This is not a how-to guide—that’s a book and lesson plan. But rather, this is an overview on the issue of ahh … the dreaded showcase.
In my more than 25 years as a presenter, I have seen dozens of showcases that grew to hundreds before my last conference, APAP 2017. For artists, agents, and managers, believe me when I say it is probably as much of a love-hate relationship for you as it is for presenters. But it is an important, vital, necessary, and lucrative aspect of our industry—if done right. And there’s the hate side of this relationship, or maybe I should soften that to “dislike” or “frustrating” or “ehhh” side.
If “done right,” the artist gets gigs, the presenter is pleased, the audience is inspired, all artists and associated folks get paid, and all is good with the world. We know that’s not always the case, of course, but it can and often does work that way–winners all the way around. Again, going back to “if it is done right.”
According to a soon-to-be released industry study, presenters rely very heavily on showcasing and seeing an act live before it is booked. That has been an assumption we have always held. But there are thousands of great performing artists with the acts that rising to the top being those artists who give a piece of themselves through a performance. That should also not come as a surprise to anyone, but the know-how is not always evident. It all centers on what the presenter and their audience wants—a style, a personality, a connection, a commitment that others may not demonstrate adequately in a showcase.
So, agents, managers, and self-represented artists: Look at showcases as one of the best ways to an end and be critical and open minded on putting it together. Seek feedback from an objective, neutral set of ears and eyes. (And, mmm, yes. That’s a hint that I can help with that).
And presenters: See as much as you can, be understanding, supportive, appreciative, and open. Don’t ever give up on the showcase concept as well as traveling to performances if you can. After all, we are in a business with live performance at its core and all that goes with it, so see it live as often as possible.
And for represented artists: Ditto some of the above, plus understand your agent and/or manager is there to work diligently and passionately on your behalf. Experienced agents and managers have been through a countless number of conferences and showcase processes—both juried and independent. If you trusted them by signing with them, then trust them to know what works best. If you don’t trust them, then that’s a subject for another blog.