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Insurance, Independent Contractors and Certifications:  what you need to know when hiring an entertainer…i.e. you get what you pay for!!!

Insurance
Any entertainer, big or small, should have a personal liability insurance policy to protect themselves.  If you are using a rented venue for your event, then you may need an “additional insured” certificate, with the venue’s name and address as well. This liability policy is not for serious accidents during the course of the artists work (the proverbial brush-in-the-client’s-eye scenario– there hasn’t been a single occurrence of this in my 12 years in the business).  It actually is designed to cover home and property damage resulting from the artist on your property:  spilled airbrush ink on the carpet, broken lamp while bringing in equipment, accidental crushing of rare rosebush while pulling out of driveway, etc.  These are things that the entertainer is liable for, and thus they have insurance.  BE SURE TO ASK IF THEY ARE INSURED.  You don’t want to be stalking Artist Jane Doe to get your oriental rug replaced out of her pocket.

Independent Contractors
Any entertainer that is doing their work on a full-time basis (or even part-time) should be set up like a business, with a business name, a tax ID number and a business license (if required for the state).   Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t hire Uncle Fred to play for the sing-along at your college reunion, or Cousin Pete to take the pictures of your son’s Bar Mitzvah.  In these situations, personal contact and family loyalty may lead to a good outcome. (and they may not…) But if you are trying to impress your guests, your boss, your employees or your prospects, please hire outside your family and go with the professional touch.  Find the best person for whatever skill you are looking for, and check out their credentials.  Entertainment agents or party planners should be up front if they are only representing a few acts.  If you are looking for a particular musician, magician or comedian, it’s best to find out who their agent is, and book through them. If you use an agent to hire an artist like a balloon twister, juggler, face painter or caricaturist, make sure the agent has examples of their work to share with you.

It is common for companies to send in a substitute artist instead of the “name” person you may have hired.  Make sure that this “subcontractor” is not any less qualified that what you originally contracted for. For those of you making your last minute “Hail Mary” calls to find ANYONE to come to your Super Bowl party…be honest if you are willing to accept a trainee, or someone who has less experience than the artist you really want.  FYI, any expenditure by one business to another that is greater than $600 will need a 1099 form, so make sure that you have the required w-9 from the company or artist that you hire.

Certifications
In most entertainment categories, certifications are not required by law, but are designed to set apart those willing to invest in time and study, and be tested against a “standard.”   Certifications are not licenses, they prove an adherence to “industry best practices” (at the time the test is taken, unless there is a renewal/recertification process). Certifications are provided by a “qualifying authority” who teaches, tests and in some cases, provides supervision on an ongoing basis.  In the face painting world, FACE, The Face Painting Association, “is about raising and maintaining standards of face painting, promoting training, and the use of safe products and techniques.” Why?  Because “just enough…is not good enough!”  As in cosmetology, nail products, and hair services, the intimate nature of putting make-up on the skin demands a higher standard than heading to the local Party City or Walmart for face paint. No offense to you PTA Moms who are helping out in the classroom.

Balloon artists and balloon decorators also can become certified, which gives them a competitive edge over those who are not.  “The purpose of QBN testing and the CBA Practical Exam is to confirm knowledge and skill…Business Members and Pioneer Balloon Company are better able to trust CBAs with referral business because they have demonstrated their knowledge in an objective way. ”

Magicians achieve certification through a variety of sources. International Magic Academy “is the first of its kind by any organization in the Magic Entertainment, Magical Arts Industry. This is your first step into achieving a higher level of recognition as well as the start to gaining more respect for the industry by creating a better image as an entertainer in the Magical Arts.”

Bottom line
If you are looking for the very best quality, insure that your entertainers are insured, function as a business (not a hobbyist) and are certified.   You will be glad you did, since these entertainers have chosen to invest in their business and can bring you more: more quality, more services, more professionalism, more worthwhile referrals to other artists, and more peace of mind.  Isn’t that worth paying more for?

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