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Send in the Crowds! How to Attract Audiences to Your Club Act

After your mother and every person you've known since kindergarten has seen your show, it's time to find "real people" who will pay the cover and the minimum to see you. In a city in which there are so many entertainment choices, getting audiences to come to your show is the penultimate mark of success. In the interviews below, you're going to discover the ways in which some of cabaret's most successful (and resourceful) artists and entrepreneurs have filled the city's nightclubs with loyal and ever-growing audiences. Here are their secrets, gift-wrapped for you in their hard work, offered in the hope that in the full flower of your talent, you will play to full houses.

James Beaman, Performer--How Much Money Are You Willing to Lose?

James Beaman has made his mark in New York cabaret in critically acclaimed shows in which he impersonated the likes of Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich. Despite early good reviews, success did not come right away. But now, he's an artist who can virtually sell out a 12-night run at the FireBird Cafe. " It helps having Marlene as a hook," he said, modestly. "She gives me a wider, more diverse audience." But there are plenty of cabaret performers who do Marlene shows who don't have Beaman's kind of following. So we went looking for the answers...

"Sometimes," Beaman said, "it just takes longevity. When you have to start from the grass roots, it's going to take awhile. Some people are fortunate, they have money or a parent in the business, but if you come into it all alone, it's going to take time. One of the things I was asked at the beginning of my cabaret career was, 'How much money are you willing to lose?' You're throwing a lot of money out there, so you have to know why you're doing it. If you don't make the money back right away, you have to think of it as a long-term investment. The important thing is to keep performing."

For his part, Beaman invested in public relations. "I was doing my own publicity for years before I hired a publicist," he said. "A press agent is able to approach the press. If the performer has to deal directly with the critics, it can be awkward. It's better to keep a professional distance. If you have a publicist with a good relationship to the press, then it's like having another recommendation for the show. Then the press feels it's worth taking a risk on seeing you."

Like many performers, Beaman provides his audience with mailing list cards. And he does the e-mail thing. But it's not enough, though, to simply inform your potential audience about your show. You've got to entice them. "Take a look around at the postcards and the flyers--plenty of them are derivative," he said. "I've been very fortunate. People see the image and it makes them pick it up and stick it on their refrigerator. That's what you want. If you're going to invest, invest in a good photographer. You may be the loveliest girl in the world and look good in a black dress, but so do 100 other people promoting themselves in the same way. Look for the graphics credit on a card that impresses you, and go after that person. One good photographic image can make a career. In Berlin, my picture was my ambassador. It was all over town selling my Marlene show before I even got there."

?Barbara and Scott Siegel

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