The other day on the Connected Comedy Facebook page I asked readers what topics they’d like to see me address in an article and I was amazed at how many people wanted more information about how to approach and succeed with bookers. Personally, I think most comics are too obsessed with bookers as opposed to growing their own fanbase, but I’ll save that conversation for another day.
I know bookers are an important piece of the career puzzle, especially early on in your career, so here’s a few tips to help you in your dealings with them.
1. Be Professional
It should go without saying that if you want somebody to treat you like a professional, you need to act like one. But surprisingly, a lot of comedians don’t treat their own careers seriously and then wonder why bookers don’t take them seriously. When you approach a booker in an attempt to get work, you want to be able to show them that you’re a pro (even if you’re not quite yet) – that means you should have professional materials for them to review including a respectable website, a decent video of your act for them to review, and probably a business card if you have the opportunity to meet them face to face. The more seriously they can see that you take comedy, the more likely they are to take your comedy seriously.
2. Be Different
The average booker is constantly bombarded by hundreds (if not thousands) of comedians who are just like you. It’s great that you’re funny and you’re taking your career seriously, but so are a ton of other comedians. So why should the booker give you work instead of the next comic?
You should spend some time thinking about how you can position yourself differently from every other comedian that’s trying to get that booker to hire them. Do you have a unique hook that will work with a specific crowd that comes to that venue’s shows? Do you have something you can offer that other comedians can’t? The more you can figure out how to separate what you do from every other comic, the better your chance of landing a booking. Remember, it’s not enough to just be funny. There’s lots of people that are “just funny.” Personally, I think the best way to separate yourself is to…
3. Have An Audience
The single most important thing you can do to appeal to a booker is to be able to guarantee that you can bring an audience to their venue if they book you. This is why I stress that concentrating on growing your fanbase is more important than trying to figure out how to appeal to bookers. Because if you have an audience, you will appeal to a booker because it makes life much easier for the venue.
Of course, it’s difficult to build an audience before you’re getting regular bookings, but it’s not impossible. Think about ways you can ensure you’ll bring a crowd if you get booked – for example, maybe you’ve got a relationship with a church or other organization where those people have agreed to come see you perform if you get booked. Hopefully, you’ve been building a fanbase for the online content you’ve been creating that you can now reach and have come out to a show if you’re booked. Remember, the ability to bring an audience with you is the absolute best way to ensure you get booked.
4. Understand The Booker’s Needs
It can be helpful to put yourself in the booker’s shoes and think about what their needs are as opposed to your own. Most bookers are juggling a lot of things – they have to figure out how to book talent that will attract customers to their venue, they have to book talent that will satisfy the customers who attend blindly, they have to ensure that their talent costs are less than the revenue they generate, and they have to juggle a million other things. It’s easy to scapegoat bookers who don’t book you, but the job is tougher than you probably realize.
If you try to think about all the challenges facing a booker, you may start to see opportunities where you can help make their life easier. You can even ask a booker if there’s anything they may need help with and volunteer to help out however you can. In exchange for helping make their life easier, you may be able to land yourself some bookings. And even if you don’t, you’ll at least learn a lot more about how bookers work and what they’re looking for which will help you down the road.
5. Instead Of Trying To Get Yourself Booked, Try To Produce A Show
One of the ways to separate yourself from the pack and try to get a booker’s attention would be to package and produce an entire show and pitch that to a booker as opposed to just pitching yourself. By pulling together several comedians with a strong concept and promotional hook, you can offer a package deal to a booker that may be more appealing (and unique) to him than just asking him to book you on a show.
This is a really effective way of getting booked, but if you’re going to go down this road you’re going to have to be sure that you can commit to promoting the show, drawing a crowd, and making it work. This might be an easier way to get booked, but it ultimately involves a lot more work. However, if you put in the work, it’s got a huge upside.
I’m sure lots of you have learned things from dealing with bookers, what advice would you have for people? Please leave a comment with your thoughts…