Hello fellow jugglers and potential Guinness World Record Setters out there in the digital Universe. Greetings from The Pasta Palace, Home of The Fettucini Brothers and The Paddle Ball King. I hope that all is well with you and that all of your dances with gravity are pleasurable.
So, you think that you are ready to try and set a Guinness World Record? You’ve been working at it, practicing your trick or skill, and you have your eyes set on breaking an established Guinness World Record. Or you are looking to set a brand new Guinness World Record? Having been through the process twice, as well as being currently right in the middle of the process of doing it again, I have been asked to write a little bit about the process and the experience of dealing with the Guinness World Record Association to break and/or set a Guinness World Record.
Firstly, a little background on me for those that do not know who I am. I have been a full-time professional juggler and variety entertainer for going on 25 years now. I am a founding member of The Fettucini Brothers. In addition to also performing as a solo performer, I also run a small talent agency specializing in novelty and variety entertainment. I have earned two Guinness World Records and am currently in the process of applying for my third. Although I am a professional juggler, none of my records are juggling related; they are all paddle ball related. My first Guinness World Record was for “The Most Paddleballs Controlled Simultaneously.” I set this one at 7 Paddle Balls on April 8, 2011 in Milan for the Italian TV program, “Lo Show Dei Record.”
The second Guinness World Record was a group record that I organized (that has since been beaten) for “The Most People Paddle Balling At The Same Time.” That record was set at 356 people on Sept. 2, 2011 at our Hugo Juggling Convention in Davidson NC.
The 3rd Guinness World Record that I am currently in the process of getting certified is “The World’s Largest Paddle Ball,” at a little over 9 ft, set in High Point NC on August 4th, 2011 (currently waiting for approval).
At this point, I must extend a big “thanks” to Dick Franco, as he was the person responsible for my whole connection and association with Guinness World Records. “Thanks, Dick.” I had been exchanging videos on Youtube with another friend, trying to outdo each other with who could do the most Paddle Balls at one time. I must admit that I cheated a little bit and put up a video of me doing 9 paddles and looped it to make it look like I could do it longer than I actually could. Dick Franco was negotiating to get his stepson Ty Tojo on an Italian Guinness World Record TV show around this time to set a juggling Guinness World Record. The producer asked him if he knew of any acts that might be fun, odd or unusual for the show. Dick had just seen my video on Facebook/Youtube, so he showed it to them and the next thing I know Dick is e-mailing me and telling me that I may have a shot on an Italian TV show and the chance to “set” a Guinness World Record doing the 9 Paddle Balls (which if you can remember, I can’t really do). A while later I finally get an e-mail from an Italian TV producer explaining that they would love to have me on the show to set the “The Most Paddleballs Controlled Simultaneously” record. Naturally, I agree, and then as soon as I hit send on the email, I start practicing hard so that can actually do the 9 Paddle Balls that I had just agreed to do!
The experience that I went through on this epic Guinness Italian adventure is rich enough for a whole different article, so I will not segue into that experience here. I will say that it was this experience that set me off on my interest and pursuit on more Guinness World Records. Once I won this first record in Italy for “The Most Paddleballs Controlled Simultaneously,” I looked into it and discovered that this was the very first “paddle pall” record ever entered into the Guinness World Record Database. I realized that there was a void that I needed to fill. When I got home from Italy, I went to the Guinness web site and applied for approval for 9 paddle ball related GWR attempts, in hopes that I would maybe get half of them approved. I received approval for 4 of the 9 that I applied for.
This brings up the first step in the process. If you want to pursue a GWR, you must research and decide whether you want to “set a new” Guinness World Record or “break an existing” GWR. In either case, you can go to the Guinness web site, search the database for records to beat, and also apply for approval of your attempt from there. There is also a great page here, that explains all of the options, details and services that Guinness offers. Guinness will respond in a “timely” fashion, which politely means, “when they get the time.” The response time can vary from a few days to a few weeks, depending on how busy they are. Or, you can pay a fee at this point to “Fast Track” your record. This service that ensures that your application is reviewed and response sent to you within 3 working days of receipt of your Agreement Regarding Record Attempts in the London office. This service costs 450 British Pounds (+20% VAT if applicable). This service gives your record application priority treatment to be researched and processed. It does in no way guarantee acceptance of your record proposal or successful verification of the evidence sent to them. Once this step is complete, your record attempt will be assigned a Claim ID number. This is important, as you will use this number to refer to your record at every step of the process.
