What are you NOT allowed to do with your promo video?

Hey Dave – I played a (known) comedy club and it went very well. I got constant laughs and had so much fun. But I’m a bit confused about something. The club sent me a video of my set and said, “Feel free to use it as you want, just as long as it’s not used publicly.” What does that mean? How else can I use it? Can I send it to other clubs? Am I allowed to post pictures? I wanted to use it for my website, but I am in total limbo with this. Thanks in advance for clearing up my confusion – ha! Talk to you soon – R.Y.

Don’t use this.

Hey R.Y. – I just checked on YouTube and found more than a few comedian videos taped at the same (known) club. So I’m really not sure what they mean about “not used publicly.” I’ll tell you at the end of this how to find out, but right now I’ll take a couple guesses and explain why…

The known clubs – and many that are not so well known – are very protective of their images. In business terms, it’s called their brand. When you see an advertisement or commercial promoting an upcoming show, it’s going to be for a comedian that will deliver a performance the audience will expect from that caliber of a club.

Let me clear that up a bit. I won’t single out one particular known club because there are too many. So just pick out your favorite.

These clubs are in business.

How they stay in business in this competitive field is by bringing in comedians audiences will pay to see. This builds their reputation (brand) with consumers (ticket buyers). They want you to feel confident that if you attend a show at their club you’ll see a very funny comedian.

That’s the image they want potential and returning customers to have. Buy a ticket to this (known) club on the “nights advertised” and you’ll have a great time.

But these clubs are also interested in finding new talent. Again, it’s part of the business.

Same openers again?

They can’t bring in the same comics over and over and over because a large segment of their audiences are returning customers. Yes, there are certain comics that are more popular than others, which is why they will have more return engagements. But especially in the clubs where using three comics (MC, feature and headliner) are standard, they don’t want the exact same show. A talent booker will schedule different opening acts and feature acts for that reason.

To help find these new comedians or to give local comics more experience, known clubs might have an open-mic night, showcase (where management is auditioning) or host a comedy class that includes a performance night.

Usually the comedians can get a video of his or her performance.

For some it’s a souvenir of a memorable night. For comics serious about building a career, they’ll use the video to get better. They watch to see how they look on stage, what material worked and what needs work, and to analyze timing and delivery.

But we also know video is the best way to promote your career. If you have a great video the goal is to get it in front of talent bookers. But sometimes depending on “where” you filmed that great set it can be a little confusing on how you’re allowed to use it.

Let’s say you’ve done an open-mic at a known club and have the video. Let’s also say you’ve had some experience and might be ready for paying gigs at lesser known clubs, but not where you made this great video. And even if you are, you’re not the headliner the club would promote to sell tickets.

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If you put this video online and make it seem like you were a paid “regular” (MC, feature or headline) performer at this club, it’s not going to live up to their brand. That’s an important factor for the club because they’ve worked hard to build their reputation. This happens (a lot) with newer comedians. They’re proud of what they’ve done, but need to remember the clubs are also proud of their brands. I know club managers that have contacted comics and demanded they take the videos down.

It’s business.

That’s also why many clubs hide their onstage logos during open-mic and showcase nights. When their brand is presented publicly they want the public to only associate it with the best comics.

Looking for talent?

Another answer to this question would be using it for publicity. You might score a gig at another club or even a benefit show and a clip from your video at the known club is used to sell tickets. Without written permission it’s not a good idea to use video showing their brand (the logo on stage) in the background while you promote a show at a different venue. That could cause more headaches than you’d care to have, so never use one club to promote another.

Again, it’s business.

In your state of confusion, the best bet is to call or email the club and find out exactly what they mean. And since we’re talking about business that’s also a good way to stay in touch. Any time your name is mentioned to a talent booker, you’re promoting yourself (your brand). This is a legitimate reason, rather than an email or postcard just “saying hello and keep me in mind for work…

Be honest.

Tell them you’ve received the video and you’re not sure what you’re allowed to do with it. Then let them tell you. You don’t have to say you want to post it on your website, YouTube or send to other clubs. The club manager / booker should fill in the blanks. Then just follow what they say. Either way they’re doing you a favor. You’ll have a video you can watch to help you improve as a comedian or help promote yourself as a comedian – or both.

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