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Pride Festival Organizers Share 6 Tips for Booking Talent on a 'Non-Profit' Budget

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Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for American Express

Lizzo performs onstage during American Express' NYC Pride Kickoff Event on June 26, 2019 in New York City.

"[People] hear 'festival' and they hear 'Coachella' and we’re like, ‘No, girl. We got $10,000 and we’re just trying to do some good in the world.'"

LGBTQ+ Pride festival season is around the corner with cities across the globe preparing to celebrate their local communities with parades, parties and, hopefully, top-tier talent.

While Pride weekends have come to be known for their extravagant and colorful celebrations, not everyone is aware that these events are mainly put together by non-profit organizations and staffed by staffed largely by passionate volunteers. At the 2020 CAPI (Consolidated Association of Pride, Inc.) conference held over the weekend in San Diego, Pride organizers agreed that their top hurdle when booking Pride events continues to be a tight budget.

"We are charitable non-profits investing in our community and we can’t break through to help people understand that because they hear 'festival' and they hear 'Coachella' and we’re like, ‘No, girl. We got $10,000 and we’re just trying to do some good in the world,’" said San Diego Pride executive director Fernando Zweifach López at the conference on Friday.

The conference's entertainment roundtable that featured presenters Nolan O'Such and Tony Sangiacomo from APA, Billboard Pride's Alexis Fish, and Pabllo Vittar manager Owen Mallon served as a hub for national pride organizations and industry professionals to identify best practices to get the best talent with limited budgets.

Book artists on a staggered budget: 

San Diego Pride's López suggested events with fewer funds should consider a "staggered budget" when booking talent. Staggering the budget would mean booking only one major artist for each stage and filling the rest of the lineup with up-and-coming queer talent that costs less.

"While we love paying queer people what they are worth, we ask that people donate their time, but we can cover a minimal stipend for those local acts," said López. "Many of them, because they know about the year-round programming that we do, are more than happy to donate their time to the event."

Send agencies your budget for a packaged deal: 

Mallon, manager of Brazilian drag queen Pabllo Vittar, informed the group that every agency has a festival department that can help provide a roster of LGBTQ+ artists and allies who could possibly perform within a tight budget.

“When it comes to the talent buying space, it’s a very situational thing. You have to find a person on that day and make it as easy for them to come. The reason you hear different pricing out there is because they are different markets," said the former Paradigm agent who has worked with Pussy Riot, Betty Who and more.

"If you are trying to find an array of talent for a small, medium or high budget, all agencies have festival departments. You can tell them we have $10,000 on this day for this Pride and they can send you back a list of submissions from the company," Mallon said, adding "It cuts down some of the hunt and kill element of your job."

Find out which artists are on a promo tour:

When artists release an album, song or need to promote other content, they often hit the road for more visibility. Knowing which artists will be on a promotional tour in or around a Pride event can cut down on travel costs, crew and more for the artist who can then defer costs associated with playing the non-profit Pride festivals.

"Something I didn’t know at first was to ask agencies who is on a promo tour at the time of our Pride. There are a lot of artists who are famous or are doing promo tours for their new song, their new music video, that we were able to get for a fraction of the cost versus if we had just booked them outright to come by themselves," said a representative from Fort Lauderdale Pride.

Reach out early to agencies:

The earlier a Pride festival can reach out to agencies about artists they'd like to book for upcoming festivals, the more likely the artists will be able to take the Pride event into consideration when routing.

"The earlier you communicate with us, the more time we have to communicate with our colleagues and we can find out if someone is going to be pushing out a new record and maybe they will be coming through [your town] anyway," said APA agent Sangiacomo. "A big part of this is their career. This is how they put food on the table and how they put a roof over their head. If they take a weekend to come play your event or if they lose money, they didn’t make money and they have to pay everyone in their band."

Go to the labels:

Vice president of Billboard's Pride vertical Alexi Fish recommended Prides widen the scope of who they are connecting with to book artists. Instead of going to agencies, Fish said reach out to artist's labels that are eager to help their clients reach larger audiences.

"[Labels] were all very open and receptive to being approached. I’m not talking about Katy Perry or Sam Smith, but there is a whole gaggle of humans underneath that layer," said Fish.

Fish added that most labels will want an offer letter that includes information on dates, location, travel and airfare, broadcasting, song clearance,  dressing room arrangements, number of tickets being sold and promotional information. Labels will also want to know the talent fee, but Fish encouraged organizations to ask labels what fee the talent wants.

Partner with local clubs and/or promoters:

Another way to defer costs for Pride events is to partner with local venues or promoters who are looking for content in the market. Venues and promoters can help pay talent by tacking on additional performances that supplement the Pride festival.

"One thing that has worked for us being a big city, we work with local promoters," said a representative from San Francisco Pride. "If there is a promoter in your town that wants to throw a party on Saturday night that leads into Pride, you could possibly do a collaborative contract and share some of those costs. Now the big nightclub in town has the preview show and then there is Pride the next day."

"The clubs just want people to come and fill their venue and buy booze so that they can have a successful business," added Sangiacomo. "A lot of people pre or post Pride want to hang out. Maybe they aren’t getting paid anything for the Pride but they will have a club show afterwards that’s built in."


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