Mike Esterman, CEO of Esterman.com based in Washington DC, is the most reliable name in the celebrity booking business. He is the world’s largest booking broker/agent with a great legacy in showbiz. This career came naturally to the former American Bandstand and Dance Party USA dancer. He has been nicknamed the Simon Cowell of celebrity booking for his no-nonsense, straight shooter approach.
“You know, I kind of fell into it. I didn’t even plan…didn’t even know there was such a thing as a booking agency”, Esterman said.
In a world where booking agencies come and go, Mike Esterman has remained successful and is going on his 18th year now. He continues to collaborate with corporate organizations, clubs, and even the average Joe who wants to impress friends, by hiring a top celebrity to make an appearance at their parties. On his website (www.esterman.com) there’s a wide range of actors, musicians, and speakers he secures for public appearances, product endorsements, corporate galas, charity events, speaking engagements, birthday parties, club openings, and many more events. Some of these big names are Mario Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Enrique Iglesias, Flo Rida, Akon, Carmen Electra, Perez Hilton, and much more. He created a comprehensive menu of celebrities on his site to help clients choose from, or discover names they might not have even thought about. All you need to do is contact him with your wish list of names and budget, and he will find the best options to make your event a success.
Esterman met Dubai billionaire and founder of Al Habtoor Group Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor back in 2006 in London, and they have since remained friends. Despite their friendship being in a non-entertainment circle, Esterman has looked up to Habtoor’s business savvy and holds him in high regard. He said “It is an honor to call Mr. Habtoor a friend in this past decade”.
In 2011, Esterman was called upon by his Son and CEO of Al Habtoor Group Muhammed Khalaf Al Habtoor, to book a recognizable music artist to perform at the grand opening of XL Beach Club at Habtoor Grand Hotel. Esterman promptly secured major hit maker Flo Rida to appear at the high profile Dubai event. After the success of that first class event, Flo Rida has been returning to Dubai each year, where he also filmed the music video for his hit song“Wild Ones” featuring superstar Sia Furler.
In 2016, Esterman visited Dubai again with Akon, Boris Kodjoe, and Jeff Timmons of 98 degrees to launch the global music competition of Tulwe.com by Karim Adams. He is hoping to travel back with Mario Lopez who has never visited Dubai before, and is available for bookings in July.
How it all began
Before he got involved with celebrities he created a limousine company called “Arrive in Style” in high school with his father’s 1934 Rolls-Royce, that people hired for weddings. He would also visit clubs on weekends to network with VIP guests and club promoters, while impressing the crowd with his dancing skills. Esterman said “I’d go there on weekends and dance my heart away, dance, dance, dance, because I was a little lighter and thinner doing spins like Michael Jackson”. He appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand at the age of 18, after submitting a tape showcasing his moves. He had won a local club dance contest for Baltimore’s Channel 13 “Shakedown Show”. After that, he flew out to California and Philadelphia for tapings and also appeared on Dance Party USA. “It was just for fun, no money, just being a ham in front of the camera. I liked to dance and for a white guy, I had rhythm”, Esterman said.
By hanging around the entertainment scene, he was meeting a lot of big celebrities dubbing himself as a hospitality liaison for club owner Abdul Khanu, which grew his personal relationships with the stars. When he booked celebrities each weekend, Esterman was checking them into hotels, taking them to soundcheck, dinner spots around town, and overall being their assistant for the day. That’s when he first met actress and glamour model Carmen Electra and others, such as “Blind Date” host Roger Lodge, and dance artists Expose, Sweet Sensation, and The Cover Girls with the help of Fever Records CEO and now longtime friend, Sal Abbatiello.
“I’d make friends [with] people I was already dancing to and grew up with. So it was great working with these people in person again after all these years. It was no money but fun to be around”, Esterman said. The club owner loved him for all his hard work at a young age. While he was building a rapport with the talent, people started approaching him regarding his celebrity friends, asking if he could get them to attend or perform their events. The celebrities he was helping get booked, offered to pay him. “I was like ‘naw, naw. I’m just a friend. I’m just happy to help you and when you come back in town I get to hang out with you again”, he said. However, they still insisted on paying him for acting as a booking agent on their behalf. That is how he established Esterman.com as a global celebrity booking agency, to help clients outside the United States connect their offers directly to a reliable and valid source.
Life as a Booking Agent
The company grew rapidly. The roster of contacts grew larger when other celebrity notables connected with Esterman, wanting to be considered for requests after receiving positive word-of-mouth feedback from their colleagues. His reputation spread across the world and before he knew it, he was receiving requests from major club owners, promoters, and event planners from various countries. Technology has really helped in allowing clients to contact and connect with Esterman for any bookings, no matter where they are located. However, the internet comes with major challenges as well. He said “It has created a world of confusion, a world of scammers. Anybody can act like they are somebody when they are not”.
