This week we held one of our regular Business of Dance information sessions for dance artists, and this one was an introduction to pitching work to presenters. Here are a few of the key points which emerged. Our thanks to Mary-Louise Albert of the Chutzpah! Festival who joined our Executive Director Mirna Zagar to provide insights into how presenters work and what artists need to know when seeking to be programmed.
Do your research. Find out which presenters would realistically be interested in presenting your work. What kind of work do they show? How large is their venue? Find out what their programming process and timeline is: do they issue a call for submissions? How far ahead do they program? In Canada, the CanDance Network is a good place to start.
Build relationships. When first making contact with a presenter, keep it simple – don’t send your entire portfolio, but make sure you can explain briefly and clearly who you are and what you do. Respect the presenter’s time and show you have done your research.
Make it simple(r). Presenters receive a lot of submissions and they have plenty of good artists to choose from. A well-written description of the work, professional photos (not headshots!), links to online video clips, an up-to-date website with your tech rider, suggestions for which target audiences would respond to your work: all these can help distinguish your pitch from the rest, and show the presenter you are professional and serious about your work, and that you understand their concerns.
Deliver on what you promise. Don’t change the work, the dancers or the technical requirements after a presenter has booked it. Nobody likes last-minute surprises. In addition to making good work, it’s important to be good to work with: if an artist is professional, pleasant and flexible to work with throughout an engagement, the presenter will share that with his/her peers. If they’re not, they will share that, too.
No does not necessarily mean never. Presenters may follow an artist for years before programming them, waiting until the work is ready artistically or the right opportunity for them appears. Try not to take it personally if you are turned down, presenters can’t program everybody: ask for feedback, and maintain the relationship.
It’s a partnership. Presenters and artists have a mutual interest in bringing audiences and art together, and this requires great commitment on both sides. Have honest conversations about fees and what you need to make the show happen, and be aware that the presenter is often operating within tight constraints.
If you have more tips you’d like to add, please leave them in the comments below!
The Business of Dance series continues throughout the season, and dance artists can book a one-to-one consultation with Dance Centre staff for specific help.