At this point, Guinness will either “approve” your record attempt, or not. If they approve your attempt then you have the huge advantage of using the words “Guinness World Record Attempt” in your marketing and promotion of the event, which is a big plus. That is one of the main reasons that you will deal with Guinness and the way they deal with you, compared to the other “World Record” databases that are popping up out there. No one has the brand or name recognition that “Guinness World Records” has. If your record attempt is not approved, you could still do it, and apply to one of the other Record databases, but you will not be able to use Guinness World Records in the promotion of it, and you will probably not get as much press/attention. This brings up the next decision to make, and another way that Guinness makes money. There is a relatively new step in the process. You can decide whether you want to pay to have the GOLD, SILVER or BRONZE range of services. Each level offers a different array of services from having a Guinness Official on hand for your record attempt, to use of the official logo. Each one also has a different fee structure and is negotiated on per case basis. All of these services include having a Guinness official at your event, to be on hand for the attempt to witness it, and to “declare” the Record is a success right then and there, as well as give you your certificate. I have heard that this can cost anywhere from $2000 – $5000. It depends on where it is, as well as what the fees and transportation costs are. The other method that you can choose (and that I have used once and am in the process of doing again), is the Do-It-Yourself method. Guinness sends you a Record Breakers Packet that details all that you need to do and need to know in order to stage the event on your own. Typically this involves collecting HD video from a few angles, high-res. photo images, press coverage of the event (the coverage after the event is better then before, as it corroborates your facts), 2 letters of expert witness testimony, lots of forms to fill out, etc. It takes a lot of detailed work to pull the whole thing together on your own. The advantage of this method is that it does not cost any money. However, the down side is that you do not find out about the success of your record until a later date. Once you gather the data/info, then you mail it off to Guinness for them to review and rule on whether it is official, or not. They will let you know by sending you a certificate, or not.
This brings up yet another step in the process where Guinness offers you the opportunity to pay a fee to speed things up. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? If you are are willing to “grease the wheels” or “pay the piper,” every step can happen much more quickly. You don’t think that they do this stuff for the fun of it, do you? You will get an email from Guinness stating that they got your materials. They will also state that they have a lot of other records in line/queue that they are waiting to look at, in the order that they received them. However, if you are willing to pay 300 British pounds, then they can get to it within 3 working days. Otherwise, the wait can be up to 8 weeks before they process you. Naturally, I decided to wait instead of pay them anything. I am not making any money from any of these events, nor am I working on any specific time frame, so I decide to wait. In the meantime, I asked other previous Guinness World Record Holders about their experiences and how long it took them to hear back. I got various responses, the longest one having waited almost a year before finding out about his. And, oddly enough, when he contacted them to find out the status of his record after waiting forever, he received an e-mail stating that his record was not approved, yet he received his Guinness World Record Certificate in the mail from them a few days later. This is not good news to me and does not bode well for Guinness’ organizational skills. Oh well, I am in it now for the long haul, so I brace myself for what could be a very, very long wait. Keep in mind that this is the group record, so we have 356 people waiting to find out whether we successfully set the record, or not.
This brings up another quick mention concerning “group” records, which was my second record and the first one that I went for. Guinness sets the “minimum” number for any group record at 250. So you need at least that many to even apply for anything like that. As the person organizing the event, you get a certificate and receive credit for the record. However, and here is another way that Guinness Inc. makes money, for a fee or about $25 – $30, each person that participated can order their own personalized GWR certificate for themselves. As you can imagine, many people who participate in these very large group events probably order a lot of these from them. A huge money maker, for sure.
Another very cool benefit of setting a GWR is that you then become a Member of the Guinness World Record Holder’s Society. A club that only GWR holders belong to. So when you apply for subsequent records, you have a place to put your membership number and the officials at Guinness will know that you are already a record holder and already a member.
