performers' library

Performance Promo System
Martin Ewen

Someone on the bulletin boards wanted advice on getting promo together. Now I was going to put this up on my own web site but the likelihood of anyone seeing it is next to nil so I'll post it up here. (Also I can't work out how to do it) It is long and its not particularily wise but some may find it useful.

Items Required:
Intro letter on letterhead
Firm line of communication -e-mail -postal
Web site
CV [Résumé]
Mailing list

The video should be short (3 mins) and should show the prospective client what it is that you do. (Not how big your crowds are or what a great editor you are, how you get ready, what kind of car you drive to work etc.) It must be remembered that most festival organizers have a great many videos pass across their desks and most will out of duty watch the first minute of every video.

Your focus should be to keep the client entertained and interested past this point so as to effectively present your entire visual sales pitch and at the very least make it onto his or her shortlist. If you can make a client laugh in the first 30 seconds you have an above average chance of securing income.

The video and the case it comes in also give you an opportunity to stand out. The few extra cents a hard case cost you brings with it the opportunity to create a graphic cover with your name and an image and also your website address. This will be the first thing that the festival organizer or agent sees and the impression it gives them will flavour their opinion of your professionalism even before they have watched you. It is relatively easy to produce a video cover, either by physically cutting and pasting and lazer or photocopying, or on a computer. Video covers are A4 sized.

With a computer you can also cheaply produce labels for the video itself, for the front and the spine.Think of your video without a cover in a pile of other videos and use your imagination to compete.

(Note-CD Roms will be the new medium should you wish to jump the gun.)

This is a letter of introduction to accompany your video. A letterhead states the name of you or your act and can be used to convey the style of either your act or your administrative style. It also clearly informs the reader of the methods of communication available to them should they require further information.

Any combination of telephone, e-mail, postal address or website can be used but most important is that the lines of communication that are given are monitored by either you or someone you have trained to respond to inquiries.

For example, do not include a postal address you only check once a month or a telephone number that your flatmate answers while you are out of town. The simplest way is to have an e-mail account and a postal address that is either monitored by you or on your behalf.

Lines of communication are extremely important. If you succeed in the initial interactions in convincing clients that you are in control and capable then your chances of securing employment are well ahead of those performers who have not spent as much time and thought on the simple things like presentation and lines of communication.

Websites are very efficient and cost effective in promoting your show or your act. they have the advantage of being available 24 hours a day to anyone in the world and allow you to give more in depth information to potential employers.

You can have any number of pictures or short quicktime films and also the promo copy that you write can be more elaborate and distinctive than a short piece that would normally accompany an introductory letter.

A website gives you the opportunity to place yourself in the market place at the level that you wish to be perceived at. A website allows you to be an international performer competing in the international marketplace. Websites can also be made to work on a number of levels apart from their international billboard qualities.

By using links from your website to other performers sites and also sites that may be of interest to clients or other performers looking for information you can develop enough traffic through your site to have your website itself become a source of revenue through advertising or sponsorship.

CV [or Résumé]
A CV is what, when all is said and done, remains the foundation by which people perceive your work. A CV is a record of your achievements in performance or training or teaching or all of these.

There are many styles of CV, I use these criteria:
Performance Training:
Solo Development and Touring:
Festival Involvement:
Company Involvement:
Teaching Experience:
Current Repertoire:

You could use whichever apply to you and any others, get advice and have a few different versions so that you can tailor your CV to different markets.
An arts festival might take a different focus to a buskers festival and a corporate event might take a different focus again.

This is a list of festivals and agents and event management companies.
Start locally and work out from there. Start anywhere you like. Make note of the name of the organization, the individual you will need to contact, the dates if known of events that they produce, get as much information as you can. The fee that is usually offered, accomidation provided, travel costs built into the fee or extra. Tax taken out of negotiated fee or fee after tax, all this need to be known before commitments are made but more later in negotiations.

