Becoming the world’s largest broker and CEO of his own celebrity booking agency is a career that naturally came to the former American Bandstand and Dance Party USA dancer.
“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,” Mike Esterman said.
Coming up on 18 years working as a celebrity booking agent Esterman has made a name for himself as the Simon Cowell of celebrity booking for his candid, straight shooter approach. He’s the CEO of Esterman.com based in Washington D.C., an agency that collaborates with corporate organizations, clubs and average people who are looking to book music stars, actors or magazine models for events, product endorsements, television shows or other types of events.
In the industry for nearly two decades Esterman’s list of talent include the likes of Mario Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Enrique Iglesias, Flo Rida, Akon, Vivica Fox and a long list of others that even comprise of talent not listed on Esterman.com.
Dancing into entertainment industry
In high school Esterman had a limousine company where he’d drive customers to clubs often. Those very same clubs he’d pick up customers is where he’d go back to visit on the weekends. Interested in the scene there was one thing he loved to do, and it wasn’t drinking or smoking.
“I’d go there on the weekends and dance my heart away, dance, dance, dance,” Esterman said, “because I was a little lighter and thinner in shape, I did the dancing for a while.”
At age 16, Esterman appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand after submitting a tape showcasing his dance moves that once won him a local club dance contest. Dancing his way around the entertainment industry he flew out to California and Philadelphia for tapings while also appearing on Dance Party USA.
“It was just for fun, no money,” Esterman said. “Just being a ham in front of the camera, I liked to dance.”
Enjoying hanging around the entertainment scene he would help his local clubs out for free. Meeting celebrities and acting as a VIP guy in the club built him a network of celebrities. As a liaison to the club he’d help the celebrities who were booked by the club get checked into hotels. He first met actress and glamour model Carmen Electra then others such as “Blind Date” host Roger Lodge and dance artists such as Expose, Sweet Sensation and the Cover Girls.
“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 it was no money but fun to be around,” Esterman said. “And the club owner loved me.”
While Esterman was building his rapport with the club’s VIP guests’ people would approach Esterman about getting the celebrities he was hanging out with booked for events. Being the plug to his network, the celebrities he was helping offered to pay him money.
“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,’” Esterman said. “They were like ‘no, no. We have to pay you something because if someone else was booking us we’d have to pay them so we might as well give you the money.’ So that’s how it started.”
Fast-forward to 2017 and now Esterman is approaching his 18th year in the industry. Technology in this day and age has helped Esterman book clients all over the world. However, the internet has added a major challenge.
“It has created a world of confusion. A world of scammers,” Esterman said. “Anybody can act like they are somebody they are not.”
When offers are too good to be true it signals to Esterman that it’s typically a scam. In most cases, Esterman does not know of the scams until the scammers have made off with the money and the buyer finally comes to Esterman reporting to him the situation. While Esterman can’t make it up by giving them a discount to book the talent they intended to, as it’s obviously not his or his talent’s problem, Esterman attempts to track down the scammers for the buyers.
“I’m always vetting and fixing other people’s problems,” Esterman said. “We try to help the buyers as best as we can.”
When he’s not helping buyers address scammers he’s busy with his regular booking duties and attending requests. While his buyers can range from corporate businesses to parents who want a celebrity for a bar mitzvah, Esterman says bookings and calculating rates is never a “one size fits all thing.” Factors such as a celebrity’s interests, schedule and location all impact rates. Esterman has to keep an open line of communication between the celebrity and the buyer to make sure everyone is getting what they want.
Esterman has heard of other booking agents in the field who take their buyers along the ride to sugar coat things but when it gets down to business say things popped up. Avoiding this whole scenario is why Esterman’s candid approach is well respected.
When working with average people who don’t have the experience as a professional booker he goes the extra mile to explain to them how things work and provides them realistic options.
“A lot of people want a Rolls Royce for Ford Mustang money, you just can’t do that,” Esterman said.
While Esterman keeps it real with his potential buyers, he always runs by requests to his celebrity talents. He knows what his talent wants to hear based on his relationship with them but runs by all inquiries through the talent to give them final say to avoid speaking on their behalf.
With many responsibilities Esterman points out that the main challenge is staying the course throughout the entire process.
“It’s very time consuming. It’s got its ups and down. You have to have thick skin of being able to ride that mental wave,” Esterman said. “One thing ‘oh my God its great deals on the table’ but…the fat lady doesn’t sing until the money hits the bank.”
Esterminute radio show
Telling entertainment news is an interest for Esterman, one that he sees a void in. While many shows cover celebrity gossip Esterman is looking to establish a radio show that takes people behind the scenes of the businesses side of the entertainment world.
“Nobody has really done something on this world…the business side of it,” Esterman said. “I like the fact that you can get some information that only I usually see behind my desk or across my computer but it’s never going to be something that’s really public; so it’s great to hear these stories that’s ‘wow’ how much has been offered by so and so to do what? A lot of the average people would not know that.”
Esterman’s first choice for hosting Esterminute.com is his client and close friend Lopez.
Hoping to be around doing what he’s doing for at least another 10 years Esterman as an eligible bachelor, hopes to find greater pastures in settling down when meeting the love of his life.. For the kid who danced his way into the entertainment business and fell into a career doing what he loved he’s added to the Esterman legacy. A legacy larger than the family’s owned business of over 45-years in the Esterman Estate Jewelers, it’s the legacy that represents the family’s values in “honesty and integrity.”
“Other booking agents come and go,” Esterman said. “I pride myself on the fact that I built a good name, been around for a long time and I’m still here.”
By Gino Terrell
Looking to get in contact with Mike Esterman? He’s only one email away at firstname.lastname@example.org