Tuesday, November 12, 2013

unsolicited advice re: musicians' websites

OK... nobody asked for my opinion but that has never stopped me before.  I'm speaking here as one who books a venue (Cambridge Drive Concerts), not a fan looking at musicians' websites.  Some of the needs are very different so take that into account. 

As a booker, when I go to an artist's website, there are a number of things I look for and I want to be able to find them relatively easily. 

First, I want to be able to hear the artist's music.  It is better yet if I can actually hear their live sound rather than a CD they're selling (which tells me next to nothing about what they sound like live) and even better yet if I can watch a quality video of a live performance. 

Next I want a good, useable bio.  If it includes recommendations or reviews, they are worth more to me if they are related to live performances than to a CD.  And if you have quotes from venues that are similar to mine, even better yet.  Te whole thing doesn't need to be press ready, but if it is, I appreciate that.  One performer sent me a press kit with three different length bios... I loved it.  I didn't end up using any of them verbatim but took pieces from two and put together something that fit our requirements and seemed to reflect the performer's personality.

I want to know where the musician is based.  I hear lots of music on the web, have a feeling the person would be a good match for our venue, make a contact, only to discover they're based in Maine and never travel outside of New England.  You wouldn't believe how many websites don't even give a clue as to where the musician is based.  It would have been so much easier if somewhere the website might have said, "New England based" or "I spend 50% of my time driving cross country and perform everywhere."  Maybe even a "I'm currently putting together a west coast tour for next fall..." 

Last, I want to be able to find a good high rez photo to use for my press materials.  I can't tell you how many artist's websites have zero useable photos for press releases.  Yes, I can send an e-mail and ask for one and wait for it to be sent, but it is soooo much easier when I can just go to the website and download it.  And of course, there are those times when I forget to ask until a day before the press release needs to go out and there just isn't time and I end up using something inadequate that I pulled off the web somewhere.  As likely as not, that photo doesn't get included in the announcements in the media and maybe we lose a few audience members.

Once I've booked an act, I need a few other pieces.  What do you need from me for sound, ie how many microphones, inputs, DI's?  Do you have any food allergies or requirements?  We like to feed folk.  Any pet allergies if we're putting you up?  Where are you coming from and going to?  That helps with our plans.  Send me a CD a few months before your date.  It isn't just for me (although I've gotten a few of my favorite CD's from performers).  I'll play it at shows as people arrive and during intermission and inform the audience... "You're listening to John Doe who is performing here next month."  The high rez photo becomes more important here.  I need one, one way or another and I have to have it more than a month out as press releases go out before the 1st of the prior month.  And most important, give me your cell phone number and get mine as soon as we solidify a date.  It isn't likely we'll need to call one another, but if you're stuck on the 101 outside of Ventura because of a mud slide an hour before our scheduled soundcheck, I need to know.

One more piece of advice.  I love to get e-mails from performers looking for someplace to play and have connected with some wonderful folk that way.  More often than not though,  the sender has done no research and they are not the right artist for us.  I get e-mails from hip hop artists, alternative rock bands, you name it... and it is a waste of time and bandwidth.   Find out who we are and what we do before you make a contact.  FWIW, I usually book about 6 months out and do the fall in a block and then the winter/spring in a block.  We present once a month on the first Friday.

One of these days I'll give some more unsolicited advice about performing.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

winners and losers in the ACA

No doubt you have heard reports of folk  who have lost health insurance or had it increase in price because of the Affordable Care Act.  I know that in some of those instances, the reporting has been less than 100% accurate.  In some cases, such as with Trader Joe's, the employer discontinued their employee insurance because they calculated that their employees could get coverage through the exchanges for less than their portion of the coverage they were getting at work.  Dropping them actually got them equivalent insurance for less money.  In other instances, people with woefully inadequate insurance found themselves having to pay more but also receiving significantly better coverage.  All that said, I know there are folk who have seen increases in the cost of their insurance and I've heard some reports for which I have no data to question, that the reason is Obamacare.  And finally there are those young adults who "don't need" health insurance until of course, they do.  For them, any cost is an increase.

My experience has been different.  As I said in an earlier post, moving to the exchange will save significantly money for my employer.  I had no idea how much.  To recap, my insurance is ridiculously high for a number of reasons.  Clergy are a high risk group to begin with.  They tend not to take good care of themselves so heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are rampant.  Clergy also tend to be older which just increases the risk pool.  Finally, the health insurance we get through our denomination is an even higher risk pool as it tends to include only those who cannot get insurance elsewhere.  Until the ACA, I was part of that group.   I also happen to live in an area where healthcare and insurance are very expensive.  We received word that for next year, our denominational healthcare plan would increase by 11.5% and the increase has nothing to do with the ACA.  Additionally, the co-pays all increase as does the out of pocket limit and fewer medications are covered.  Add the fact that I move into another age category and insurance for my spouse and I would cost $4251 a month.  Simply, that is beyond what the church could possibly afford and minus housing allowance, is more than my salary.  Looking at the exchange, it seems that a platinum plan in our area at our age would be under $1900 a month for a savings of about $2,350 a month or over a 55% savings.  It is still a lot of money but the church can afford to keep me covered.

My son-in-law, daughter, and grandson will experience an even larger savings.  My son has been without health insurance for 3 years because as a single male he was not eligible for any government help and could not begin to afford coverage on the open market.  He will have insurance beginning January 1 and I will breathe much easier every time he plays basketball or flag football.

I guess there are losers in all of this.  I still agree that the overall shape of the ACA is not the best we could have done.  Given the current situation and the political climate in which we live, I am more thankful than I could say for the ACA.