Alix Cohen is a newspaper, magazine, and web journalist, a cabaret and theater critic, winner of six New York Press Club Awards and a commentator on women’s fashion. Here, she takes on the question of what a performer needs to do to get the press to cover a show.
Grease the Path from Artist to Press
by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes
I’ve been a journalist now for some years and it never ceases to astonish me how few performers make a concerted effort to get the word out about their shows. My assumption is that representation is rare these days. If you have a press rep, make sure he or she is aware whether there’s anyone in particular to approach for exposure. (I’m sorry, social media is not the be-all and end-all.) You certainly know which websites write about cabaret. Do you alert them in plenty of time to secure a reviewer? What about journalists who have liked previous shows? Almost everyone can be contacted either through Facebook or the outlets for which they write. I’ve received some postcards in snail mail. Follow-up seems almost non-existent.
It’s true that some reviewers wait until publishers send out a list, but you’re taking a chance here. Busy people appreciate being informed so that schedules can be accommodated. There are always shows for which I would have tried to juggle commitments had I known about them in time. For those of us who care about the genre and its performers, this is really frustrating.
If the show involves a charity, let it be known there’s material for a feature beyond the event itself. Make sure that outreach includes contact information for someone who can speak knowledgeably about the organization and a website address. This doesn’t have to be a formal press release.
Every time you do a show, a song list should be left at the front desk for press. No kidding. Even if the performance is a one-off. A good list has the show title, names of vocalists, musicians, musical director and show director (if there is one), plus song titles with composers and lyricists. You can run it off on the computer or Xerox it. Too many songs have the same titles and making a reviewer research—assuming he or she actually does—will not endear you. If the show features selections from Broadway or the movies, include show titles.
Let’s talk about photos. Everyone covering music prefers (or should prefer) performance images. We’re lucky to have some ubiquitous photographers, but they can’t be everywhere—-though gods know Maryann Lopinto tries. Invite someone, offering a comp for shots. If you don’t know one of the regulars, perhaps you have a failsafe friend who’s good with a camera. Professional photography can be costly,—but, when you can, put something up on Google Images. Just in case.
What about CDs? Ever wonder why so few CD reviews are published? Do you see to it that journalists who might be interested in your work get a copy of a newly recorded disc? Really, most of these enter the market with stealth, unless one happens to be among the audience at a release show. I’m not suggesting you paper the city. Inquire first. Or goose your rep. You’d be surprised how easy this is.
Most performers don’t have agents, managers, or PR people. There’s no reason not to be proactive on your own behalf.