You’ve done your homework, thought though a solid strategy and have determined that making a celebrity connection is right for your cause. So now how do you make it happen? Here are a few tips to guide you through making the connection.
The Triple Layer Cake
Basically, three key avenues exist to reach most artists.
The Artist’s Agent
If you have a budget for honoraria or fees – say for a keynote address at your annual dinner – then an artist’s agent is the place to go. The largest agencies include William Morris Entertainment and Creative Artists Agency, and there are a multitude of smaller agencies that represent today’s artists. Agency websites typically provide a list of their clients, as well ways to contact the individual responsible for their account. Speaker’s bureaus operate in a similar manner, and the most established bureaus include American Program Bureau, The Harry Walker Agency and Washington Speaker’s Bureau. Note: while you are doing your research on speaker’s bureaus, we recommend two of our favorites who represent some interesting and eclectic clients: Soap Box Inc. connects you to the top thinkers in feminism including Gloria Steinem and Bust magazine founder and Stitch ‘n’ Bitch creator Debbie Stoller, and Speak Out, represents artists ranging from Alice Walker to John Trudell. Since there are a variety of types and levels of artists to engage, think through your various options and let the agents and speaker’s bureaus connect you to the right artist.
The Artist’s Manager
If you are seeking pro-bono involvement, then reaching out the artist’s manger is the way to go. There are a few ways to do this other than endless hours of Google research. The first is through a subscription to IMDB Pro, the advanced version of the well-known movie database that includes contact information for actors and film industry executives. Membership is $15.95/month with no commitment, and they offer a free two-week trial. Another resource is Celebrity Access, with an annual nonprofit rate membership rate $799/year ($899 for general public). If you intend to do a lot of outreach, Celebrity Access provides management contacts for a range of notables, including tour dates, artist representation, and detailed profiles on over 40,000 celebrities.
Last, you can try to reach out directly to the artist. Today, social media provides the possibility of a direct conduit that never existed in the past. The major interest in bringing Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony to justice last year exploded practically overnight due to the many celebrities who tweeted about Invisible Children’s video, most notably Rihanna. While it’s not unusual for celebrities to talk publically about causes they care about, one thing was dramatically different in this case: Rihanna learned about the video through the multitude of fans who tweeted her about the video. So many fans contacted her at once that she was compelled to click on the link then immediately share it with her followers (28 million) and the rest is history. If you mix solid strategy with a dash of good luck, then social media can be a very good tool to reach an individual artist.
We started this process with sleuthing, and we’ll end with a bit more Sherlock Holmes detective work. As a final step before you make contact, it’s important to find out exactly which organizations and causes your intended artist is working with now, and what he or she is already doing. A terrific place to start is with an organization called Air Traffic Control. Formed in 2004 by musicians and their managers, ATC’s goal is to provide tools and resources to help musicians create more effective collaborations with each other and with social and environmental justice movements. ATC has a terrific blog and is a solid go-to resource to see what musicians and other artists are already doing so you can better craft your ask.
Building the Relationship and Making the Ask
Once you’ve conducted this final bit of research and determined the best route of contact, you can begin to build the relationship. If you are reaching out to the agent, let them know which artist on their roster you are hoping to book, the type of event you plan to host as well as your budget and timeframe. If you are going directly to the artist’s management, be sure to let him/her know why you think their artist would be interested in your subject matter. (Note: don’t be afraid to show you’ve done your homework!) Include any relevant materials and visuals, but remember they are really busy so be clear with your ask. If you decide to make contact with the artist via social media, be sure you have all your ducks in a row in case the celebrity acts on your outreach. Make sure you are ready and clear with your strategy, and you might just be surprised. As American Top 40 radio show creator Casey Kasem always says, “Keep your feet on the ground but keep reaching for the stars!”
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Photo courtesy of Mark Armstrong Illustration
Claudette Silver is a LightBox collaborator and wants to know your thoughts on connecting celebrities with campaigns.