He is referring to the dishonesty that occurs between clients and middle-agents who falsely advertise themselves online, and create a bad name for the good guys with experience. Esterman said “Promoters and talent buyers should be aware of those ‘too good to be true’ requests from people saying they have a relationship, that may not exist”. It is most likely a scam. He does not find out about the scam until the scammers have made off with the money, and the buyer approaches him with the situation. In that case, Esterman can’t offer a discount to book the talent they intended to as it isn’t his fault. He goes the extra mile to check sources for those scammers, or directs them to the appropriate person they should have been dealing with. He said “I’m always vetting and fixing other people’s problems when I wish they just came to me first, or started with me in the beginning”.
On other days he keeps busy by constantly staying on top of all bookings, contracts, deposits, travel arrangements, marketing approvals, and so much more that goes into each booking. His buyers can range from corporate companies to parents wanting to have their child’s favorite celebrity at their sweet 16. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to calculating the fees for celebrity bookings. It all comes down to the factors that are presented in order to get the real and correct fee that the artist wants to charge. Expenses can include booking ground transportation, or insurance for airline tickets etc. He said “The usual expenses for each booking are what I call, the ‘Simple Fours’… air travel, hotel rooms, local transportation when they arrive, and meals. That’s pretty much the standard but the level of each depends on the artist that is booked”. The simple factors that celebrity booking rates are formulated from are – which celebrity/notable name is requested, how far do they need to travel, what they are asked to do during the appearance, is it a public or private event, and what is the budget for the event. These fees are not determined by Esterman, he is merely a conduit to ensure that the correct information is being passed along. He makes sure to save the time and efforts of the celebrity/notable name by deciding on whether a request is valid, or a waste of time. “That is the important role of a good broker/agent to look out for those valid requests that come in from all over the world. It is necessary to vet them correctly as a validation process, and handling that important part of the process is sometimes very time consuming. You’re only as good as how smooth a deal goes”, he advised.
Esterman suggests that clients should have a realistic and separate budget for talent. He uses that information to advise and review whether the talent can be booked within that budget. He said “If the budgeted fee is higher than what the celebrity has pending elsewhere, the other event may be moved to accommodate this, that way at least there’s talent set aside for your event”.
“This is very important because if you’re just asking for a rate that you would like them to charge, of course they’ll always ask for the most they can make. It is best to advise what you have budgeted or set aside for talent for your event, and that way at least there’s a guide to understand which name on your wish list will fit into what you have to work with…” Esterman said.
Esterman has heard of middle-agents who take their buyers for a ride, pulling bait and switch tactics on them, then creating various obstacles when it comes to the actual booking process. Esterman makes it a point to avoid such scenarios and his candid approach is well respected. “A lot of people say I’m like the ‘Simon Cowell’ of the booking business because I’m a straight shooter”, Esterman said. His clients and celebrities both respect the fact that he does not waste anybody’s time.
When he works with regular people who don’t have the experience to book celebrities themselves, he goes the extra mile to explain how the process works, and provides realistic options for clients when it comes to their budget. “A lot of people want a Rolls-Royce for FIAT money, you just can’t do that”, he said. As much as he keeps it real with potential buyers, he always runs by realistic and ‘within reason’ requests to the celebrity directly. This way, they are the ones who have the final say on which events to attend. He points out that the main challenge is to stay focused during the entire process. “It’s very time consuming. It’s got its ups and downs. You have to have thick skin of being able to ride that mental wave”, he said, “One thing ‘oh my god it’s a great deal on the table’ but…the fat lady doesn’t sing until the money hits the bank”.
This is why he has such a positive reputation around the world and has had many successful events, than we can count. Check out some of the events below which were booked by Esterman.com.
Radio show The Ester-Minute
While there are many shows that cover celebrity gossip and red carpet news. Esterman has started establishing a radio show called The Ester-Minute with his client and long time friend Mario Lopez, along with the gracious people at SkinnyPop Popcorn, Celsius Beverages and Quest Nutrition for their continued support. The Ester-Minute takes people behind the scenes of the celebrity booking world, by focusing on the business side of how things are done. “Nobody has done something in this specific area of business…the business world of bookings. I like the fact that you can get some information that only I usually see on my emails or come across my screen but it’s never going to be something that’s really public; so it’s great to hear these stories that people might say to themselves, ‘wow’ how much has been offered by so and so, to do what, where??? A lot of the average people would not know that”, said Esterman. On the show they revealed that pop star Taylor Swift received around 75 million dollars in bookings which is a substantial amount, and one that the public doesn’t hear about when they attend her shows.
Esterman hopes to be operating Esterman.com for another 10 years. As an eligible bachelor, he also hopes to settle down, take a much-needed vacation, and maybe find the love of his life who can deal with his busy schedule. From the kid who danced his way into showbiz he has added to the Esterman legacy of “honesty and integrity”, also reflected in his family owned business of over 45 years, Esterman Estate Jewelers at White Flint which his father had passed in 1997.
Esterman said “Other booking agents/brokers come and go. I pride myself on the fact that I built a good name. Been around a long time and that’s the secret to my success – a plethora of contacts and relationships built along the way in providing a great service, and I’m still here”.
For all your future events needing celebrities, music artists or female DJ’s contact the best man in the industry,
Mike Esterman via www.esterman.com or email email@example.com