So you’ve got an act… Now promoter James Malach offers some tips on how to get a gig…
All in a haze of glue and glitter, you add diamants and ribbons to your Anne Summers corset and within a few hours your sparkle factor has been turned up to eleven. Then, with fervour, you write to all the shows you can google to tell them that you would like to perform at their event…
“To whom it may concern,” you confidently write, “I am a new performer and I feel that I would be perfect for your show. I can best be described as an ethereal mixture of Dita Von Teese and Bettie Page and I can perform an exquisite fan dance which will, quite literally, enchant your audience.”
One day goes by, followed by another, then another, until after a week you finally realise that nobody is going to reply to your emails. At this juncture you should congratulate yourself for making the same mistake that nearly all new performers make at the beginning – you’ve started to run before you can walk.
Promote yourself on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter and make use of free promotion offered by Ministry of Burlesque.
When you are promoting your services as a performer, it’s important to be honest – both with potential bookers and with yourself. Like in any business or vocation, it’s a case of building your marketability from the ground up.
Choosing your name
The first thing you need is, quite obviously, a name. Think carefully here because once you’ve chosen it, you’re stuck with it. Your name should be personal to you and not something you choose because it conforms to stereotypes. The burlesque world is full of Kittys, Lolas and Lilys and we don’t need any more, thank you.
An original name will not only ensure you’re easier to find in the search engines, but will also mean that show promoters can tell you apart from the other Cherry Generics. Check out the names database on www.ministryofburlesque.com to see if your choice (or something similar) is already in use and, if it is, be prepared to choose another one.
Once you’ve chosen your name, you’ll need to register the corresponding dotcom domain. It’s going to cost you about £10, but doing so at this early stage is guaranteed to stop any problems further down the line.
getting a website
Once you’ve got your domain, you’re going to need a basic website. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t have to cost anything and you don’t need to be a website building guru to get online. A simple four-page website is all that’s needed at first to serve as a billboard where you can redirect potential bookers. It should provide easy access to your video and photos as well as giving a short bio and a way of getting in contact. Nothing more, nothing less.
There are plenty of free services to choose from when you create your first site. The excellent WordPress.com will let you to set up a site for free, while services like MrSite.com will cost about £25 per year, but give a more personalised experience, including your own dotcom domain name. These types of service are perfect for beginner performers because they don’t require any knowledge of complicated website coding and you can, quite literally, be up and running in 30 minutes.
building your experience
Once you have a ‘home on the web’, you need stage time and this means building up your experience by performing for free at small venues like pubs. Sure, they’re about as far removed from the perceived glamour as you can get, but on the upside, there are plenty of opportunities to gain experience.
Events like these are useful not just to hone your skills, but they should be treated as vital opportunities to get photographed and filmed. This material can be used to improve your website. When you agree to a gig, take a friend along who can do this for you – but always make sure that you get prior permission. It’s also important that a proper camera is used, because grainy, low-quality cam-phone footage will do you more harm than good.
Once you’ve gotten a few ‘spit and sawdust’ shows under your belt, you should hopefully have a selection of imagery and video that can be used to promote yourself further. The trick here is to be selective. Don’t post all your photos online. Choose the best ones and use these. Likewise, try to edit your videos down into a 90-second showreel that features the best of what you have to offer. There are many programmes you can use to do this, including Movie Maker, which comes free with Windows and is likely to be installed on your computer already. The Mac version is called iMovie.
you’re on your way!
By now, your online presence should be at the stage where you can start spreading the word, and there are many techniques at your disposal to do this. Start off by adding your website address to your email signature. Likewise, if you frequent forums, like our own Ministry of Burlesque, make sure that you create a signature here too, as this will appear on every post you make and send lots of traffic to your site. Follow these tips and you’ll now find that you are much better positioned to get booked. BJames Malach promotes the wildly successful High Tease burlesque cabaret events and is also the creator of the world famous Ministry Of Burlesque community, which provides castings, advice and networking services for performers.
Artistes’ websites range from a basic landing page with a picture and contact details to the likes of established burlesquer Immodesty Blaize’s all-singing, whistles and bells number.