A few weeks ago Steve Sabo shared some booking tips. Here is more advice from another booker. Connie Ettinger sent these my way to share with you. Though I haven’t worked for Connie, I’ve heard nothing but good things about her over the years. As always, there are always exceptions to rules, but these all make really good sense and are definitely worth sharing…
10 great tips from a comedy booker…
1. When you send your avails, make sure you indicate if the dates you are submitting are open dates or booked dates. Don’t make me guess. List the category with the fewest dates and indicate CLEARLY if those are UNAVAILABLE or AVAILABLE. Everyone seems to do it differently; all I ask is clarity. Make sure to include personal time off in your unavailable dates. (Some comics forget to include family vacations, honeymoons, etc., and then get stuck calling me and explaining why their dates don’t work.)
2. I sometimes book rooms on what are usually “off” days. Please send us your avails for the entire week.
3. Keep your avails up to date and in front of us. I personally don’t mind if you send them every other week. Hitting “delete” is very easy. Please forgive me if I don’t send you an e-mail with each set of avails saying, “Sorry, nothing this week. Best of luck in your future endeavors” But remember: Out of sight, out of mind. If I have an opening, and I just got your avails, chances are much better that you will get the gig IF you are qualified and you haven’t worked that room in a decent interval. And if I get all amped up, thinking you are available from a list your sent me six weeks ago, and you are no longer available, I get disappointed AND I wasted my time. So keep those avails coming.
4. I MUCH prefer e-mail to Facebook (I have about 2000 unread Facebook messages; I don’t care what people had for breakfast or find pictures of the last set of comedians you worked with informative; your civilian friends might but I don’t have time to follow everyone, or even a few people, on Facebook. ) Please also include your phone number in case I need to contact you ASAP. My e-mail address is email@example.com.
5. Recommendations: I take recommendations VERY seriously, IF they come from people proven reliable in predicting comedians who will work well in my rooms. I have about five or six people I trust not to steer me wrong. Pass recommendations out sparingly. Some comics think everyone who paid them a compliment is FABULOUS, and then recommend them without thinking of the consequences. The consequences are: You send me a dud, I use the dud, it will be a long time before I can trust your judgement again, and I may have to bench you for a while to make sure you learned your lesson.
6. Asking for a particular person to work with you: This raises a red flag for me sometimes. Either you really DO work well together, or you want a lightweight to open for you so you can blow them away. I know or know of just about everyone, or have ways of finding out, and I take great pride in actually putting together shows that work well because of who I book together. I don’t book rooms like sorting mail. That’s why I get paid the small bucks, but also why the shows I book pretty much rock. So don’t ask for someone just because he/she’s your best buddy (remember, give the new kids a chance, too, even if your BFF is funny) or you think they will set you up to crush. The shows needs to make sense as a whole or we all look stupid.
7. Cancellations: Simply put: DON’T CANCEL. If you get a WAY better gig (and by WAY better, I mean at least triple the money or a chance to really break out in a new market) and let me know sufficiently in advance (a month or more,) I can be very understanding. Don’t say. “Pencil me in,” all the while looking for something that pays better. Stand me up for an extra hundred bucks and you will be dead to me. As in RIP, never again, nada, zip, zilch, bupkis. Same thing for lying about the urgent need to cancel. I have caught a few people doing this and they wonder why I’m being mean to them when I won’t rebook them. I’m not being mean; it’s business, baby. My time is valuable (and for what I get in commissions for booking, barely worth the effort,) but I do it because I love comedy and comics, so don’t screw it up for everyone else.
8) If you aren’t having fun, QUIT. Too many comics phone it in because they are unhappy with the business end of things. If you aren’t happy, do the right thing and let the others take the stage—and let them have the opportunity to become disenchanted with a business that has too many comics and too few gigs, thus lowering the overall price anyone, good or bad, can get paid. (That damn supply exceeding demand thing never goes away.) Comedy is about joy, or the rush, or the challenge. It is NOT a get rich quick scheme.
Sometimes it’s not even a break even scheme. 😦
9) IF I SCREW UP, try to understand that I, too, am human. No pointy hat and red shoes here. I try not to let it happen but sometimes I get interrupted with a phone call or a domestic dispute (it could happen; my cats are always fighting) before I can write the date down, and I think I have early onset Alzheimer’s . I WILL make it up to you. It might take me a few months (hopefully not) but I have NEVER bumped someone to book someone else and then used the double booked excuse, and I NEVER will. If I screw up, I own it, I apologize, and I work like hell to find something to replace it for you. Very often, it is a private show that comes along and you actually make more money, but it is very frustrating for you, as it is for me, when I find out I am out of a gig because a booker screwed up. I used to think a rhesus monkey could do this but I think it takes a higher primate. As I said, I apologize in advance if any of you fall victim. So far, knock wood, only one this year.
10) That leads me to another point. I tend to book pretty far out so always check back in with me a couple of months before your gig to make sure you are, in fact, in my book. Likewise, when I send out e-mails before the shows, RESPOND so I know you are still on board. Don’t make me call you and chase you.
For more advice order a copy of Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.
4 thoughts on “10 great tips from a comedy booker…”
Glad you had time to let us all know.
Reblogged this on Comedian Andy Hartley and commented:
Very helpful insight. Thank you Rob Durham!
Love it. Thanks for the information. Many of us have worked very hard to be as original and as funny as possible. The business side is always the most difficult.