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The fun duo of Dean Martin and Carol Lawrence. This was from an appearance that Ms. Lawrence made on The Dean Martin Variety Show for television. Author Patty Farmer recently interviewed Ms. Lawrence and their conversation is included in Farmer’s new book The Persian Room Presents: An Oral History of New York’s Most Magical Night Spot. They are obviously having fun, so the audience can join in on the fun with them–a good lesson for all cabaret entertainers. Enjoy!
Today I’m thinking about tips for finding venues for cabaret singers, so my tip for you today is this: Look to a venue’s off-hours and days, and try to get a gig during those times, if you are starting out.
This is a tip I learned from an experienced entertainer who worked in New York nightclubs back in the 1950s. Although he has worked a lot over the years, he does understand how difficult it can be for newcomers to get a foot in the door and have the opportunity to actually work in front of an audience.
The idea is this: check out a restaurant, a lounge or a hotel lobby that you like. Do this on your own first, before you talk to anyone in charge of booking. Go there on a busy night when entertainment is being offered, or when the venue in whatever capacity is at its busiest. Count the number of seats and tables in the room, to get an idea of the capacity, and then check out the menu to see what is offered and the price range. For your purposes, the smaller the room, the easier this idea will be to execute. You want to go to the establishment often enough until the people working there recognize you as a good customer. You can then talk to their booker or manager, to discuss doing some music there. Find out when their slow night of the week is–for some restaurants, this is a Monday or Tuesday night, but could also be some time on a Sunday as well. Ask what type of food they could prepare inexpensively that they could then turn around and sell to customers for a profit. Then see if they would like to offer a dinner show with a prix fixe menu for a set time on their slow night. They set the price for the food, and they keep all of that, and you set the price for your cover charge, and you keep all of that. You want to keep the ticket price as low as possible but enough so it is worth everyone’s time and effort. You sell one ticket that covers both food and the show to customers. You also have to discuss how you will handle customers that just want to eat and not see the show–perhaps they would be seated in an area different from where the performance will be held, for example. Because it is their slow night, the onus is then on both you and the venue to try to sell tickets to bring people in. You can talk to your friends, your family, your co-workers, anyone on your cabaret mail list, and encourage them to buy tickets.
When we did this several years ago, we discovered that in our little town, no one buys tickets in advance, but we had a room three-quarters and more full just with walk-in customers, so this will vary a lot depending upon where you live. We made up our own tickets and gave some to the restaurant, and we both sold tickets and then combined the money on the day of the event and divided it accordingly. The event was successful, and the music helped to keep the customers there and ordering comestibles. One glass of wine came with the meal, but as people sat through the show, many purchased more, as well as other foods not included, and so the restaurant made some extra money in this fashion, which obviously appeals to them and makes the scenario more interesting for them. Hopefully, all goes well and you can bring in some new or returning customers for their slow night, so they are happy, and you have a room and audience to entertain, so it works for you as well.
The obvious drawback is that customers are not coming in on their own at this time, so you will need to try to bring in whomever you have as your audience base, which is hard. However, if you plan it far enough in advance, and do yeoman’s work with publicity, it can be a way to get your foot in the door doing cabaret.
Hope these Tuesday cabaret tips help–let us know what other topics you’d like to see us cover here, and we’ll do our best to work through them!
Have you ever done a cabaret show on an off-night for the venue? How did it go? Would you do it again? Do you have any other cabaret show tips you’d like to share? Do tell down in the comments! We always love to hear from our readers!
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:
Tuesdays: Cabaret Tip Tuesday
Wednesdays: Ask A Cabaret Question
Thursdays: Featured Cabaret Blog, Website, Performer
Fridays: Cabaret Through Time