertainment investment? Is this an issue that is important to your clients?

A: I know that ROI is important to the entertainment buyer, whether you're a corporate or association buyer. But to me, it's very hard to measure other than, did everybody have a great time? Did they get into the music? Did they dance? Are they still talking about it the following week? To me, that is a good return on investment.

On the other hand, if the artist is difficult, if the artist doesn't show up at the meet-and-greet, or is not audience-friendly, that could have a negative outcome. That's where some people might say it wasn't worth the money.

What we try to do ahead of time is to make sure that the artist is very familiar with why he or she is there, and who they are playing for. It's not just another concert. That's very important to us as a service provider. If you go to a concert that you bought a ticket for and all of a sudden a monitor goes out on stage or the guitarist breaks a string, if they come back next year, you will go see them again. But if something like that happens on a corporate level, it looks negative on us. So we try to cover all bases that we can.

Q: It seems that entertainment is taking on a bigger role in our daily lives — entertainers are coveted celebrities, and stories about entertainers are a fixture in the news. How does this entertainment saturation affect the work that you do?

A: It's a great thing, because it creates awareness in corporations of all the different types of entertainment that are out there, and the different ways they can use them for an incentive program, a promotion, a product launch.

On the negative side, the spotlight raises the cost. People who normally don't get paid a whole lot to do a private date, then all of a sudden they are on a commercial, and they are well-known — well, their rate just doubled. Exposure equals more money for corporate buyers.

Q: What makes entertainment such a powerful event element?

A: It gives people at companies a chance to say, “Wow, look what they've done for me.” You don't always have a chance to go see an artist in such an exclusive setting. Any time you go to a concert, you are never going to get as close as you do within a private event. It just adds that extra special element.

Q: What are some of the trends in event entertainment?

A: We like to try to be creative, pairing two artists who don't normally perform together. In the past, I've brought Broadway greats Marvin Hamlisch, Ben Vereen and Joel Grey together for one event, and they had never performed together.

It's really important for people to understand at all levels of entertainment buy: It's not always easy. There are two stars there, the entertainer and the client. We try to educate our clients every step of the way to understand not only how the offer works, but what to expect. There are two things you can't control in special events: the weather and the artist!

Michael Boltzman may be reached at 314/862-4440, ext. 224;

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