Ask people in the same business for information to add to your mailing list.
Visit links page for festival info. Visit links page and look at their festival directory. Also via the same links page check out Doms website (streetbiz) he also has a list of international festivals.

Event companies and agents can be found in telephone directories, through search engines or via word of mouth.


Get out of bed.

Postpone therapy.

Decide where and when you want to be touring.
Or when you want to want to apply yourself to your local market.

It is easiest to bracket these attempts into timeframes. This gives you a specific task instead of a general attitude, it also allows you to set targets and evaluate the process as it goes. The old hippyspeak used to say that there's no such thing as success or failure. I would rather put it that there's just good and bad structure. So..give your self a timeframe of projected work and another to try and secure that work.

Points to consider:

Minimize travel costs by bracketing events in proximity to each other in time and geography. This is a prime consideration.

Having selected a brace of festivals at around the same time and within practical reach of each other, write a cover letter outlining your tour project.
This will help festival directors because they sometimes work together and would rather have an act work at a number of festivals so that they can share the travel costs associated with bringing you to there area.

Create a list of elements needed for festival directors to provide you.
This can include things you need for your show as in minimum space requirements, PA, on site prop storage etc. Also personal requirements like access to AA meetings, special dietary needs, telephone line access for your laptop, whatever you consider is necessary for your reasonable comfort in order for you to perform optiminly.

This gives the staff you are dealing with a better knowledge of your requirements and helps both parties work better at their jobs. So often performers complain about things they had taken for granted not being provided but it is their responsibility to let organizers know in advance what their requirements and expectations are.

Remember the better the experience is for both parties the greater chance of repeat work and recommendations toward other festivals.

(starting to sound like cheesy girl guide matron)

Having compiled your promo combo, it is now time for the medium expense of mailing them all off. Try to do it all at once if you can, it helps to rate your responses in terms of how soon some people get back to you and remember also that speedy responses by you will get things firmed up quicker and make the process and the perception of the way you do business seem professional.

Have a list of targets your promo has been sent to and some sort of filing system where all correspondence between festivals can be kept separated into a festival by festival basis. This can be done in files at home or by giving yourself various categories in your e-mail account.

Wait three weeks and deal with whatever responses you receive during this time then send out an e-mail to those places that have not yet replied asking them whether they have received your material and whether they are interesting in having themselves included in your upcoming tour.

After a month (bearing in mind that usually you are planning tours at least three months in advance) look at the responses you have had and look hopefully at the number of confirmations you have or shortly hope to have, and work out your projected income and whether it will cover costs.

You now have three choices:

1. You can cancel already confirmed gigs well in advance, explaining that the response has not been sufficient to cover your expenses. (Administrators appreciate honesty and will either accept your position and bear you in mind for next time or try and help you by using their local knowledge to get you more work)

2. You can go on the offensive for a week and fax all places sent material outlining your need to finalize your itinerary and asking for a timeframe for finalization of their programs (admin-speech, learn it and prosper) Give them a set time to respond.

3. You have enough response to potentially cover your expenses (with full conformation always before departure)-Golden rule.

Get your promo completely together before you initiate contact and be ready to respond promptly. Common mistakes are initiating contact and then leaving them waiting for ages as you try and get a video organized.
Get everything together first. (A letter, a video and an e-mail address is my suggested minimum.)

Good luck

Footnote: A forum in which self validation pontificates. I'm posting this in an effort to be helpful. I was taught about content and form and performance and specialize in it. Art administration has been a slack 17 year crawl, but it all comes down to having a system of promotion that is simple enough to leave you to concentrate on your work or your shrunken head collection.

Any questions, comments or criticisms can be directed to:

Please remember that The guru lurk, while not a particularly busy Guru, does carry a certain collective spiritual responsibility and so will get back to you most possibly in this life but not always.

Martin Ewen

Martin Ewen and his 3-meter-tall stilt character 'Lurk' have been traversing the globe for the past ten years observing the world from a slightly different perspective than the rest of us.

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