How do you handle entertainment travel expenses? The correct answer: "It depends." Have a general rule or guiding philosophy, but be flexible. Managing entertainment and other production travel expenses sometimes requires a little imagination. Like most things, it's negotiable.
Let's consider the two most common areas of concern. Compare your immediate response with how you might handle things given some time and creativity. Sometimes your instincts will be right on target; other times you'll benefit from a deliberate approach involving some.
Scenario #1: Meals and Per Diem You're producing shows for a multiple wave program wherein the entertainer requires a per diem for the "in between" days as well as the show days. How do you handle these costs?
Sometimes "requires" means just that. Many times, however, it really means "requests." Your job (or your producer's job) is to smoke that out. First, consider the numbers: A keynote speaker's per diem or meal expense is considerably less than that of an entourage of 15 people. Remember, too, Kirsh's Law, which states that the amount a musician eats and drinks is in direct proportion to the latitude he's given.
Your approach may also vary depending on the number of waves (and, therefore, days in between), the expense of the location, and the act itself. Also, even if you're producing one show, keep in mind the length of (and time in between) setup, sound check, rehearsal, and the show. Our philosophy is to minimize expenses, but be fair. More than once, I've negotiated with entertainers whose riders contain more details about meals, silverware, and which day is tournedos au poivre to be served than they do about audio specifications.
Keep in mind that these folks live on the road a great deal of the time, so keeping them comfortable and well-fed is in your best interest. Some artists, agents, and managers are more rigid and close-fisted about these things. We're just looking for a balance here, particularly with multiple-wave programs.
Of course, show catering such as mineral water, coffee, tea, and a fruit plate or light snack is standard and always should be provided as a courtesy. (Providing alcohol is another story altogether; in a word: Don't.)
Travel Cost Tip: Negotiate meals, per diems, and catering allowances in proportion to your exposure. Be fair, but don't spend the money unless you have to or it's clearly in your best interest.
Scenario #2: Airfares/Ground Transfers You've hired an entertainer who prefers to book his own travel. Got a problem with that?
More often that not, you're looking for trouble when you insist on booking the air. And not only when it's a large group. Even one person's changes can cost you more time than it's worth.
Consider two sides to the story: (a) these people travel for a living--they want direct control of the portfolios because they need it; (b) some people consider this a profit center. (Be careful--some might overstate the number of travelers or the fare class when negotiating an allowance.)
Regarding airport transfers, whether it's a limo, van, or truck, I can't think of an act that preferred to book its own ground transportation. However, give them the number of the car service company so they can make changes, monitor pick-ups, and so on.
One more thing: The act will prefer the limo company's direct number, not a broker,, or other intermediary. Any entity in between the act and the limo company will slow things down, particularly when there are last-minute changes or when baggage claim is half a mile from the limo waiting area.
Travel Cost Tip: For air, consider offering an allowance equal to what you can book the tickets for, and then leave them to themselves. Depending on the act or manager, handling air can be simple and straightforward or your worst nightmare. Determine which way it's likely to go early on. For ground travel, keep it simple: Arrange the limo and get out of the way.
If you have an experienced producer, he or she will negotiate and coordinate all of these items for you. If you're doing it yourself, be smart, be fair, and as always, ask the right questions.