Hi Dave – Do you have any tips for contacting club bookers? When I was leaving a recent showcase, the bar manager said they would like to have me back. He gave me his card as well as the card for the person who books the room. I emailed the talent booker and she hasn’t responded. Should I call her if I don’t hear from her or should I try emailing again? I don’t want to be annoying, but if performing there again is an opportunity I would really love to do it again. Thanks! K.F.
Hey K.F. – That’s great news because you have an “in” – the bar manager. As I’ve mentioned in quite a few past FAQ’s and Answers a personal recommendation from someone who either works with or works for a talent booker is like having a Golden Ticket.
It beats the heck out of cold calling or blind emails (or snail mail). Now you just need to make the Golden Ticket work for you.
The best scenario is for the bar manager to take you into the talent booker’s office and give a personal introduction. This of course would be followed by, “Put him on the schedule – he’s funny!”
But in this case you’re working off a recommendation – the (Golden) business card the bar manager gave you. It’s not a slam dunk, but you’re still in a better position than when you first walked in the club for your showcase.
You’ve already taken the first step by sending an email. But you haven’t heard back. So to put this into sports lingo – this means one thing:
Let the game begin!
Talent bookers for busy clubs are busy people. Their first priority is to book the shows. For showcase clubs in NYC and LA this could mean anywhere from 10 to 15 performers per night. This is also true for club showcase nights in many other cities like Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, Detroit, etc…
But since you’ve already done a showcase, we won’t go that route. Let’s talk about actually getting booked in a club for a paying gig.
Now I have your attention – right?
Okay, in addition to scheduling showcases the talent booker schedules the performers for the paid gigs. Most clubs, such as The Improv, Funny Bones, Comedy Zones, etc… use three acts:
- Opener / MC
- Feature / Middle Act
Each week the booker schedules the three performance slots. That’s normally 52 weeks a year (most clubs stay open during holiday weeks and just close for the one day – for instance Thanksgiving, Christmas or Super Bowl). They have regular comics that can play the club a couple or few times a year, but they need to use a variety of performers so regular audience members will return and not see the same comedians over and over.
When you add it up – that’s 156 performance spots per year just for a 3-act club.
The club bookers not only have to deal with the talent needed for those spots, but in most cases with a headliner and sometimes with a feature, they’re also dealing with the comedian’s agent and manager. There are negotiations, contracts, travel arrangements, accommodations, publicity – and the always expected but unknown until it happens last minute emergencies. That could include a comic having to cancel at the last minute and another needs to be scheduled immediately, a missed flight, illness – and the list could go on and on.
But that’s only part of it…
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The booker is also fielding countless phone calls from newer performers that also want to play the club, and agents and managers who want their clients to play the club. On top of that there are TONS of emails and promotional packages to navigate through.
There also could be much more than only 156 performance spots they’re dealing with. They could be booking private parties, special events or other clubs. And if the booker is serious about the job, they have to deal with it all.
I won’t even get into the job duties that might include doing lunch, doing meetings or watching shows to see how the performers they’ve already booked are doing. My point is – from personal experience – there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that most performers don’t realize. Talent bookers can be busy people.
But one thing that keeps you as a new talent busy is that they’re always looking for new talent. If not – they’re not very good at what they do. Your goal is to be one of their new talents.
The key – as you’ve already mentioned – is not to be annoying.
I remember talking with comedians that were so frustrated because a certain talent booker never got back with them that they decided to call every day. Their thought process was that the booker would eventually have to deal with them.
I’ve got news for you. Talent bookers don’t have to deal with them or anyone they don’t want to. Imagine someone calling you every day for a job. It’s called being annoying – a pain in the butt – and why so many bookers screen their calls, have hold buttons on their phones, or hire receptionists as gate-keepers.
That method won’t work. That’s why you gotta play the game. You need to stay in touch and let them know you exist – but you can’t be annoying.
Here’s a game plan. And I know it can work because it worked on me when I was booking comedians in LA…
You’ve made the first phone call. I’m assuming you either reached the talent booker’s voice mail or receptionist.
- Always leave a message with your name and phone number.
That bit of advice has been – and still is – debated by comedians and speakers I’ve worked with. Some only want to talk with a talent booker in person and won’t leave a message. To me that’s a wasted effort and phone call. The idea is to start building name recognition. You can’t do that by just hanging up.
- Make it short and professional – get to the point:
“Hi Mr./ Ms. ______ My name is ______ and I showcased at (club name). Your bar manager (name) gave me your card and suggested I call you about a possible booking. I’m calling to find the best way to schedule an audition or send you a DVD or link to my website video. You can reach me at (your phone number) and my website is (website). Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.”
- Then hang up.
Okay, put it into your own words. But that’s not a bad script. It succeeds in getting your name and contact info to the person you want to work for.
- But don’t just wait. Take action – send a postcard.
Yeah, I know. Some performers think postcards are outdated. But are those performers working as much as they’d like to? If they are – then maybe they have enough contacts with talent bookers already. But I’ll tell’ya what. I’m not even booking anymore and I still get postcards.
- Postcards have your photo, name and contact info.
Send one after your first call and it can add to your name recognition. Put a personal note on the back – “I hope you received my call, etc…”
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Wait a couple weeks and call again. You aren’t being annoying – but you also are not disappearing. It continues to put your name in front of the talent booker.
- Mix it up a little. Instead of following that with a postcard, wait a week and send an email. Again – be short and to the point. Include a link to your website.
If you still don’t hear back wait a couple weeks and call again. Then repeat the process until you do hear back or the talent booker answers the phone. Either way they will have heard of you (name recognition). Then use your Golden Ticket (in this case the bar manager) or plead your case – for an audition or booking.
- If this is a local club, go to a show (or two, or three). Say hello to the bar manager again and ask if you can meet the talent booker. If there’s another opportunity to showcase – sign up and get on stage.
Of course there are no guarantees. But it’s a better game plan than being annoying or disappearing just because a busy person doesn’t return your first phone call or email.
Give it a try. As mentioned, I’m sharing this method because it worked on me.
In fact, a few times I was almost embarrassed because the comedians stayed in touch – without being annoying – and I started thinking that they were thinking I wasn’t doing my job very well.
So when I realized after some well spread out phone messages, postcards and emails that they might be calling again soon, I looked at their promo videos. When they called it was almost like an “Ah-ha!” moment for me.
“YES!” I had watched their video!
Now, whether they got a paid booking, showcase or “no thanks” depended on their performance and experience. But at least they had built up name recognition and were given the opportunity – and that’s what this method is all about.
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Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up Comedy, Comedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop:Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.
For details about upcoming 2014 comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com
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