I’d like to include a brief history of the Book of Guinness World Records. I had always just assumed that that World Records were associated with the Beer/Brewery, as I knew that they were both UK based. I also held out big hopes that by setting a Guinness World Record that I would also be winning a lifetime supply of Guinness. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that was not the case. I did learn, however, that there was a connection between the beer maker and the book. Sir Hugh Beaver (yes, that was his name) who was the managing director of Guinness Breweries, was on a hunting party and got into a heated discussion with a friend over which was the fastest game bird. This led to much arguing later in the pub. So a book of Facts and Records was established, essentially to resolve bar and pub arguments and to prevent fights from happening. It was owned by Guinness up until 2001 when it was purchased by Gullane Entertainment, which was purchased by HIT Entertainment in 2002. In 2006, Apax Partners purchased HIT and sold Guinness World Records in early 2008 to the Jim Patterson Group, which is also the parent company of Ripley Entertainment, which is licensed to operate Guinness World Records’ Attractions.
My first GWR was set on one of their International TV shows, of which there are a dozen or more, taped all around the world. I did the Italian version of the show, but they tape them in Japan, China, Mexico, Australia, and Germany, among many other locations. If/when you get the opportunity to set a record on one of these TV shows, they sometimes will also present you with a very nice Guinness World Record Medal.
You will eventually get your certificate from them in the mail, personalized with your name and record on it. I received both a medal and a certificate for my first GWR. For the next 2 records I will only get the certificate, which to be honest, is as cherished to me as the medal is. Another advantage of getting the opportunity to be on one of the Guinness TV shows, is the fact that since it is a co-produced with Guinness and a TV station, you actually get paid to set these records because you are doing it on a TV show. The TV show pays you, not Guinness. Guinness does not ever compensate people to set records, but the television production companies will pay you to be on their show. Concerning exactly how to get on these Guinness TV shows, I cannot offer any advice. As I mentioned earlier, it was through Dick Franco’s recommendation that I was selected for the Italian show. If you know someone who has appeared on one of these shows in the past, perhaps they will share their connections with you? I do know that once you do one of these shows, if it goes well, they may have you on others. I was asked to be on the Chinese show a few months after the Italian appearance. I know that Aaron Greg, who has held a few records for juggling chains saws and axes, has been on about 5 of these shows. Most of the performers that were on the show in Italy with me were on their third, fourth, and fifth TV show, as well as number of World Records
I feel that I should include a short mention of the other World Record Databases that are popping up like mushrooms these days. You may have seen or heard about some of these databases and websites on the internet: Recordsetters.com, World Record Academy and Assist World Records to name a few. My experiences with these others is that it has been much, much easier to get records approved and listed in these databases. In fact, the World Record Academy has “hijacked” one of my records and listed them on their site twice without my permission, even while I was still waiting to hear from Guinness for their approval. I had to send them a threatening email to take it down so that it did not jeopardize my chances of approval with GWR. However, they also do not have the brand recognition nor the international credibility that Guinness does. I do not recommend that you apply for the same records to other databases at the same time. Guinness does not look favorably upon you applying for the same records to their competition, from what I hear. What I have been doing is, whatever records that Guinness does not approve to sanction. Then I apply for the record on the other sites. I have about 7 Paddle Ball World Records on Recordsetter.com currently.
I would like to discuss one more item concerning setting a Guinness World Record. Say you’ve been through the process and you have successfully set a new or beat an established GWR. The next thing is that you get your name in the book, right? Nope. Wrong. They have so many records set and beaten every year that there is no way that they can include every one in the book. Once the record is official, it will eventually be entered into the Guinness World Record Database (accessed online) but whether or not it makes it into the book is an editorial decision that will be made when they are putting the book together. The same thing goes for if you get a photo in the book, or not. Of course, that is the “ultimate” desire. Once you set a record, you want to be in the book with a photo. You have no control or influence at all over this. They will not even let you know if you are included it. You just have to go out to a book store and buy or look in the book to see if you are there. And just to make it even more difficult to find out, they also edit different versions for different countries. So, while you might not be in the USA edition, you might appear in the Polish edition. So whenever you travel abroad or have friends that live abroad, you need to check those editions, as well. This year, for example, there were only 7 juggling records listed in the book and only 3 images of jugglers. Most of the records mentioned were not even “new’ ones. You just never know.
Overall, it has been a very fun experience. I feel honored to be a part of such a cool and select group of freaks, entertainers, physical anomalies, and oddities. It is something that is truely recognized worldwide and when I announce to a crowd during a show that I am a Guinness World Record Holder, more times that not, that that alone will get a round of applause. It feels good. I am still waiting to hear about GWR #3 being “approved.” I should hopefully know by the end of October. I am already planning and training for #4, “The Longest Distance Paddle Balling While Riding A Unicycle.” I’m hooked. See ya in the Record Books.