Every once in a while over on the Connected Comedy Facebook page I ask readers what topics they’d like to see me discuss in an article. Typically, about 70% of the comics who respond want to know more about how to get booked more and how to deal with comedy bookers.
It’s become abundantly clear to me that the vast majority of comedians out there are completely obsessed with the booking process and see it as the key to growing their career.
But here’s the thing: I think they’re wrong.
Not only do I think they’ve completely overrated the importance getting booked in growing their careers, I think their obsession with getting booked is actually having a negative impact on their career growth. Here’s why:
You’re Chasing Validation From The Wrong People
Comedy is a tough business and it’s filled with rejection so it’s easy to understand why comedians are hungry for validation that they’re talented, funny, and on the right track with their act. It’s also easy to see how getting booked by an industry “expert,” in the form of a booker, would validate your career progress and convince you that you’re “good enough” to be a pro.
But the problem is that a booker’s interests don’t necessarily merge with yours as a comedian – sure, they want you to be funny, but the booker’s real goal in most cases is to put somebody on stage that will help pack the room with paying customers and not piss any of those customers off. Bookers don’t really have a vested interest in you actually growing a meaningful fanbase, pushing the envelope, or developing a unique appeal.
They just want you to be funny enough and not rock the boat while they sell nachos and overpriced drinks.
I’m not knocking them for that – it’s their job. But when that’s who you look to for validation, what does that validation actually mean?
This is why you often see comics get that validation, but then plateau and become “stuck” at a specific level in their career (and that level is usually not where they want it to be). Seeking validation from people who don’t ultimately have the best interests of your career at heart is a trap that it’s easy to fall into.
Instead of seeking validation from bookers, you should seek validation from fans. My guess is that if comedians spent as much time worrying about how to attract and connect with fans as they did with bookers, they’d wind up with much more successful careers in the long run.
You’re Tricking Yourself Into Thinking It’s An Easier Way To Grow Your Fanbase
Even if you buy into my argument that validation from bookers is overrated, you’re likely to point out that in order to grow a fanbase you need to get booked by bookers in order to be exposed to crowds. This is another popular misconception.
There are “crowds” everywhere you look. Every organization, bar, restaurant, hotel, church, coffee shop, and busy street is packed with potential crowds. And the Internet allows you to literally reach a crowd that consists of the entire world. It’s not hard to find a crowd if you look.
But the reason you likely obsess with bookers is because you think it’s easier to find a crowd at a booked venue than it is to find your own crowd. I don’t necessarily think that’s true.
If you think about all the time you spend trying to capture the attention of bookers, doing open mics, and begging for stage times, you’ll probably find that it really adds up to a significant time investment. If you were to put that time into creating your own show or finding a different way to reach a crowd, I bet you’d be every bit as successful and probably more so.
The most likely reason you think going through bookers is an easier way to reach a crowd is because you haven’t tried it the other way and you haven’t stopped to think about how much time you spend trying to go the booker route.
It Gives You A Scapegoat For Your Own Shortcomings
Here’s another bit of pop psychology for you – it’s always going to be easier to blame somebody else for your failures than to accept the responsibility yourself.
When I talk to comedians and their career isn’t where they’d like it to be, they almost always reference that their failure is in large part due to their inability to get bookers, agents, or managers to pay attention to them.
I’m not saying there aren’t cases where that is a factor, but it’s also way too easy to use bookers as a scapegoat for the lack of momentum in your career. As I mentioned before, there are potential fans everywhere and now thanks to new technology you have more opportunities than ever before to reach them. You don’t need a booker to give you a career and it’s not the booker’s fault that your career is stalled. It’s your own.
I’m not saying that to suggest you beat yourself up about it, I’m suggesting you take a moment to be honest with yourself and think about if you’re really doing everything you can to grow your career.
It’s not a booker’s fault you’re not creating content online. It’s not a booker’s fault you can’t be bothered to produce your own live show. And it’s not a booker’s fault that when you did get booked and “killed” in front of 300 people you did nothing to capture an email address or connection to any of them and let 300 would-be fans walk right out the door.
It’s easy to blame bookers for the status of your career, but it’s rarely accurate. Or productive.
You Think Bookers Will Make You More Money
The final reason I think comics get so obsessed with bookers is because they think getting booked is the key to making money in this business. I couldn’t disagree more.
Yes, you will make more money from getting booked than you will from not doing anything at all, but the financial breakdown of what you get paid to perform as opposed to the actual money being generated from your performance is a terrible deal from a financial perspective.
For example, let’s say you perform in a booked venue that sells 100 tickets at $10 a ticket and that each of those people buy two drinks at $5 a drink. That show has generated $2,000 in revenue and I’m guessing that you’ll be paid an incredibly small portion of that amount.
If you produced and promoted the same show yourself in a venue of your choosing, you would be able to retain a much higher portion of the revenue.
Sure, it’s easier to perform in a booked venue because there’s less you have to worry about, but that’s not what I’m talking about right now – I’m talking about the financial side of things. If you’re concentrating on making more money as a comedian, then obsessing over bookers is a complete waste of your time.
You’ll make more money obsessing over an audience you can control and monetize yourself.
And if it’s really money you’re after, there’s tons of other ways you can make money from comedy that have nothing to do with bookers at all. For example, maybe you should take a break from worrying about bookers and spend that time instead figuring out how to make $11,000 a month on YouTube?
To wrap up, I’m not ripping bookers and I’m not saying they don’t have a place in the business and in your career. They’re important and can be very helpful to you.
But it’s easy to get sucked into thinking they’re all that matters and when that happens, you wind up doing yourself more harm than good.