Cold calling unsolicited proposals for concert

What do you look for when you receive an unsolicited proposal or request to perform a concert? Is there a standard format for such “cold” e-mails? What is the correct approach that leads to a gig?

Advertisements

As concert producer, I regularly receive e-mails from musicians wanting to perform in the Monument House Concert Series. As a performer, I also see the need to contact venue owners and concert producers to get gigs for our piano guitar duo and my new duos with French horn and cello.

Is there a standard format for such “cold” e-mails? What is the correct approach that leads to a gig?

Piano as Orchestra House Concert, December 2006
Piano as Orchestra House Concert, December 2006

I decided to post the following question on Linked-In.

To concert producers and music programmers, what do you look for when you receive an unsolicited proposal or request to perform a concert?

I regularly receive e-mails from overseas musicians to perform in our Monument House Concert Series. What (content) do you look for or expect from such requests?


I received one public answer and one private answer. Let me post them here for discussion.

ANSWER ONE:

Do they send demos or links to Myspace/Last.fm/Youtube so that you can have a first initial impression?

If it would fit the genre, you can put them on your long list and from there on, decide if they should be on the short list for a gig in the near future.

MY RESPONSE:

Not all musicians have MYSPACE, YOUTUBE clips, sound samples that work, or websites. If they do, I check. If they don’t, I have to judge by the text and pictures. Just from reading the text, I form an impression. When I answer them, I see if I get a reply. If I don’t, then I conclude that the e-mail was a MASS EMAIL. I prefer a personal touch.


ANSWER TWO

I’m sure others can add far more than I can to this, but experience from London amateur orchestras when working with concerto soloists was that the majority were found from word of mouth recommendation. Even in this case the conductors tended to ask for CV and to hear a recording of the soloist as a first step. I also saw people come to concerts where we had a soloist to hear them and sometimes to book them on the basis of that (a kind of audition). I guess it’s a difficult one – as a performer yourself you will want to give opportunity to those who deserve a break, rather than create a clique, but at the same time you need to preserve the Monument House brand – a few duff soloists and you’ll lose your paying audience!

MY RESPONSE:

Word of mouth and prior knowledge are key. Looking back, all musicians who have performed in our house concerts have been either musicians we knew personally and have seen in concert or recommended by someone we knew personally.

Because we use the space to practice and rehearse, we can only commit to two concerts a year. With our ever-expanding network of musicians, these slots get filled up quickly.

However, this is not to say that we are closed to unsolicited e-mails. We have referred more suitable locations for some of these musicians, particularly the singer songwriters of the Americana movement. Orchestras have wanted to play here. There is not enough space to include the audience. The timing might be wrong. We point them in the direction of house concert series elsewhere.


House concerts get filled up quickly. They don’t get publicised. Audiences get on mailing lists. They hear by word of mouth.

Occasionally I get an e-mail enquiry that prompts me to action. “Dear Mr Bekkers and Ms Ku:” Obviously he has checked us out. He compliments our concert series and explains his reason for contacting us. He doesn’t waste our time. He offers to collaborate or reciprocate. He writes well. He gives a website address. It’s a professional website with photos, biography, sound clips, articles, and reviews. I read about him. I find something extremely interesting. I call him. It makes my day.

Lead guitarist Robert in rock band

About 57 seconds into the youtube clip below, the camera moves to the lead guitarist doing his solo. It was winter of 1987 somewhere in South Holland –

About 57 seconds into the youtube clip below, the camera moves to the lead guitarist doing his solo.

His long blonde hair is twirling around him. You can’t see the blue eyes behind the sunglasses.

Neither can I.

It was winter of 1987 somewhere in South Holland — Maastricht? Limburg? I was in London queuing for Laura Ashley sales.

More than 13 years later, we met in Amsterdam.

The guitarist was Robert Bekkers. He told me he would focus on classical guitar.

I never knew he was such a good lead guitarist in such a great band.

I wonder who the videographer is. Has he, by any chance, a clip of the Funky Caravan, the LoLo’s, or Ku and the Guys? I’d sure like to see the keyboardist. But that was not in the Netherlands at all. Those bands played in Okinawa in the 80’s.


CORRECTION:

I’ve been told by an informed source that it was NOT in Limburg or anywhere near Maastricht. It was in Veldhoven, in blues cafe called the Lozzie. Click on the youtube link and read the comments on the right for more details.

I just remembered also that I was not in London that winter of 1987 but in Singapore or Malaysia. How time flies!