Minstrel Booking Information

 
 

From:

Mike Agranoff
Minstrel Chairman
11 Overlook Road
Boonton Twp, NJ 07005-9115

Phone: 973-335-9489
Call 10AM to 10PM (Eastern time) weekdays or weekends.

Email: E-mail

Picture of CD sales
CDs sell well at the Minstrel

To: Performers and agents

Re: Getting booked at the Minstrel

The Minstrel is a concert series run by the Folk Project, a non-profit folk music and arts organization. We have been in continuous operation since 1975. We use the facilities of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, 21 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, NJ. (About 1 hour west of NYC and an hour and a half north of Philly.) We hold shows every Friday, year round, and the second Friday of most months is an open stage/audition night. The music we present is "folk" music in its broadest sense. That is, in addition to traditional American and ethnic "folk" music (in the purist’s definition), we welcome music of contemporary, primarily acoustic songwriters, and other types of music more folkie in attitude than in content. Our performers are professional and semi-professional, both local and those on the regional, national and international coffeehouse and festival circuits. Preference in booking is given to members of the Folk Project, with more consideration given to those members who are active in our activities or organization. (You can view a schedule of our performers, both upcoming and from our history since 1976, on our website, folkproject.org.)

Our usual format is an Opening Act and a Feature Act. The Opening Act does a 30-minute set to start the show, and the Feature does two 40-45 minute sets with an intermission between them. Our capacity is around 200, and our actual paid attendance over the past year has been averaging around 90, plus an additional 15 or 20 for volunteers and comps. Our pay scheme for Feature Acts is based upon a guarantee plus percentage of the gate plus an archaic, but traditional and effective, donation basket, and of late has been averaging around $800 (plus or minus a whole lot, depending upon the performer's draw, the time of year, the stars, and other factors of Kentucky windage.) The Opener's fee is a straight $75 for a solo, $120 for a duo, or $180 for a trio or more. The audience does tend to buy a lot of recordings, though, so if you have any, it can add a tidy extra sum. The average product sale is about $450 for feature acts and $120 for openers.  The artist keeps 100% of product sales. The second Friday of most months the format changes to an Open Stage, which can be used for audition purposes. (The Open Stage is occasionally moved or pre-empted for events other than the Open Stage, so check the Minstrel Web Page to confirm the schedule before showing up. The website also gives our Open Stage procedures.)

What we do offer you is the finest of all possible audiences. Our crowds average around 90, and are knowledgeable, and packed with lots of fine singers. Given any encouragement, we'll come back at you with choruses, harmonies, and good natured supportive heckling. We feed the head, which for a performer can be as important as the pocketbook. Many fine national performers make it a point to include us on their Northeast tours. We are a well-run organization (if I do say so myself), and we treat you right.

Performers and agents interested in securing a booking should be aware that we do not have a "season." We hold a show virtually every Friday of the year, but that the 2nd Friday of the month is generally reserved for our Open Stage or some other special function. We generally book 3 to 9 months in advance for feature acts and 1 to 3 months in advance for openers (although that can vary a lot sometimes). I must have a feature act booked on a given date before I can confirm an opening act booking for that date. You can refer to the Minstrel page to see our schedule as far ahead as is booked to look for which dates are open, and might coincide with your touring schedule.

Now for the bad news: I usually have to see a performer in person before booking a feature act. My judgments are based on more than just out-and-out musical prowess. Heavily weighted in my consideration are such elements as rapport with the audience, intelligence of presentation, content and poetry of lyrics (for songwriters), balance and diversity of musical style in a set, ties to traditional music, and more undefinable and esoteric qualities. I prefer to see this for myself by seeing a performer live. I have made exceptions based upon recommendations from those I trust implicitly or from live concert recordings.

If you want to send me a demo, bear in mind the following requirements:

  • Conventional studio recordings are not acceptable.

  • I require a recording of a LIVE PERFORMANCE IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE WITH LITTLE OR NO EDITING. This applies to both headliners and opening acts. I need to hear a full set, half hour minimum, with talk, tuning, and all the warts left in. (Please, no radio interviews, no "live in the studio with no overdubs" recordings. Let me hear you in front of a crowd of people.)

  • I require an AUDIO RECORDING, NOT VIDEO, on CD-R, MP3. Send a video only if the visuals are important to what you are presenting. (Such as step dancing, visual stage business, etc.) I generally review submissions in the car, and a video would require me to schedule some precious special time to review it.

  • The recording need not be professionally done. A mini-disc recorder, or mp3 recorder hooked into the sound board and left to run is perfect. Recordings made with hand-held recorders in the audience are usually unacceptable, as they often result in lyrics being so muddy as to be rendered unintelligible. When in doubt, play it while driving for someone who does not know your music, and see if they can repeat the lyrics. If they can't, don't send it.

  • You can mail me a CD-R, or provide me a link to download an audio file. (30-minute audio files are generally too large to attach to an email.)

Most acts I book from demos are openers. I have to be really blown away by a recording to book a feature act on that basis. In grey areas where I'm not sure, I've occasionally asked a performer to do an opening set on a sort of a paid audition basis. I'm aware that this makes it hard on a performer, particularly a traveling professional, but the facts are that the system works for us, and we have no shortage of fine acts. If you'll be playing in the area, let me know. I can't promise, but I'll try to get to hear you.

If you're still interested, email me or give me a call and we'll talk, 973-335-9489, weekdays and weekends between 10 AM and 10 PM Eastern time. Good luck to you.

Sincerely,
Mike Agranoff