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CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE TIPS
THE MAKINGS OF A GOOD PRESS KIT

I attend as many as three cabaret performances in an evening, and if there is any gripe that I have about the folks who organize cabaret shows is that they beg folks like me to come to their shows, and review their shows, and then often set about to make our jobs difficult.

Not everyone can afford a publicist, and I also know that not every publicist is an efficient publicist. So, here are my thoughts about what constitutes a good press kit, in order of importance.

1) A SONG LIST - Even if you don't have the time or the finances to create a full fledged "Press Kit," it is vitally important that you provide anyone from the press who covers your show with a song list. It is not a difficult thing to do, but it would surprise you if I told you the number of shows that I have attended where this simple, single sheet of paper was not prepared!

Remember, the reviewer is working in a darkened room, and hopefully hearing some new or unusual songs among the standards you are performing. Sometimes I can figure out the possible song title from the song being sung, but I would prefer to be sure - the is a vast difference between a song called "Stars and the Moon" and "Moon and the Stars." I would not like to get them confused in my review.

The name of the composer and lyricist is most helpful - ever try to find this information when you are "on deadline?" I have. Also, if the show was first featured (or cut) from a movie or Broadway show, that information right on the song list, is also most helpful. You may have mentioned that in setting up the song, but who can write that fast?

Most important, forget being fancy. Black type (of a readable size) on white paper, is all I ask for. Green ink on red paper just might be a lovely looking handout, but try reading something like that in a darkened cabaret room sometime!

2) A BIOGRAPHY - Sometimes I have another show to rush off to, or I haven't had my dinner yet. I really don't like hanging around after a show asking some basic questions that your press kit could provide. How old are you (usually asked only of the very young)? What shows have you done before - where - when? Where are you from? Where have you studied? What are your plans?

Now, I don't mean for you to write a five page autobiography, describing your life from infancy to the present day - and believe me, I have received bios like that! Just the facts, please, that are pertinent to this show. One page should do it.

3) A PRESS RELEASE - This is a copy of the press release that you sent originally to the members of the press about two or three weeks before your show opened. It tells about your show, its title, the folks who helped you develop it, your director, musical director and other accompanists. It gives information of the dates and times your show is playing, and the name, address and reservation phone number of the club where it is running, the cover charge and the minimum.

What? You mean you didn't send anything like this out before your show? That probably means that you really didn't think that your show was important for the press writers to cover!

4) A COPY OF YOUR FLIER - The advertising flier that you mailed out to your friends, and folks on your mailing list, and left around at the various clubs and piano bars around town has all the facts about your show in one place (or should have). For a reviewer, it is a quick guide to your presentation. And it gives one a sense of how you sell yourself.

5) COPIES OF PREVIOUS REVIEWS - Personally, I don't often read these, since I don't wish to be influenced by what others write. But they do lend a bit of legitimacy to your presence in cabaret. Photo copies are inexpensive, and can be reproduced quickly. You might wish to simply include a single sheet in the pack giving excerpts from previous reviews.

6) A PHOTO - I actually put this item last, since there are several types of reviews that never include a photo - radio reviews, for example. But I also put this last because, unless you have a professionally prepared photo, you are better off not including one. Don't ask your best friend's cousin to come by and take a snap or two of you standing in front of a white wall. Go to a real, professional photographer. It will cost a few bucks, but it is well worth the money, and unless you plan on changing your hair style every show, will last you for several years. And stick with the traditional 8"x10" size. I scan several photos in one session, and it is easier if all the originals are the same size.

A professional photographer knows exactly the variation of contrast, light and shadow that will reproduce well in the many types of media that might use the photo - newspapers, magazines and even websites. And of late, a color slide or two is important as well.

6) THE PACKAGE - This is the least important of the list, and yet, sometimes performers spend more time on the package than on the material inside. A simple glossy pocket folder, available at just about every stationary store, is sufficient. Or a large 9"x12" envelope can be used just as easily - one with a clasp is preferable over one that gets pasted shut. Personally, I prefer an envelope, since I don't carry a brief case, and travel the subway often. With the pocket folder, if you don't hold it just right, things sometimes fall out.

And that is just about it. Not that difficult, right? Remember, the important thing is to make the reviewer's job as easy as possible so that he or she can concentrate on writing the review, rather than having to search for song titles, etc. Just in case, include a phone number where you might be reached (your "service" number is sufficient) in the event the reviewer wishes to check a fact or two.

Remember, deep down inside, every legitimate reviewer want to write something nice about your show. It may not always be possible (and certainly not ethical) to only write nice things about every show. Making my job easier just adds to my appreciation of your performance, and might just mean a slightly better judgement of you.



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