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.
Hey K. – That’s great news because you have an “in” – the bar manager. As I’ve mentioned in quite a few past FAQ’s and Answersa 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. Now you just need to make the Golden Ticket work for you.
The best scenario is for the bar manager to take you by the arm and march you into the talent booker’s office and give a personal introduction. This of course would be followed by, “Put her on the schedule – she’s funny!”
But in this case you’re working with a (Golden) business card. 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 make use of a sports reference in honor of… well, sports – 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 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?
Other than showcases with multiple comedians doing short sets, most clubs (especially outside of NYC and LA) use three acts:
- Opener / MC
- Feature / Middle Act
- Headliner / Closer
Each week the booker schedules the three performance slots. That’s normally 52 weeks a year. They have regulars that can play the club a couple or few times a year, but they need to use a variety so audiences will return and not see the same comics over and over.
When you add it up – that’s 156 performance spots per year just for a 3-act club.
The bookers not only have to deal with the talent needed for those spots, but in most cases with a headliner and in many cases with a feature, they’re also dealing with agents and managers. There are negotiations, contracts, travel arrangements, accommodations, publicity – and the always expected but unknown until it happens at the last minute emergencies. That could include any one of the performers cancelling for any number of reasons including a missed flight, illness, weather (the list could go on and on) and another comic needs to be scheduled immediately.
But that’s only part of it…
The booker is also fielding countless phone calls from comics wanting to return, newer comics wanting to play the club for the first time, and agents and managers who want to schedule their clients. On top of that there are TONS of emails, websites and promo videos to navigate through.
There could be much more than 156 performance spots bookers are dealing with. They could also be scheduling private parties, special events or other clubs. And if the booker is good at his / her job, they have to deal with it all.
I won’t even get into the job duties that might include attending meetings, “doing lunch”, 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 very busy people.
But one thing that should be a positive for you as a newer comedian is that bookers are 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 who 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 or hire assistants as gatekeepers.
That method won’t work. That’s why you have to play the game. You need to stay in touch and let them know you exist, but you can’t be annoying.
There’s a game plan for that and I know it can work because it worked on me when I was booking comedians in Los Angeles (where I learned this “game”).
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You’ve made the first phone call. I’m assuming you either reached the booker’s voice mail or assistant.
- 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 real live person” and won’t leave a message. But many others (like me) think 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. This is (your name) and I showcased at (club name). The bar manager (name) gave me your card and suggested I contact you about a possible booking. I’m calling to find the best way to schedule an audition or send a 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 succeeded 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 or have an agent or manager doing the dirty work. But I’ll tell’ya what. I’m not even booking clubs 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…”
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 call with another 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 hear back or the talent booker answers the phone. Either way they will have heard of you (name recognition). Then use your Golden Ticket – 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 performers stayed in touch – without being annoying – and I started thinking that they were thinkingI 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 soon, I looked at their 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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