A resident of an affluent central Israel neighborhood wanted Shakira to perform at his wedding; so much so that he was willing to fork out hundreds of thousands of shekels to bring the Colombian singer to the country. Eventually he had to make do with the finalists from the "Star is Born" TV show (Israeli version of "American Idol"), who didn't come cheap either.
Until recently, local artists such as Sarit Hadad and Eyal Golan ruled the private party circuit, but the past few months have seen this trend change, with more and more international artists being booked to play at private Israeli events. Three such events are set to take place in October, including a performance by the Gypsy Kings at an annual bash thrown by hotel magnate David Fattal in Eilat. In case you were wondering, the band will rake in close to $50,000 for the gig.
Eighties icon Samantha Fox recently performed at the Karmiel Dance Festival, but before leaving she squeezed in another show at a private party.
"The Israelis have gone nuts," a local promoter said. "They've realized they don't have to settle for local artists. People here love to impress, and having Kobi Peretz ay your wedding doesn't impress anyone anymore. You need to bring someone who will make the guests say, 'Wow.'"
It all began with Arcadi Gaydamak, who in 2006 decided to celebrate Hanukkah at the Tel Aviv Hilton with a group of local celebrities. Just before midnight, after Benjamin Netanyahu (before he became prime minister) showed up, Enrique Iglesias took the stage in a white shirt - another PR success for Gaydamak.
Two years later another Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich, paid pop star Pink hundreds of thousands of shekels to belt out her greatest hits at a party he held at the Tel Aviv Port.
Too expensive. Elton John (Photo: AP)
"The oligarchs used to bring foreign artists on occasion, but two years ago the trend reached a whole new level and trickled down to a broader segment of the population," says Pedi Yitav of Pedi Music and Productions Ltd. "Nowadays you don’t have to be an oligarch to book an artist from abroad for your event. It's enough to have average plus financial capabilities."
Apart from Fox, who received NIS 120,000 ($33,000) to perform at a private event, Boney M (NIS 110,000, or $31,000, not including flights and lodging expenses), Kool & the Gang, Gloria Gaynor, an ABBA cover band (NIS 70,000, or $19,000 without expenses) and several other groups also traveled to the Holy Land to appear at private events.
"People here feel as though they've seen it all," Yitav explains.
Have we grown tired of our artists?
No, it's just that people want some diversity. Many of the bands that come here were big a few decades ago, but they are more professional than most local artists.
Have any artists refused invitations to appear in Israel?
Alphaville refuse to play in Israel, and there have been many cases where artists simply asked for too much money. People have asked us to book Prince, Tom Jones and the Black Eyed Peas, but they dropped the idea after learning that these artists command millions of dollars. People don’t understand why booking Boney M costs as much as booking Shlomo Artzi, but this is a historic band with a remarkable past. Oh, and people also ask for Donna Summer.
"Israelis once tried to book Whitney Houston. The contract was signed, but it fell through on a technicality," Yitav recalls. "With Elton John – some Israelis wanted him to perform at a small event when he was in the country to play an outdoor concert, but they gave up on the idea after learning it would cost them millions. There was a rumor that Michael Jackson performed at a benefit for a children's hospital in Israel, but this has never been verified."
If you're planning on booking a major artist, it may be time to dip into your savings. George Michael will make the trip to Israel for no less than $2 million, Lady Gaga will perform for $500,000, and most major Dance DJs charge tens of thousands of dollars.
"Sometimes foreign artists cost less than local stars," Yitav says. "If the price of an artist you see on MTV is less than that of a leading Israeli wedding singer, wouldn't you prefer booking the former?"
Are there any artists who will not perform at private events for any amount of money?
Theoretically, it's all a matter of price, but there are those who are impossible to book. Some artists refuse to play at private events, others don’t want to come to Israel, and there are those who charge insane fees. I don’t think Paul McCartney would perform at anyone's birthday party.
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