I have recently been helping a friend create a Marketing Plan to help them move forward in their career (something I should maybe also be doing for myself!) While doing this, I have discovered many things that I wish to share with you all today in a brand-new Sue’s Views. These are just some bullet points pulled from a section of my “Business of Cabaret Class” which will be offered very soon here on Cabaret Hotspot University.
How to get started? First of all, what is marketing? It’s basically just hype and creating a buzz about your work. To be honest, it is easier for someone else to do for you than it is for you to do yourself because it feels weird to have to “sing your own praises”. The problem is that, until we reach a certain level of notoriety, it does not pay to hire someone…it’s very expensive and what can they publicizing if you are not out there working? So, initially, we need to learn how to do this ourselves.
Here in NY, most of us can just pick up the phone and call the restaurant owner or booking agent because we know everyone. However, for out of town gigs, it’s more difficult. I have occasionally created my own Agent. Her name in Janet, she has a New Yawk accent, and she calls on behalf of Sue Matsuki. It’s Acting Shecky! This just allows me to act on my own behalf without having to actually be me, but don’t get caught! They’d view you as either really funny, really smart or really pathetic!
Marketing is basically just the way that you present yourself to the world and a tool used to development that relationship.
Step 1 is to create your own Marketing Plan which should include:
- Where you currently are and where you wish to be in 1, 5 and 10 years. Set your goals but also project and set your expected outcome/results. Be specific. This comes under the Julie Cameron (“The Artist’s Way”) concept of “naming and claiming” a goal. You cannot achieve what you have not set out as a goal. Dream big, of course, but also be realistic. Your goals can and should grow and change.
- How do you personally measure your success? Is it more bodies in the seats? Is it more people you do not know in the seats? Is it that invitation to the very few bigger singing events in the city? Is it a certain number of “likes” on social media? What achieved goals would make you feel successful? Write them all down.
- What do you currently bring to the table by way of assets…what do you have to offer? Talent, of course, but what tangible things can you use that you have to help create the buzz that creates that hype that gets you to the next level? Awards? CDs? YouTube presence? A sponsor? Merchandise? A press person? An established reputation? Great reviews? A reputation as a drama-free pro?
- How can you monetize your talent? This is a H-U-G-E question and when you answer it, let me know please! You can guest lecture for me! We are currently researching and updating this question for our next course so stay tuned!
- Finally ask yourself, “What is my Mission Statement”? Is it to bring joy to the world through your art? Is it to bring the genre of Cabaret to a wider audience? These are the usual Mission Statements…something hopeful and meaningful with an arty purpose. It can also be tangible like: Making money or putting more bodies in the seats. But then, you have to go back to your Marketing Plan and say HOW you are going to honor this Mission Statement. This statement can and should change as you achieve the specific goals you have set out.
We then have to look at how we present ourselves:
- Have you established a “brand”? Are all your materials consistent? Do you have a certain font or logo that you use? Is there a color that you use? Be consistent.
- Get a logo or a caricature made.
- ALWAYS look like a star when you go out or do any virtual performance on Zoom. Julie Wilson used to always make me dress up (not that I wouldn’t) to go out with her because she used to say that if you want to be perceived as a star, you have to look like one. She also said that you can only make your first impression on someone once. People need to say, “Who is that woman/man?” when you enter the room. This goes for your Zoom presence too, at least from the waist up!
- Do you have a one-sheeter (Press Release) about you and then for each project that you do OR for each show (product) that you currently offer? This is very impressive when trying to book out of town. If you send 10 one-sheeters of different shows that you could offer to that theater…one of them should hit. There is an “art” to a good pitch which we cover in more detail in my class, but you should have someone you trust objectively read your materials and even proof-read for errors. (Trust me on this says the Queen of Typos!)
- Check your social media presence…
- What does your Facebook page say about you? Are you extremely political? That’s GREAT but it could affect your bookings. I’d suggest having a personal page for that and then keeping your professional page and those postings to just work-related posts.
- Read your page right now objectively, as if it was not your page and ask yourself, “Who is this person? Would I hire this person?” What do your first 10 posts say about you?
- Do you have a social media presence? Do you Tweet regularly?
- Do you have a YouTube channel and/or presence yet? I’d recommend that you Google yourself to see what comes up and then explore each post. I have had other people post things without my knowledge that I would never have posted myself. I usually ask them politely to take them down and if they do not, I report it to YouTube. Remember…YOU are responsibly for your own image.
