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This series of articles is written with the beginner and intermediate level performer in mind. It is also written primarily for musicians that play instruments and sing during their performance. However, with a little imagination these principles can be applied to public speaking, teaching or reading poetry. These suggestions are by no means original. Many of them come from more seasoned performers of music and other arts who I cite whenever possible.

How To Approach Venue Operators

In order to perform effectively you first have to get the gig. And if you don't give the venue operator or open mic host a favorable impression of who you are and what your music is like, you just might not get the gig you are looking for. Of course, most open mics let anyone interested perform. But some of the better ones give better spots to performers who fit the vibe better - either because they are more skilled or entertaining or they are easier to work with. And paying gigs are almost always given to performers who the venue operator believes will be worth having. Whether you are looking to play an open mic or a paying gig it is always a good idea to be a musician that people find easy to work with. So, here are a few tips on how to approach presenters in a way that makes it easy for them. "Presenter" is a general term for people who hire the musicians or who host open mics.

Making Cold Calls

If you are going to make a cold call to a presenter, the first thing you want to do is introduce yourself and tell him or her why you are calling. Use your full name. Tell the presenter where you are from, how you heard about his venue, what you do and why you wish to perform there.

Instead of saying, "Hi, I'm Joey," you might say, "Hi, I'm Joey Josephson from Walla Walla, Washington. My friend Peter Pinnunki just performed at your venue and he suggested I give you a call because I am going to be touring in your area next spring." Right off the bat you are giving the presenter enough, but not too much, information about yourself.

It's very important to use your full name for several reasons. First, there can be many Joey's that contact this presenter. Giving your last name helps him distinguish you from any other Joey. But, there is also a unique impression made on his memory. It is actually easier for someone to remember you and what you both talked about if he can associate the conversation in his memory not with a simple amorphous "Joey," but with a more unique "Joey Josephson from Walla Walla, Washington." If you mention that you were referred by another reputable performer, which, of course, you should only do if it is true, you then give the presenter a context to relate you to and let him know immediately that you have some credibility.

Leaving Voice Messages

If you are leaving a voice message, here are some tips I picked up from the many people who leave messages on my machine about performing at my open mic:

Keep your message relatively short and to the point.

Leave your contact info early and repeat it toward the end of your message.

Tell the presenter one element of your performance that makes it different from all the rest. For example, "Hi, this is Joey Josephson, nine-string mandolin player from Walla Walla, Washington. My number is 555-1234 and I was referred to you by Peter Punnunki. He suggested I call you because..."

Did you ever get a message that is four minutes long in which the caller mumbles his number at the end? If you can't understand what he said, you have to go all the way back to the beginning and listen again. Even if the number is not mumbled you may begin day dreaming half way through a long message and miss the number. And what would you do if you had a very busy schedule? Most people will save the message for another day or more likely just delete it. So, we can see why leaving a bad message hurts. Now, here's a reason why a good message helps.

Suppose you are a venue operator and you just listened to five messages from musicians you never heard of before and you only have room in your schedule to hire one. Okay, so you deleted the mumbler and now you have four messages left. By the way, not to change the subject, but what is a nine-string mandolin? I can't stop thinking about that. I've actually never heard of that before. Anyway, about those four callers. You know what? I'd like to find out more about that nine-string mando. I'm going to call that Josephson guy first. Get my point?

Sending E-Mails

Make your e-mail messages easy and attractive to the reader. Include a relevant subject heading that identifies the purpose of the message. For example, "Walla Walla songwriter coming to your town - Plays 9-string mando." I literally get about 75 e-mails per day. Maybe 30 are music related. But the rest are spam. If I don't recognize the sender or don't get a clear idea from the subject heading what the message is about, I usually delete it. On those rare occasions I do open a message that says, "Yo, Spook" or "I'm glad I found you" it is usually from someone trying to sell me a mortgage or viagra or something else I don't want.

Keep the content of the message concise and leave all the details for the end of the message. For example,

I'm Joey Josephson from Walla Walla, Washington. My friend Peter Pinnunki just performed at your venue and he suggested I send you an e-mail because I am going to be touring in your area next spring. I play the nine-string mandolin and have written dozens of songs. Below is all of my contact info as well as some accolades and critiques of my performance. I've also included my current availabilities for your area."

Maybe add one more short paragraph, sign off and leave all of your contact info below.

These ideas are worthy of consideration. They are by no means a guideline and, if used, should be adapted to your particular goals. But, behind them all is a very important point to keep in mind when approaching venue operators. These people have a tough job and just about everybody wants something from them. It would be helpful to them, and would therefore shine a positive light on you, if you make it easy for them to figure out whom you are and what you have to offer them and their venue.

Spook Handy runs "The Spook Handy Show," New Jersey's longest running open mic, at the Corner Tavern in New Brunswick. The show began in 1985 and has over 860 nights under its belt. He is also a songwriter and performer and a co-coordinator of the Princeton Songwriters, the New Jersey chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. For more information on Spook Handy go to

Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright © Tag It 2004 - Republished with Permission