LOS ANGELES – Last week, Paris Hilton, Paula Abdul and Holly Madison got their groove on a the Miami Music Week AVICII Pool Party, while former “Girl Next Door” Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett spent her Saturday basking in the sun at Wet Republic at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
And they did not float around in their respective pools for free, or even for what they were paid to perform the exact same type of floating act the year before.
“The cost of hiring a celebrity to attend or host an event has risen over the past couple of years,” Elliot Stares, of the Miami-based PR consultancy ESPR, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts. “It's increasingly more difficult for a publicist or brand to garner editorial coverage for an event without a celebrity association.”
Kim Kardashian raised the paid-to-party bar, earning an unprecedented $600,000 to ring in last New Year’s at TAO Las Vegas, beating the records of other “professional partiers,” like Britney Spears, who raked in a reported $350,000 for her efforts sitting on a VIP stage at PURE nightclub on New Year’s Eve 2006, and Paris and Nicky Hilton, who together banked an estimated $500,000 to usher in 2008 at Vegas hotspot LAX.
So what does one earn to briefly show their C- to B-list face at an average function?
“At minimum, celebrities are getting $10,000 to $15,000 for a straight appearance, which often includes no more than ... a couple of photo ops,” one New York event publicist dished. “For a store opening in NYC last year, Blake Lively was paid $50,000 to just walk the carpet. She left ten minutes later.”
According to L.A publicist Ben Russo of EMC Bowery, the quest to get “talent” to an event is such a challenge, luring them with less “work” is becoming the norm.
“Gone are the days when they were contracted to stay all night and do a certain amount of interviews. All celebrities have to do now is a quick PR stunt. It’s usually in the contract that they only have to stay for an hour – and that includes the time taken to pick them up in a car,” Russo explained.
Corporate event sponsors -- the ones ultimately funding a star’s appearance -- are aware of the cheese factor associated with budgeting for celebrity guests, so they're often reaching out earlier in the PR process to secure a celebrity face.
“Brands are getting smarter about structuring deals, and ... using funds to secure a celebrity 'brand ambassador,'" a PR insider told us. "It makes the relationship seem more ‘organic.’’
This way, stars can earn thousands wearing a certain clothing brand, perfume line, or promoting a specific charity. “Every celebrity has their own charity now, so there needs to be some incentive,” Russo explained. “Stars are hit up dozens of times a month to attend these types of events, so they tend to choose wisely knowing that the charity is using their name and their likeness will stay online forever.”
And Hollywood types are also trying to guard against being branded as someone who just makes a living going to store openings and pool parties. This pushes publicists to find other ways for sponsors to pony up.
“Sometimes we provide hair and makeup or a car service, or benefit the celeb’s charity,” said Jose Martinez, VP of Brandlink Communications. Another source said stars are often “paid” with lavish gifts, or offered equity in the brand they are promoting.
But for companies that can’t keep up with the celebrity demand for bigger bucks or bigger shares, it’s a problem.
“This trend is getting worse. Celebrities are not showing up to support launches and celebrations unless they are paid, which as hurt the business drastically,” sniped one PR business owner. “Big brands get big names because they can afford it, while smaller companies are left struggling to either pay beyond their means, or suffer without a known name.”
Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay