Talent Booking Guide

The Costs of Live Entertainment

Two DJs spin their music for a crowd

Keep in mind every aspect of your live event when considering which live entertainment option will be cost-effective. Check out Special Guest to get started. This article is part of a series of articles written to help guide and inform the process of booking LIVE entertainers for your special event.

How to Manage Live Entertainment Costs

One of the most important aspects of hiring live entertainment is the cost-effectiveness of your plans. The part of the process that doesn’t get as much fanfare is how contextual factors change the price, which means you might not see everything that goes into the performance. Keep reading to find out more! 

Are you looking for Santa Claus in July? Prepare to pay up. Do you want to hire a band to play an outdoor concert in December? That will cost you. But there are also a host of other factors that must be taken into consideration from the distance that the entertainer must travel to the venue, whether or not audio equipment (including adequate speakers and microphones), lighting, food, and other factors are provided by the host (that’s you booking the gig) or the entertainer.

Live entertainment costs can change drastically because each performer is a human who may have other life responsibilities and can’t just drop everything to go into performer mode. For your benefit and theirs, consider what you’re asking of the live entertainment you want to book. Be prepared in advance! 

Special Guest has prepared a guide on planning live entertainment events like a pro. In this guide, we will walk you through some of the vital cost considerations to keep in mind when booking live entertainment and how to plan an event when working on a budget. Along the way, we will assist you as you aim to find entertainment options using Special Guest’s resources. Keep reading to get started!

Cost Considerations When Booking Live Entertainment

Booking entertainment for an event is not as simple as looking online and calling a phone number. Before reaching those steps of the process, iron out the other details of your event. For starters, you’ll want to consider the time your event is taking place, where the event is being held, and what kind of event you are planning. With these aspects in mind, you will more reasonably be able to speak with a performer about your expectations.


If you live in an area where seasons are in an annual cycle, consider how this may impact your entertainment options. On Special Guest, a section is set aside for holiday entertainment. If you are, for example, attempting to throw a holiday-themed party outside of the typical time for that kind of celebration, don’t be surprised if the asking price rises a bit to meet your requests.


The setting of your event is equally essential to your entertainment booking practices as the timing of its occurrence. If you plan on hiring a DJ, but the chosen venue does not have the equipment to handle such a performer, the DJ will need to bring all of their own equipment. This added inconvenience may drive up the price.

Event Type

Make clear to the entertainers what kind of event you plan on hosting. Depending on their act, they may ask questions about the demographic, aka-prospective audience members, and the expected tone of the event. If a political impersonator, for example, senses that their act may be wrong for the event type, they still may agree to perform. However, an odd context may be why they ask for a bit more than advertised.

A man plays his guitar as a form of live entertainment

Other Specific Factors that will Increase / Decrease the Cost of Booking LIVE Entertainment for Your Event

As referenced above there are a lot of factors that can influence how much you’ll have to pay to hire a LIVE entertainer for your event. Here are some of the more “technical,” albeit super important and impactful considerations.

Travel Distance

This one is straightforward, but critically important. In general, if the entertainer you are going to hire is located within a 30-45 miles radius from your location it is unlikely that you’ll have to pay an extra charges. However, if the entertainer has to travel more than a normal amount there will likely be a charge. Things to consider include whether or not the entertainer has to book a flight – if so you’ll likely be footing the bill. Or if the entertainer can drive you’ll likely need to offset the cost of driving – consider reasonable expenses like the cost of gas, time to drive, tolls, and similar reasonable expenses.

Staging and Audio Equipment

If you are booking a rock band for your backyard 4th of July BBQ chances are you won’t be providing the proper audio equipment to create the type of entertainment experience you expect. This is common, but often confusing to the host (that’s you booking the entertainment) when figuring out a fair cost to hire an entertainer. If the band or entertainer is expected to bring their own staging and audio equipment it is reasonable for you to expect a fee. If you own a restaurant, club, or are hosting your event at a venue that already has the necessary equipment you shouldn’t expect a fee, albeit keep in mind that venues (if you don’t own it) will often charge a rental fee for the stage.


Entertainment experiences in the dark aren’t all that memorable. Kidding aside, having adequate lighting for your entertainer is a consideration (note that proper lighting elevates the entertainment experience) when figuring out pricing. If you are going to provide the lighting and don’t already own the equipment you’ll have to buy or lease the equipment. The other option is to ask the entertainer to provide the lighting. If the entertainer provides the lighting you should assume that there will be a fee.


This one is super important and can really help to create a great relationship between you and the entertainer. The entertainer has to eat (and some like to drink) so you should think about that and consider food / beverage as a perk of the event. This is an area you may want to volunteer (we will provide dinner and 2 drinks) if the entertainer doesn’t bring it up when negotiating rate, but like we said (keep in mind at Special Guest we book talent for a living) we know this is an area that entertainers are super appreciative of. When you are thinking of them they will appreciate it and in some instance may even throw something they would normally charge for (think audio, lighting , etc) for free.


One of the most popular entertainer types booked on Special Guest are “impersonators.” Think Britney Spears Impersonators, Tom Cruise Impersonators, and Johnny Depp Impersonators versus Rod Stewart Impersonators. No offense to Rod, but Britney, Tom, and Johnny are in high demand and therefore they are likely more expensive (especially the good ones). Generally the same is going to be true with most entertainers you consider. In short, the ones most in demand are going to cost more. You shouldn’t be offended by that since you already know that you get what you pay for.

Live Entertainment on a Budget

Do your best to know your event details as well as you can before speaking with entertainers. Give them the benefit of asking questions about when and where they will perform. Building a sense of trust with the entertainer and considering the factors that go into the event will increase your chances of avoiding a ballooned price.

For some events, booking live entertainment on a budget is a matter of finding the most cost-effective entertainment option. In general, hiring a DJ is a more cost-effective alternative to a band or ensemble. Why do you ask? Well, fewer travel expenses, less equipment, less space, and fewer schedules to accommodate, just to name a few! Consider which entertainment option is vital to making your event work, and keep costs in mind as you move forward with the process. If having a band is most important to you, maybe there are other places you can cut costs. If not, a DJ is a great alternative to keep the crowd going all night long!

Special Guest Can Help You Find Live Entertainment

Special Guest is a hub for finding awesome live entertainment options that can bring some excitement to your next event. The options we share are varied, meaning that there is sure to be an entertainer that meets your budgetary and entertainment standards. Get started by exploring our library of talent today!


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