What You Need To Know When Hiring A Look Alike Or Impersonator}

Submitted by: Daniel Bruening

Dont you wish you could have some big celebrity show up at your next event to perform, give a speech, or just hang out with your guests to take photos and sign autographs? Dont you wish you had the event budget to allow for that? Lets face it; some of todays biggest celebrities are getting over $100,000.00 for personal appearances. Others get less but are still priced over $20,000.00 most of the time.

Thats where celebrity look alikes and impersonators come in handy. For just about every celebrity you can think of there is a professional impersonator available for hire. Professional impersonators work at all kinds of events throughout the year; Conventions, Concerts, Store Openings, TV and Radio Promotions, Weddings, Anniversaries, Birthdays, House Parties, if you can think of an event, a professional impersonator has done it somewhere at some point in time.

If this sounds like something youd like to do for your next party or event, there are some things you should know.

First, there isnt a Brad Pitt or Michael Jackson hanging out on every corner in every town. Just because somebody can do the moonwalk and dance like Mike, doesnt make them a professional impersonator.

You will probably have to contact a Talent Agency, like The Images Agency, that handles professional impersonators. Most impersonator agencies have contact with many impersonators of a particular celebrity throughout the country. The talent agent can help you select the right impersonator of the celebrity you are looking for. Agents have knowledge of the impersonators that are available closest to the city that your event will be in.

You should have an idea what you want the impersonator to do at your event. Do you want them to meet and greet with your guests? Do you want them to sing a song or two, or do you want an entire concert? Do you want them to have fun with a guest of honor? All this is information that your talent agent can use to select the right impersonator for your event.

Also you should have a budget in mind of how much you want to spend on the impersonator. Again, remember that these are professionals. I cant tell you how many times a potential client says to me, Well, I only want them to come in and sing a song and take a picture or two, then they can leave. Folks, this isnt a singing telegram, please dont confuse a professional impersonator with a telegram. A professional impersonator usually books out by the hour or by performance. While, yes, sometimes an impersonator may show up at a party and only sing one or two songs, but then they will spend the rest of the time mingling with your guests and making the party fun. Impersonators spend a lot of time perfecting their look, speech, and behaviors of the celebrity they are impersonating. For this they get paid very well.

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When budgeting for a professional impersonator I always suggest that you think thousands not hundreds of dollars. Sure, impersonators are less expensive than the celebrity himself, but they dont work for peanuts either. They dont have to; there is plenty of demand across the country to keep these professionals working on a regular basis. Sometimes getting a specific impersonator on a specific date can be difficult due to demand.

For a professional look alike doing a meet and greet, the appearance fee is typically between $1000.00 and $5000.00. Sometimes you can get lucky and one will be nearby or in route and looking to fill an empty date, then you can maybe get one between $500.00 and $1000.00, but this is a very rare occurrence.

Appearance fees for impersonators that do shows or concerts with live bands can reach over $10,000.00.

That covers the appearance fee, but there is still more to consider when budgeting for your impersonator. You have to get them to your event. Remember when I said that there isnt an impersonator on every corner of every town. You need to budget for air, hotel and ground transport of your impersonator. Sometimes you can get lucky and your specific celebrity might be available within 100 miles of your event. Then the impersonator will likely drive to your event and only request gas money or sometimes will just take their appearance fee and not charge you for travel. This does happen, but it is very rare.

Always figure between $500.00 and $1500.00 extra for air, hotel and ground transport. This always depends on the airlines fee and flight schedule and the time of your event. Just an example; I had a client in Tallahassee, FL that wanted to hire an act based in Los Angeles. The clients event was at 8pm, Florida time. The first AM flights out of LA were around 6AM to 7AM. Because of the time zones and the clients event location, most flights didnt reach Tallahassee until 7:30pm. One did get in at 5:10pm, but to get that flight the air and hotel package fee was $1200.00, and that didnt include a rental car.

Additional budget items to consider for your impersonator.

Most impersonators are rushing from gig to gig, airport to hotel etc. They rarely have time to stop for a meal. So you should always plan on feeding your impersonator before or after their appearance.

If they are going to sing, you are going to need a professional sound system with a CD player and a microphone. This isnt a telegram; they are not going to arrive with a boom box. Its always best to have a DJ at your event, and then you can have the impersonator sing over the DJs sound system. If youre not going to have a DJ then you will have to rent a sound system, this will usually cost between $250.00 and $500.00.

Now, if you are hiring an impersonator to give a concert type performance, with a live band, thats a whole new ball game. You will have to provide air, hotel and ground transport for the entire band and their support staff, (usually one or two extra people). Depending on the timing of the event, you may need to pay for 2 nights at the hotel instead of just one, and some performers request per diem pay for the extra day.

You will have to provide staging, sound, lights and backline gear. A lot of talent agents, like The Images Agency, can arrange all of this for you and give you an all inclusive quote for the entire show. However, this is still extra in addition to the appearance fee.

In most cities, basic sound and lights for a live band in an average room will run about $1000.00 to $2000.00. However, recently I got a quote in Las Vegas that was in excess of $6000.00. This is something you need to keep in mind when planning your event budget.

Backline usually needs to be provided for impersonators performing with a live band. Backline includes things like Drum Kits, Keyboards, and Guitar Amplifiers etc. Musicians all have their favorite gear that they use for their performance and it is your job to get the exact gear that they request.

All the sound, light and backline requirements are outlined in what is known as a Technical Rider. If you are hiring an impersonator to perform a show, you should ask your agent for a copy of it. Your talent agent will likely have to contact the impersonator to get a current rider to send to you.

The Hospitality Rider is another item that you will have to budget for. This rider usually contains the hotel, air and ground transport requirements, but will also outline meal requirements. When you start dealing with a live band, you have to plan for each band members dietary needs. Some people are diabetic, some are vegetarians, and some have food allergies. Additionally there are dressing room requirements; how many towels, how many bottles of water and other items that should or should not be in the dressing room. In some instances you may also be required to provide security for the impersonators crew. The Hospitality Rider will spell out all these details for you.

With performing impersonators, you will also have to be present hours before and after the event for load in, load out and sound check. When hiring an impersonator to give a show, the venue has to be available to the crew for about 8 to 12 hours in entirety, and you or your representative should plan on being available to assist the impersonators crew with their needs throughout the day.

Once you have budgeted for your impersonator, you are ready to contact your talent agent. The first thing your agent usually asks for is how much you plan on spending for the impersonator. This way the agent can weed out serious offers from looky loos.

Dont be shy about making an offer, it cant hurt. This helps the talent agent know which way to direct you. For instance, lets say you want a Michael Jackson impersonator for a private party, maybe to sing a song and do a meet and greet. You make an offer of $2500.00. This helps the talent agent decide which Michael will work for you. The talent agent can present a reasonable offer to the Michael he thinks is best, and try to negotiate within your budget. If more money would be needed the talent agent can then tell you to budget more money. However, if you needed a Michael Jackson for a stage performance, some of the top Michael shows are going between $15K and $30K at the moment.

Trust your impersonator agent to work with you to get you the best deal possible within your budget, after all thats their job.

Once you are in agreement on the terms the talent agent will book the impersonator for you and handle all the financial details. You will have to sign a contract to finalize the deal and forward a down payment to the talent agent. You usually pay the remaining balance due directly to the impersonator on the day of the event. Thats pretty much it, everything you needed to know about celebrity impersonators.

About the Author: Daniel Bruening has been in the entertainment business for over 34 years. Performing in bands as a teenager, later in life as a club DJ for 20 plus years and is now a talent and booking agent for The Images Agency

The Images Agency

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