How To Make the Initial Call

Today we have another post from our friends at the Fifth House Ensemble, this time from Adam Marks, who is the pianist and Director of Artistic Programming for Fifth House.   He’s got some great insight into one of the most difficult aspects of being an arts entrepreneur: cold communication.  It’s one of many skills that we emphasize at the IAE, and the ability to push past the awkwardness and nervousness of connecting with people you don’t know can be liberating if you just embrace it.  You can check out more from Fifth House members at their blog, Playing Close to the Bridge.

Here’s Adam:

Before you make the first call to a presenter, you need to have done your research. Know who you are calling, what their tastes are, and have a sense of what about you might interest them. Be aware of any common acquaintances, shared interests, even alma maters. Just like a good pop song, you need a hook.

Once you get on the line, you need to get that hook in within 7 seconds. If you can’t state who you are, and get traction on the hook in that time frame, your sale is likely done for. The people you call are always going to be busy, so drop whatever names you need to drop toot sweet.

Now that you’ve got their attention, draw them out. Cite aspects of their series you appreciate and ask them to tell you more. Learn about their audience, demographic, and taste. When appropriate, tie in what you learn to facts within your own organization or presentation. If they talk about a runaway success they had with a particular style of performance, share the successes you have found recently—reviews, audience numbers, grants, etc.

If things are going well, send them more information electronically or by post so that they have time to live with your materials, mission, and body of work. Don’t make this first call too long. Rarely will you find a situation where you book a concert on this initial call. Don’t try to make this happen. Send more information, and let them know that you’ll follow up a week later to make sure they received it, and answer any questions they might have. This encourages them to review your materials in a timely manner, consider questions, and potentially be ready to discuss a project with you later on.

Booking a concert is a partnership between performer and presenter. The initial call is really just a cheap pickup line in a crowded bar. Get in there, get the digits, and get out. Better to follow up later if you want it to be a lasting relationship.

Adam is the pianist and Director of Artistic Programming for Fifth House Ensemble. For more information, please visit Like what you read here? For more music entrepreneurship tidbits, visit, brought to you by members of 5HE.


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