Ask A Cabaret Question at McElrath Cabaret–How Do You Talk To A Cabaret Booker? Join The Conversation!


Welcome to McElrath Cabaret–We hope you enjoy our cabaret blog!

Here is Irene Kral with “This Life We’ve Led.”  A lovely voice–she recorded albums from the 1950s through the 1970s.  You can learn more about Ms. Kral at her official website–enjoy!


Hi!  Wednesday is the day of the week when we at McElrath Cabaret post a cabaret question for the consideration of our readers.  The questions have something to do with cabaret, in all its many aspects.


We encourage you to send us any cabaret question that you have that you would like us to pose to the group! You can leave a question in the comments section below, or you can email it to us at kjandathenacabaret [at] Just fill in the [at] with the @ symbol—we need to foil the spam bots, don’cha know.


This week’s question is:  How do you talk to a cabaret booker?


This is part of the process of working in a room that features cabaret entertainers–you have to talk with the booker to see if what you have to offer will be a good fit for their room.

It is always best, before you ever talk to anyone who can hire you, to pay the club a visit for yourself.  Pick a busy night, so you can see what the club is like when it’s at it’s best.

Count the tables and chairs–how many does the room seat?

Look at the menu–what is offered in terms of food and drink, and what is the price range?  This can help you determine your cover charge, but more on that in a minute.

If you can, go in regularly and get to know the wait staff.  If they are on your side, it can help you when you have an opportunity to perform in the room.

If possible, talk to other singers who have performed in the room, and get their impressions.

If you can, introduce yourself to the booker or club owner–it is sometimes one and the same person, but not always.  If there is any kind of a piano bar or open mic that the room holds, get in there and sing at it, so you can start to become known, or at least recognized by the staff and owner/booker.

Now you are ready to talk to the booker.  You call and either talk to him or her, or set up a time to talk to him or her.  These folks are usually very busy, so it is best to not waste their time, but be succinct and business-like.  Once you are talking, you should have a quick–1-2 sentence–description of what your cabaret show is called and what it’s about.  You should have done your homework prior to this call in your visits to the room to know what the average set length is there–one hour is typical, but it can vary from room to room.   Then ask if the booker might be interested in booking you.

He or she will say yes, and you can move on to scheduling the show.  If the booker says no, try to find out why.  Often these rooms get booked way in advance, so you have to call sometimes months in advance in order to get a spot.  They may keep you in mind for future openings, or they may book you several months out.  If you can be flexible, they may be able to come up with a way to book you so that it meets their needs as well as yours.

The topic of money and your payment might come up.  This is often tied to audience.  Some rooms may hire you straight out, and pay you a flat fee.  If the booker asks you what your rate is, counter with “What can your budget afford?”, and put the ball back in their court.  They will usually tell you at that point, and you can decide if that amount works for you or not.  Alternatively, you may be given a chance to ask for a cover charge from the audience, and the room will usually ask for a food and drink minimum.  You will want to keep your cover charge in line with the prices that the room has on its menu.  If you are starting out, check and see what the average cover charges are for the room–it may vary depending upon how many musicians you have backing you, for example, or your level of experience and following.  In many instances, the onus is on the performer to fill the room, so that the room makes money.  If you don’t, they often won’t hire you again.  So it is good to know how big the room is, and if your mailing list and network is large enough to actually fill the room with paying customers.  Remember that a mailing list will only yield at best 5-10 percent of people that will actually heed your call to action, and plan accordingly.  However, if it’s an established room with a large clientele, you filling the room may be a bit less of an issue–it really varies room by room.

It is also very wise, in this day and age if you live outside of the major cabaret areas of the country, to make sure you and the booker are on the same page as to what your are offering–in other words, do they understand what cabaret is?  Sometimes a booker just wants to hire people who will provide background music, or ambient entertainment, and sometimes they want a full-on cabaret show.  While the audience could talk through the first one and it might be considered acceptable behavior, it certainly wouldn’t be if you were offering them a full cabaret show, where the expectation for the audience is that they would treat it more like a live theatre performance, where they mostly sit and are quiet and listen and respond at appropriate times.  Make very sure that the booker understands exactly what you can offer, so no one is disappointed.

The room usually provides sound, but when you are hired it is always important to find out exactly what they have for sound, and determine if you need to supplement what they have with some equipment of your own.  Make sure you talk to the booker about this.

These are just a few tips, but hopefully they will help you the next time you have an opportunity to talk to a cabaret booker.

Do you have any other tips for talking to a cabaret booker?  I can’t wait to hear what your responses are to today’s question, so let me know down in the comments here. 


You can also leave a comment on LinkedInGoogle+Facebook or Twitter.  And you can always feel free to drop us a line, either in the comments below or send us a direct email, and let us know a cabaret question that you would like us to ask, and we’ll do our best to include it in an upcoming Wednesday post.


I truly look forward to your joining the conversation with your comments! We value each of our readers very much, and hope to entertain you and give you a place to come and learn more about cabaret.


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We are now also on LinkedIn–which has a Cabaret group you should join (!)–and Google+.  You can connect with us there as well.


We appreciate your support!

Till next time, 

ps–The Cabaret Soiree Link Party is still going strong–you can visit anytime to click on the links and see what others have posted, or you can share your own recent cabaret blog or cabaret website link from now through Thursday.  Link is below.



Weekly Post Lineup At McElrath Cabaret:

Mondays:  Cabaret Soiree Cabaret Blog Link Party

Tuesdays:  Cabaret Tip Tuesday

Wednesdays:  Ask A Cabaret Question

Thursdays: Featured Cabaret Blog, Website, Performer

Fridays:  Cabaret Through Time

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About Athena at McElrath Cabaret

Athena McElrath is an entertainer with a love for theatre and singing. She enjoys delving in the area of historical cabaret, researching the singers and clubs that were in business from before 1920 to the present, in New York and beyond.
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