- While websites are not being used as much, people still do check. What does your website look like today, right now? Is your calendar updated with your current gigs? Is your bio current? Does your cover picture reflect what you look like today…not 20 years or 30 pounds ago? Does your site offer downloadable bios, pictures, letters of recommendation, a music list, tech rider and press quotes? The easier you make it for them to “pitch” you to their board, the more likely you are to get the gig. All of this presents you as a well-organized professional. I’d book you!
Doing Your Research:
- Know your market! If trying to book an out of town theater…look them up and see what they are presenting. Is it theme shows (Sinatra, Cole Porter, etc.) or American Songbook or Jimmy Buffet fans? Do they present more theatrical performances? Is the average age of their audience 50-80 or 20-50? This would determine what kind of show, and music, you should pitch.
- Are they in a red or blue state? While I am personally never political on stage beyond an innuendo joke here or there, I would be very careful pitching any area of the country without knowing who I was pitching.
- Further to the point above, there is the potential of alienating half of your audience if you do not know who you are playing to. No one wants “crickets” when they perform if a joke bombs or if they have insulted the house. Remember, we are hired to entertain not lecture. If you are invited to perform specifically for a known party…go for it! Bottom line? Make sure you know what you’re walking into.
- It’s OK to call the theater or the booking agent and ask questions.
Checking in on your own stats:
- Once you have established yourself on social media…track your results. Don’t just look at what’s working, the real truth in how to move forward and build upon where you are right now is to look at what’s not working. What do your hits and numbers say?
- Is your “on-demand” doing better than your live broadcasts? What does that tell you? Look at the times people are watching on-demand. What does this mean?
- Do you get more hits on a set day/time, when people know where and when to find you consistently or do you try different times/days to reach a greater audience? Try both. Which works better?
- I had a friend who posted a song and I noted she had like 800 hits…awesome! This made me look at another friend’s page who also posts (a lot) and each time she only had 20-80 hits. They had a similar number of friends and both were very talented so why did one gal hit and the other not?
Here are a few basic things that work for or against an artist when self-promoting:
- Over saturation. If you are doing several things in a week or month, maybe consolidate and offer a once weekly notice of all your weekly events on social media but mix up the days you post. Ex.: Sunday it’s your weekly schedule on Facebook. Monday you blast your mail list. Wednesday you hit the MAC group. Then do the daily offerings once as a reminder that “Today at 7:00 I am…”.
- Being Tenacious. GREAT! But, there is that fine line between being an advocate for yourself and getting the word out and “OK…enough already, I got it!” If there is too much to absorb and it’s consistent, it actually can work against you. People will tone out rather than tune in.
- Inject Humor. I personally respond to people who find a way to interject humor in their hype. Sean Patrick Murtaugh does this regularly in his promos and catch phrases like: “No Cover, No Pants!” This indicates a little about who I am going to see and, if I didn’t know this person, I’d assume he had a sense of humor.
- Marketing/Postcards/Posts. Your materials should reflect and give a hint to what your audience is about to see.
- Bad clips. Sometimes I see a clip and I’m like, “WOW, is that really what you are using to get me to come to see you?” Have someone else you trust tell you if a clip you are thinking of posting does you justice. Also, posting a duet with someone who may be a lesser singer than you, does not do you (or that person) any justice.
- Quality Matters. Try to present clips that have been professionally edited. This speaks volumes to your overall professionalism. Take your full show and have your video guy make one-off clips from your show and create your YouTube presence with those clips. Speaking of clips…
- Old clips. I LOVE Throw back Thursday…on Thursday! People who constantly post old clips and photos of who they were can imply something about what they may currently think about themselves now. They are wonderful and fun to look at but be careful at how often you do this and whether you are balancing it with what you’re up to today.
There is SO much more to the “Business of Cabaret” (or performing in any genre) that can help you all take your art to the next level like: creating a pitch, writing a good Press Release or One-Sheeter, analyzing your stats and then knowing how to fix what may be staring you right in the face, creating a presence on social media, making a sizzle reel, research, follow up, conferences, building a fan base, life after Covid, performing on Zoom or Jam Kazam and more! Cabaret Hotspot University will cover all these topics in a few classes we are currently preparing for you so stay tuned. Hopefully some of these observations have helped you think about your personal marketing.