Separating the wheat from the chaff in choosing entertainers.

How to spot a “poser”.

Great news… the internet is an amazing tool to give a level playing field to smaller companies.

Bad news… some of them throw a product out there before it’s ready or before it’s even created. In some cases, their product or act is downright bad.

But… they create a cool looking website, and maybe even a video touting how awesome they are. These claims may or may not be true.

I come from the magic and hypnosis world where there is little or no cost associated with entering the market. Print a business card saying you’re a magician or hypnotist and BAM… you’re now a “professional magician”. Maybe you’ve even got some sort of a “certification” as a hypnotist – so now you’re a “certified hypnotist”. Heck, for good measure, add the word “Master” in front of magician or hypnotist and you’re now Master Hypnotist Joe Blow.

How does a potential customer separate the wheat from the chaff? How do you know that someone is really a working pro as opposed to someone just starting out or who doesn’t really perform much? A mantra in the entertainment business is to “fake it ‘til you make it”. Here are ways to spot a potential faker – from a guy who faked it until he made it.

  1. Testimonials are customers expressing that they had a great time at a performer’s show. Shortcuts around actual testimonials is to get people they know to say they’re great and hide the fact that they’re friends or family from the public. Our policy is to overwhelm you with evidence that people love our programs. Almost everything we do has at least one video testimonial and usually several. These are more difficult to fake. If there aren’t a bunch of testimonials from a variety of people – beware.
  2. Video and photos are all from one event. Watch out for this one. If you visit a website and every quote is from a single event, and every photo and video is from a single event – it’s possible that this “company” has done a SINGLE EVENT. Granted – we can’t get pictures from every show or video from every show – it’s just not possible. But when everything comes from a single source, there’s probably a reason.
  3. Lack of video altogether. There’s just no excuse for this in today’s world. Some video proof that you’re a worker is necessary. If there’s no video – that’s a big warning flag. Or, if all of the video doesn’t contain the performer – that’s a flag. We’ve actually had people use video of my Hypnosis show in their own promo video as if they’d done the act. They just chose sections where the performer was off to the side. Make sure it’s actually them!
  4. Video has production but no content. We’ve seen a lot of people (magicians especially) who have slick promo, well-produced videos, and horrid shows. When we look back at their videos they’re well-produced and make a great commercial, but you try to see 5-10 minutes of an act with all the highs and lows to make your decision. This will give you a much more accurate demonstration of how a show flows at an actual event. If the video has NO audience response at all, you can be reasonably assured that it was shot in an empty theater or venue without an audience present. You’re hiring a live act, not a video production – so watch video with a critical eye.
  5. Video has ZERO production. This is the opposite end of the spectrum. If an “artist” has put no effort into a nicely produced video, it’s possible that they’re not the level of professionalism that you deserve. It’s a fine line. Video production these days is EASY. So focus on well-presented content.
  6. Logos, websites, printed materials. If someone’s video, logo, website, and other materials looked dated, cheaply made or otherwise throw up flags – there’s a reason.
  7. Stock Photos – not often, but every couple of years I’ll stumble across a competitor’s website. I don’t go looking for them, but they’re there. If all I see about a game show is a photo of the game board or software being used – I just assume that they don’t actually perform that show yet, but they’ve purchased the software. So use stock photos and non-performance photos and images as a measuring tool to see if you’re going to give someone experience, or capitalize on the experience they already have. That being said – we all use Stock photos for general info – I’m specifically saying – beware if stock photos are ALL you see. It’s a red flag.
  8. Social Media. Check out the company’s social media. If it’s all 1-2 years old, it’s likely that the last time they did an event was that long ago. We’re in a social media generation – so check it out. Note: Check more than just one social media stream. Some people are great at Facebook but don’t ever remember to update Instagram or twitter. To be fair – I kinda suck at Instagram myself, but I’m an open book on Facebook.
  9. ASK for references. This one’s tricky. Every performer can give you the names of a couple of people who loved their show. So that’s a self-selected sample. Our policy, when anyone asks for a reference is to have them look at our calendar, pick a date and I’ll give them THAT specific person’s contact info for a reference. That way they get a random selection. I’m just that confident that anyone you call about our services will say great things about us. (Of course, I always check with a client before giving out their info). Ask if you can get references based on their calendar, not on people who they know will say nice things about them. It’s not always going to work, but the confidence to have a customer call ANYONE they’ve done a show for will show you that person’s a pro.
  10. Memberships and credentials. Many artists will list memberships in clubs as part of their credentials. Unless that’s important to you as a member of a group that can get you a discount remember that these are just clubs they’ve paid dues to. Seldom do they really mean a thing.

Do your homework. If you’ve decided to host a show look at the full package from one performer to the next. Quality of images, video, testimonials, logos, printed promo, social media, references and the whole package. If there’s a price difference of $200-$500 but the higher-priced act is MUCH more polished in all of the things listed here – it’s likely that their act will be more polished too.

Don’t make an entertainment decision on price alone. I often say “if you pay someone $100 to bore your audience to tears then you’ve overpaid, but if you’ve spent $5000 and gotten the experience of a lifetime, then you’ve gotten a bargain.”

Now go out and make good booking decisions.