bar mitzvahs: the hot new venue for musicians
I was doing some simultaneous research this afternoon on Tiger Woods’ divorce and clogging when I stumbled on this little tidbit from the Yahoo UK news board:
Christina Aguilera Forced to Accept Private Gigs
Christina Aguilera has been forced to accept private gigs at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs following the cancellation of her US tour and poor sales of her album ‘Bionic’, according to reports.
Speaking to Now magazine, a source said: “Christina’s performing at Bar Mitzvahs and weddings. She wanted to charge £1.3 million a time but her hubby Jordan Bratman convinced her to lower it to £157,000 so she’ll get more gigs.”
While we all know that the touring business has been hit hard, it’s also true that there are plenty of wealthy people out there who have no problem forking over a huge amount of money to get a name artist appear at their event.
Recently Elton John accepted a rather hefty check from that rather hefty tea-bagging, gay-bashing radio commentator for playing at his wedding. Ditto (clever pun) for George Michaels. He made a staggering $2.2 million for a 13-song set at the New Years Eve party of Russian nickel magnate Vladimir Potanin in 2006. He also banked a $2.1 million pay packet for singing his classics at the 55th birthday bash of British retail tycoon Philip Green.
Although I can’t find a website that lists who is charging what or playing where, this private party thing is probably as old as the hills. In fact, I’ll bet back in the old days Bach and Mozart were probably doing house concerts and I know that Sinatra and other Rat Packers were often called upon for special performances.
I found an interesting article from the London Sunday Times back in 2008 which talks about how in the past ten years the whole private gig thing has exploded. Here’s an excerpt:
As record sales and royalties diminish, pop stars looking to fund lavish lifestyles are turning to new sources of income. In 2007, reunion gigs were all the rage; 2008 is shaping up to be the year of the private-party performance.
Today, celebrity agents in America offer everyone from Dolly Parton, Dixie Chicks and Bob Dylan to Coldplay, Foo Fighters and the Beastie Boys. If you have the cash, Beyoncé will play your son’s bar mitzvah and the Rolling Stones could be the band at your birthday bash.
Madonna is rumoured to have been offered £5m to make her private-party debut in Dubai in November, while Elton John is allegedly mulling over a £2.6m offer to tinkle the ivories at a hotel opening in Moscow. Despite bailing out of her tour, Amy Winehouse sang at two fashion parties during Paris fashion week, netting her about £1m in total.
Wow…now that’s a lot of money. I don’t know about you, but when we throw a party I usually have my teenage son make some playlists on his iPod and I plug it into the old stereo. If we want to hear live music, I grab one of my guitars and hand out the tambourines. Obviously…we are not up to snuff here.
“In the past couple of years, it has become almost essential to have a pop star perform at your party,” says Hannah Sandling, a celebrity stylist who has seen everyone from Tom Jones, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick to Justin Timberlake at functions limited to a few hundred guests. “It used to be that a decent cover band would do; now people expect the real deal. Mostly, it’s black-tie functions – after a sit-down dinner, you congregate in a room for the entertainment. It sounds stuffy, but the atmosphere is electric. Just to be that close to a star is such a buzz. I was at the Whitney gig and she was just a few feet away, dripping in diamonds. I do like regular gigs, but these are much more exciting.”
Well, hell yeah Hannah. We can’t be sitting around in our black ties and formals listening to just plain old recorded music.
“Having a pop star is a real status symbol,” she says. “And it’s addictive. Say you book Diana Ross for your wife’s birthday, then, two years later, she turns 40. What do you do? Book a bigger star.”
For all the dough that Whitney and her friends make, there is unfortunately a down side:
Included in the fee is an expectation that artists will “mix’n’mingle” – chat to the hosts and their VIP guests, pose for photos and sign autographs. What partygoers can’t do, however, is discuss the party with the press or sell the pictures on. Guests usually have to sign a confidentiality contract.
I can understand that. It’s important for an artist to control his or her image. We’ve all heard or read of crazy and outlandish things that have happened onstage at various concerts. It adds to the mystique of an artist. It would be devastating to his career, for example, if news were to leak out that Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off of a jumbo shrimp while performing at Bill and Melinda Gate’s wedding anniversary party.
Richard Davies is a former music-industry executive turned internet entrepreneur. His latest venture aims to make private-party performances from pop stars available to the masses. “At one end of the scale, you have your Dolly Partons and Celine Dions. At the other, which is still in its infancy, are cooler, younger pop and indie acts, who are obviously a lot cheaper.”
Alright…so maybe we non-important, non-rich and non-beautiful people can also get in on the action. And what a great way for your basic Americana artist to make a little extra dough in between festival dates, coffee house gigs and the pot luck dinner at the Unitarian churches. I think I’m on to a new business model….Kyla….you reading this?
My wife has a birthday in October…I’ve got a live music budget of $146.75. Anybody available?