“I’m feeling a little bit lonely up here,” says Sandra Denton, better known as Pepa of the rap group Salt-N-Pepa. “I’m looking for a man to come up onstage with me right now.” For about 20 minutes, she’s been watching a bride and her groom wave their arms to her rhymes. The couple hired -Salt-N-Pepa, accompanied by their DJ, Spinderella, to headline their wedding, held in December at Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Out of the 300 mostly white guests, the groom and groomsmen heed Pepa’s request first. Soon, they’re dancing to 1994’s Whatta Man.
Directly offstage stands Steve Einzig, the guy responsible for getting Salt-N-Pepa here for their 40-minute set. Einzig doesn’t know the wedding couple (who wouldn’t agree to be interviewed), but as the founder of Booking Entertainment he’s in charge of the night’s performers, who also include Rob Base and Young MC, known for their respective ’80s hits It Takes Two and Bust a Move. “There’s a big trend toward hiring performers for weddings,” Einzig says. “They become part of your album.”
“People find us online and will literally wire me a million dollars without ever having met”
Einzig, 44, has spent almost half his life helping clients schedule big acts for weddings and corporate events. His company, founded in 1996, has six -employees and handles about 10 bookings a month. Some involve shipping an entire speaker system to a Caribbean island or securing tens of thousands of dollars worth of hotel rooms for a massive entourage. One early gig required flying soundboards from Texas to Berlin, then trucking them to Bulgaria. (When the drivers got lost en route, the client, a juice mogul, called his prime minister to have them escorted by the Bulgarian army). “People find us online and will literally wire me a million dollars without ever having met,” Einzig says.
That stopped happening as often in 2008; clients didn’t want to appear extravagant when the economy was collapsing. But now, Einzig says, business has never been better. Last year was Booking Entertainment’s biggest yet, with about 100 gigs and $4.5 million in sales, driven partly by the surge in requests for Nineties acts such as Salt-N-Pepa, Coolio, and Sugar Ray. “Those people who grew up listening to that music, they’re in their 30s and have disposable income,” Einzig says. “They might not want to admit it, but they’ve gotten to a point where they’re nostalgic.”
His website reveals pricing for most acts: Salt-N-Pepa cost about $50,000 a show, and Rob Base and Young MC each go for less than $15,000. Einzig’s company takes a 15 per cent to 20 per cent cut, depending on the hassle of organising the gig. “The music industry is like the stock market,” he says. “You have your blue chip stocks like Kool & the Gang, who haven’t had a hit in 30 years, but they have a body of work. They’re going to stay the same price.” That is, from $75,000 to $100,000. Stars who vanish after one big single don’t fare as well: “Their price could be 30 per cent of what it was at their height, but they’re OK with that.”
Marvin Young, aka Young MC, freely admits he’s in that camp. The 47-year-old lives in Arizona, has put on some weight, and still does about two shows a month. “We’re lucky to be doing this,” he says outside the Mar-A-Lago ballroom, wearing a No Fear motocross jersey, some 26 years after his breakout. Private shows can pay twice what a concert does, he says, without the pressure to pack a venue. “This is literally a business trip for me. I show up carrying a briefcase.”
Booking Entertainment doesn’t have exclusive rights to the artists, but Einzig says everyone is available for the right price, except maybe Bruce Springsteen. Many artists have no idea whom they’re performing for ahead of time: Mariah Carey and Beyoncé both sang for then-Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddaffi’s family in 2009 and had to issue apologies afterward. Einzig leaves it to each band to decide whether to take a gig. He didn’t book those Qaddaffi performances, and for the most part he’s avoided the tabloids—although a few financial titans he’s worked for later wound up in jail.
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