GQ has a really, really interesting article about how various C-list and D-list celebrities are able to make so much money from just “appearance fees.” You should totally read the full GQ piece here, because there’s so much interesting info in there. While I knew that Scott Disick gets paid to make club appearances, I didn’t realize that he has a separate manager for those appearances and that he signed a year-long contract to make eight appearances at 1OAK over the course of a year. He generally gets paid between $70,000 and $80,000 a night. And when I say “night” I mean he’s contractually obligated to walk the red carpet and sit in the club, partying and drinking, for maybe an hour or two. And that’s it. That’s worth $80,000. For Scott Disick.
The piece goes into what kind of money is being offered and how those appearance fees are negotiated and how there’s an ebb and flow to which kinds of celebrities are most desired by certain clubs. Like, it sounds as if every club wants Kim Kardashian to make an appearance, but her appearance fee has been jacked up to the point where barely anyone can afford her. GQ also goes into the history of how this happened:
Enter Paris Hilton, the figure who set off Hollywood 2.0′s Big Bang, the effects of which continue to radiate through the industry today. Hilton, the one who made it possible to be famous for doing nothing, was so sought-after in the early 2000s that you couldn’t get her to walk to her mailbox without giving her a check. Nightclubs began paying her to show up—in the hopes of stamping themselves with partyland pedigree for future customers. The real breakthrough came in 2005, when a Vegas club owner named Steve Davidovici started to routinely pay Hilton and her cohort outrageous sums just to walk through the door of PURE and Tangerine. In a blink, the transactional economy between nightclubs and celebs reversed direction.
But sometime around 2010, reality TV reached a saturation point and its stars began to get usurped by celebrity DJs—guys like Avicii and David Guetta, whose fees approached the seven-figure ceiling. The rise of social media poured gasoline on the whole thing—first by making it impossible for celebs to hit a club without being obsessively documented, then by turning the club into yet another backdrop for meticulously curating one’s public image.
But in the past few years, the pecking order has shifted again: The ubiquity of EDM festivals and a general fatigue with the genre weakened the draw of DJs and threatened to pop the EDM-DJ performance-fee bubble. Which has not only re-invigorated the market for a certain tier of reality stars but has also widened the lane for rappers. Hit records equal high fees, and predictably, superstars like Future and Drake and Nicki Minaj are the priciest names you can book today, whereas Paris Hilton now goes to Dubai to get the kind of paydays she used to get in Vegas.
The most famous of these stars can score contracts at key times—like fight nights or New Year’s Eve in Vegas—that pay north of $200,000 for a 60-minute appearance. (The industry buzz is that Future made $250K for a single New Year’s Eve appearance; the biggest paydays are in Vegas, but Miami, Los Angeles, and New York are plenty strong.) Then there are the mid-tier earners, who command between $10K and $50K: the more notorious of Bravo’s Housewives, social-media celebutantes, on-the-rise rappers. (Rich Homie Quan has probably made more money walking through clubs than he did for rapping about them on his track “Walk Thru.”) At the bottom of the food chain are the scroungers—your Love & Hip Hop and Vanderpump Rules extended cast members—who are scraping for a few thousand per appearance.
The U.S. market has nothing on Europe, and the European market has nothing on the Middle East, where you can earn five to ten times your price tag back home. Once your reality show is syndicated in a foreign market or your song becomes a hit overseas, you’re golden. And no matter how successful or how untouchably cool you are, you will show up at a club for the right price. Weintraub mentions the name of an A-list movie star who’s definitely seen the inside of a few clubs: “He’s gonna take that money. He’ll do a walk-through for his friends. It’ll be an under-the-table thing: Here’s 50 g’s. You want that car? Oh, here’s that.… Anyone who tells you they’re not gonna take the money is full of sh-t.”
I think that “A-list movie star” is Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s the only A-lister I can think of who is a regular club-goer all around the world, and he’s the only one regularly going to these somewhat shady clubs. I bet he is getting paid but I bet his contract includes a “no red carpet” clause or something. As for the new nightclub A-listers, the Nicki Minajs and Futures… sure. I can see that. GQ points out that the way the nightclubs make up for the money they’re handing out is by charging non-celebrities “table fees” – as in, some rich dude wants to spend $10,000 just to have the table next to Nicki Minaj, then he spends thousands of dollars on drinks and tips. It seems crazy, but… I mean, if the nightclubs think that the celebrities are worth it, so be it.
Vintage photos of Kim K. and Paris back when Paris was showing her the ropes.