I have been wanting to do this interview for a while but the Affiliate Summit events always come up so fast…
But here it is… The interview with the man that has IMO added a big incentive to goto the Affiliate Summit.
The Affiliate Ball!
So here is my interview with Affiliate Ball founder Darren Blatt.
Tells us about your background.
First off, thanks for taking an interest in my story. It’s an honor to do this interview with you.
My background in the music industry started fresh out of high school at 18 years old. I was working at a concert club in Cleveland and another in Columbus while I was a student at THE Ohio State University. I worked security so I’d either be working the backstage dressing room with the artists or breaking up fights. I also informed the owners of which artists I thought would do great.
Flashing forward, about 7 years later I moved to San Diego and started a couple of alarm system companies. When I left my partner, of one of my alarm clients made me an offer to do some marketing for his company. They invented the first 3rd party counter for websites. This is where I first learned about affiliate marketing all the way back in 1997. I fell in love with the affiliate marketing industry and grew my own affiliate marketing business.
What gave you the idea to start the affiliate ball?
Back in the early days around 1997 to 1999, I would attend small industry parties after the affiliate conventions, and felt that the industry could benefit from one huge party that caters to the whole trade show. At that time the party scene only had small parties for 50 to 200 people and many took place in hotel rooms, hardly the professional space for networking. I wanted to create a place for the biggest players and newcomers to meet and get deals done.
The idea to throw parties at trade shows started in 1999 when I threw an event called the Players Ball. We had Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, and tons of other huge artists perform. We always had 2,000 to 3,500 invited guests of the trade shows. I figured since I knew how to book top artists and produce music events, why not throw the ultimate party with the biggest names in music.
On a marketing level, the signage is huge. We reach almost everyone attending the trade show. I thought it would give sponsors an edge to be able to offer VIP perks at the private party with Snoop. Everyone else entertained their people with nice dinners but no one remembers who bought them dinner 10 years later. I wanted to provide legendary events that are remembered for life. This is a relationship business. For almost 2 decades, our parties have been a staple at trade shows and help build the foundation for long-term relationships and big business deals.
After throwing the Players Ball for 12 years, I saw an opportunity to cater to the Affiliate Summit Trade Show. I created the ultimate event, The Affiliate Ball so that affiliates, networks, advertisers, and other online marketers could network, entertain clients, have the opportunity to sponsor a big time event at a fraction of the cost, and culminate the conference with a once in a lifetime experience that gets bigger and better each year.
What performers have you had to date?
Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Nelly, E-40, Juicy J, Sean Paul, Shaggy, Big Boi of Outkast, Three 6 Mafia, Ice-T with Coco, Mixmaster Mike of the Beastie Boys, Bone Thugs N Harmony, Too Short, Doug E Fresh, B Real of Cypress Hill, Flava Flav and lots more. We’ve had surprise guests like Coolio, Kurtis Blow, Sugar Hill Gang, and the list goes on.
We also had social media mogul and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk speak at our VIP pre-party last year. That might have been one of the coolest additions to our talent line up. Ludacris is the perfect addition to the Affiliate Ball this year. I recently saw him perform in Vegas – you’re in for a treat!
How do you explain to the performers what the event is and are any of them intrigued about our industry as a whole?
I usually let them know that it’s a party first and they’re performing in the background. They’re used to their shows being hardcore fans while our show guests are there to also network and do deals. It’s fun to see our crowd finally get loose and have fun after working super hard on the trade show floor all day. Some of these entertainers are interested in doing internet deals and sometimes I’ll set things up. Too Short, Digital Underground & Doug E Fresh are just a few who took a special interest. About half of the artists don’t care at all and just show up right before they go on stage and leave right after.
Walk us through the process of getting artists from start to finish (I.e. How do come up with them, how do negotiations happen, what all do you cover expense wise, what does a typical Ryder look like, how does it work logistically (when do people get in and fly out)
It all starts with who I think would be the best artist for the amount I think I can raise in sponsorships. I’ll reach out to my top 2 or 3 sponsors first to get a gauge of things. MonsterAds.com has been supporting every Ball now for years. It’s very important to have them locked in first. I’ve also been lucky to have NationalMerchants.org become big supporters of the last few now AND they’ve already said they’re down for Vegas. Once they commit to me then it takes some of the pressure off. I take great risks every time, there’s no guarantees I’ll raise enough to cover my costs. This is where I go into hustle mode and make it happen. I’m pretty good at figuring out which artist will please the masses while staying inside of a certain budget.
