The wonderful Steve Ross for your Cabaret Tip Tuesday!
Welcome to Cabaret Tip Tuesday at McElrath Cabaret, where we offer cabaret performance tips to help you put together a great performance at your next show!
I’m still thinking about marketing ourselves as cabaret performers, so my tip for you today is this: cater to your audience.
1. You first have to identify: who makes up the majority of your audience? Do you have older audience members, as we do because we perform classic cabaret songs primarily? Do you have a young audience that comes to your shows? Knowing this information will help you in your cabaret song selection that will best appeal to your audience’s tastes, and will also help with knowing where the best places will be to advertise. For example, an online marketing campaign would be ineffective if applied to audience members who are not online. With mature audience members, some are online while others are not, so you may need to use a multi-pronged approach in order to reach them. It might mean doing a hard-copy mailing of your flyers to those not online, and if your audience is small enough, giving them each a call to invite them to your show. With a younger audience, an online marketing campaign could be effective if most of them are online, as is often the case.
You might notice a slanting toward a particular gender in your audience makeup. There are some rooms (ie. friendly restaurants and bars) where women feel comfortable coming alone for an evening’s entertainment, while there are other rooms (ie: dives, “meat markets”) where they likely would not feel comfortable. This is just an example, but I think you get my point. We find that middle-aged (40s) and older women make up a big part of our audience, so we look for rooms where they feel comfortable and again, it plays into the song selection that they would enjoy hearing. (I hope I’m not being sexist, or implying that men enjoy dives or anything like that–that certainly is not my intent. I am trying to point out that it helps to know your audience demographics is all, and gender is a part of the larger whole of that.)
2. Another way to cater to your audience is to not bore them. Sometimes easier said than done, but one easy way to help in this endeavor is to keep your patter short. As you know, the definition of cater is:
“to provide or supply what amuses, is desired, or gives pleasure, comfort, etc.”
Long and complex patter, while some can pull it off well (never say never!), can be death for others to try and deliver. Complex patter that tells all the minute details about a show that flopped on Broadway might be interesting to you, and will stroke your own ego (“Look–aren’t I smart?”), but remember–your audience has come in, they’re sitting down and having a drink, and they just want to be entertained, not bored. If you are going to say something, try to make it funny, and try to make it accessible, so your audience members don’t have to be experts in order to get the meaning or the joke. If you do that, you will not bore your audience, but will entertain them. I’ve heard it said by a long-time nightclub performer that the songs are songs, but the entertainment happens in between the songs. It’s that in-between part that will need your attention–for many, those moments that seem so spontaneous to the audience have actually been worked on and are well-rehearsed in advance of performance, just saying.
3. You can also cater to your audience by asking for their feedback. See if your venue will allow you to use small response cards. These you place on the tables, along with pens, and make sure that people know that you would love to see them again, and so they can fill out their name, phone or email and give it to you or the waiters at the end of the show. These people you add to your mailing list for your next performance. I also like to ask what they enjoyed most in our performance. This will give you feedback that you need to refine your show and make it more entertaining for your particular audiences. If you get responses that they really liked a particular song or section of the show, add more of that as you refine and hone your show, for example.
How do you cater to your cabaret audience? Do you have any other tips that have worked for you to help make your act more entertaining? Let us know in the comments!