Ten Myths About Casino Entertainment – Part II


Clearing up misconceptions about your talent program

In my last Solutions Magazine article, I discussed five of the more common misconceptions concerning casino entertainment. This time around, I wanted to dig a little deeper. Here are the following myths:

6. The contract rider is nonnegotiable.

Attached to all major agency contracts is a lengthy document called the contract rider. In this one-sided document, the Artist will list out all of their requests. These include a lot of important information, such as all of their technical/production requirements and their backline needs. They also list a myriad of points concerning what you can and cannot do, including choice of law forum, cancellation, insurance needs, advertising and marketing points, hospitality needs, accommodation requirements, etc.

Here’s my point – all of the requests are negotiable. Every venue is unique, and the rider is meant to cover a wide range of venues. Reasonably speaking, these requests need to be addressed and agreed to or amended.

For example, an Artist will have pages of hospitality requests, including alcohol and sometimes some very hard to find food items that are not typically available in some of the tertiary regions where a lot of Tribal Casinos are located. They will also ask for you to stock their buses with a whole list of items, including coffee, Red Bull, bread, condiments, etc. This is where you need to be very clear. I recommend crossing off all bus stock except ice and water. For the dressing room hospitality, you can read through their requests and cross off everything that just can’t be done or found locally. I recommend you put in place your own casino addendum, spelling out what you can reasonably provide. Always cross off all alcohol; that’s pretty much acceptable to most Artists, and simply speaking, most casinos cannot provide alcohol. For the catering/meal requests, always provide meal comps or vouchers. That keeps things very simple. Give buffet comps to the crewpeople and the band members; you need to provide an amount that would buy them a decent lunch and dinner.

7. We have to provide the production that the Artist calls for.

This is an area where a lot of confusion gets created. There is a tremendous amount of leeway when you start working out the costs of production. This mainly hinges on your in-house or outside production people. The Artist has a basic technical rider, and it’s their production manager’s job to get you, the casino, to provide all the gear needed for them to put on a great show. It’s your production people’s job to provide the Artist with what is reasonable and workable for your casino. There is always the wish list and the real list when it comes to production. What actually works best for your room may be a lot less than what the Artist would like to have provided. Your production people need to be on your side, and they need to negotiate, negotiate, and then negotiate again. There is a middle ground. Face it, if you are not a production person, the terminology is very confusing. Your production people need to be your partner, and most of the time they will have strong relationships with many Artists’ production managers out there. It’s really a very small world. This is where, with the right people, you can save thousands of dollars on each show.

8. The right Artist costs a lot.

There are so many choices out there for entertainment. Picking the right Entertainer/Artist should not be an emotional decision, it should be based on what works best for your property and what part of your customer base you are trying to attract with the show.

Staying within your budget is very important. But putting together a concert/show is about a lot more than the money. By developing a strong strategic plan for your shows and the goals you want to meet for each show, you can better determine your choice of Artist. Let’s take an Artist like WAYNE BRADY. Because of his daytime TV exposure as a game show host, he really attracts the age group that is home during weekday afternoons. This is an older demographic, and this show should be promoted accordingly. You will have very strong results. Now a show like RACHEL PLATTEN is going to attract a whole different age group – Millennials. This is going to bring in a much younger demographic. Of course, this age group is still creating a learning curve for casinos everywhere. In between these two examples are a ton of acts. They can all do well if you do your research, have a strong plan, a focused direction, and realistic expectations.

9. Ticketing companies – we must pay a huge surcharge and use their website.

It seems like there are ticketing companies springing up everywhere. That makes it challenging to find the right partner. Yes, I said partner. Ticketing today is much more complex, integrated and important to your property. Technology has brought ticketing into an important place within your database and Players Club pool. You need a company that can provide all the additional bells and whistles that are available today. Everyone is talking about the extra charges on tickets. This is especially true with Ticketmaster. You can be looking at up to a 26% surcharge on top of the ticket cost. On a $30 ticket, you would be paying almost another $8 in additional cost. Also, many ticketing companies pull people off your website and onto their website to buy tickets to your show. That’s not a good thing. So look for a ticketing partner like Etix. They are casino-friendly and great partners for your property.

10. We’ll get the best turnout on a Friday or Saturday.

But wait, we also do our best business on Fridays and Saturdays. The question here is to figure out the goal of your entertainment program. It should be multifaceted. If you have a show on a Friday or Saturday, will you displace your best players and show a drop in your floor revenues for that night? How big is your parking lot? Do you have the staff to handle the influx of additional people coming to your property? Will you have more people than you can service with your brand? You sure don’t want your customers having a bad experience at your casino.

Every casino has the historic breakdown for each day of the week’s revenue. Study this and understand that many casinos are working on building their off-day business. Thursdays and Sundays do work, but you need to build and educate your customer base. For example, the older demographic that is retired and has plenty of spare time, will enjoy midweek afternoon shows that fit their interests. These shows can be late afternoon events, and the older folks will make it a special day. For the younger generation, Thursdays will work if you are getting the right act. They pay very close attention to Social Media. Thursdays will also work for your more name brand act, plus you will pay less money for a Thursday show versus a Friday or Saturday show.

My main point here is that your goals are to maximize revenue, create more customers, and continue to build your brand. If you can make off-nights and days work for your entertainment, then you can have a more wellrounded and balanced entertainment program.

Kell Houston