There’s lots to get done. I coordinate with their managers, agents, sound engineers, DJs. I have to get contracts worked out, transportation needs, sound equipment, food & drinks backstage, coordination on sound check and what time they’ll be at the venue, etc. It gets pretty crazy because I host the night on stage as I’m coordinating with the artists in between. I’m a believer that to make sure things get done properly I need to do it myself. Which is why I’m on the stage thanking the sponsors too.
Riders (backstage and sound equipment needs) do look pretty intimidating because these artists are used to performing in huge arenas. It takes lots of going back and forth to scale things down. Sometimes artists want Playstation with certain games set up backstage. Lots of times they request freshly squeezed orange juice or certain flavors of Snapples. This is why for those who want to throw a party with big artists performing should just join us and let me handle it. It’s not easy.
Like anything, this is an investment by you putting up all the cash up front to end up ROI positive. What’s that like?
Who has been your favorite celebrity to work with?
It’s hard to narrow that down to only 1 person. Snoop is super cool and has a great energy. He also appreciates all of the Go Go dancers we bring. We go over board by bringing 40 to 60 dancers per party. Seal Paul might have been the best overall. He was hanging out, taking pictures with all of the sponsors and was super down to earth. Too Short has been a friend all of the years and does projects with us from time to time. Ice-T & Ice Cube are both very nice and super professional to work with. I’ve had great experiences with all of our artists. One day soon I’ll release lots of behind the scenes footage on the D$ Show (d-money.com).
Who was your least favorite to work with?
I’ve been fortunate to have great experiences. Sometimes I might have a communication error with the artist. For example, I had a meet and great for sponsors lined up with Juicy J but it didn’t happen because the people with him either weren’t aware it was arranged or they didn’t care. I can’t hold that against Juicy J.
What are the clubs like to work with?
It’s hard to work with clubs because they require huge bar minimums. We pay for the production, venue costs and the artists. We don’t include drinks for guests since it’s already so expensive booking huge names. I’m still on the hook for a huge bar minimum because the venue needs to get paid too and they need a huge staff that accommodates over 2,000 to 3,000 guests.
What all do you have planned for next months ASE in NYC ?
We always have surprise celebrity guests that show up. I’m always pleasantly surprised that we have people show up that I’m not even aware of. I don’t want to spoil our surprises so I won’t mention what I know. I do have a full Ludacris performance lined up where he’ll perform all of his hits. DJ Diamond will be our house DJ again. He used to go on the road with Beyonce, Prince and many other huge names. He’s also a scratch DJ that always amazes our guests. The AFFY Awards are back, 4 new winners this time. It only takes about 10 minutes to salute them during the party and it’s well worth it.
The VIP Pre-party is different this year. First off, we’re issuing 75% less VIPs than in years past. Super hard pass to get and only the sponsors have them. VIPs are the first ones inside of the venue from 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm. This guarantees their space in the concert room to watch Ludacris in person. When doors open at 10:00 pm we’ll have limited space so those who get their first can still get inside while those showing up a little later will still see the show patched into a feed on the rooftop. For those interested in securing VIP Pre-party passes we have an affordable package that includes a special thanks on the site and 2 VIPs. Details are on the site or people can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. But they are gonna sell out fast, so people should hit me up ASAP if interested.
Thank you for making such an awesome event. Any last words?
Thank you for taking an interest in what I’m doing with the Affiliate Ball. I have a fun time doing these events and make life long friends in the process. I’m grateful to all of our past and current sponsors for helping the event evolve into what it is today. At the end of the day the Ball is a marketing platform. People think I just throw parties and that’s cool too. But I’ve been in marketing my whole life and affiliate marketing since the beginning. I’ve figured out a great way to chop up a party into internet promotion using our email blasts, site, youtube videos, facebook, reserved tables, VIPs, signage during the event on the big screens, thanks on the mic and tons more. This party let’s small business owners join big business owners on the same event.
July 31st we will reset the bar once again with our greatest party yet. In the past the Copacabana was too crowded in the concert room so I guarantee that won’t happen this year. We have multiple rooms for our guests to party and have fun. Get there early so you can get into the room with our VIPs and see Luda up close. You can still RSVP at affiliateball.com but you must be attending the Affiliate Summit to get in. Passes can be picked up at our Meet Market booth #831 during the Affiliate Summit between noon and 4:00 pm. You don’t want to miss this one!