APAP stands for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. [www.APAPconf.org], and is based in Washington D.C. Every year APAP comes to the NY Hilton on 6th Ave. @ 54th Street for a 5- day convention. It’s usually held the 1st weekend of January. Every year I get asked these questions about APAP because I have participated and have managed booths for myself and others. I thought I’d share the information with all of you.

Basically, it’s a convention where people with talent (under the umbrella of a Talent Agency or Production Co.) set up booths in an enormous 3-story Convention Hall at the Hilton to try to sell their act or acts to potential buyers of talent who are Production Co., Agents, Managers, Universities, Theatres, Conventions, Corporations, International Venues, Senior Centers, Cruise Liners and more. Many from these entities are looking to book their entire season and it is usually for the next year.  This convention will probably be booking their 2020 or 2021 season.  There are 4,000 arts professionals & artists from 49 States and 30 different countries participating. It’s pretty impressive.

There are many kinds of talent represented. Irish Tap, Violin & Celtic Vocal Troupes; really, really famous people in Vegas type acts usually repped by large agencies; Clowns, Ballet Troupes; tons of singers most repped by an agent or in a booth with multiple singers (although there are many single act booths); Dance Troupes of all sorts; Comics; Magicians; Jugglers; even the Kramer & Soup Nazi tours are repped there…you name it, it’s at the Hilton! It’s all a bit overwhelming. All of the agents that rep the higher level of Cabaret singers are also there. This is probably the only way that I would ever go back in as an artist though, through a booth like these that are Cabaret specific. The smaller booth of 4-5 singers under someone’s umbrella does not work as well in terms of traffic to the booth but I’ll speak more about this later.

APAP gives different badges to the buyers and sellers so if you are in a booth, you can tell a buyer by their badge which they try to hide sometimes! People walk around the halls going to the booths that they have pre-determined to visit (see more about this below) and ALL the booth participants tend to pounce on them as they pass by. A really good trick to lure them into the booth (you are not supposed to be allowed outside the booth to make deals) is to have a bowl of premium candy (chocolate) or water to get them into your booth to pitch to them. The other way to lure them in is with visuals. Beautiful booths with lovely posters that look like money was spent on them tend to bring in more buyers than sad little booths with Xeroxed One-Sheeters for 10 different acts. Go BIG or go home here. Present like a pro in how you look and how you represent yourself in terms of your image and materials. (This goes across the board to us all even when we’re not on stage…it’s all about your image.)

This Convention is NOT really for the individual artist unless you are also your own production company. You must have an EIN number as an Agent, Manager or Production Co. to secure a booth. What happens here is that many, many booths (none of which I can mention because it’s not actually allowed by the APAP people) take on individual artists and let them buy into their booth to off-set their own expenses. They will give you a badge to access to the convention and a listing for your showcases but you will be listed under their booth name so this automatically creates a confusing situation, particularly when it comes time to do the follow up (see below.) They may also allow you a little table space for your materials at the booth. (I’d make sure that this was included when negotiating your agreement with them.)  It can all be worked out.

Booth Info, Booth Fees & Badges: I did not participate in this year’s convention but years ago, these were the rates. I am sure they are much higher now, but you can check their website. This will just give you an idea of the range and what it was 5 years ago.

$750-900 for 10×5 or 5×10 comes with 2 badges – additional badges may be purchased for $250 each. Prices vary depending on whether you are in the 5×10 and a corner spot which are the more expensive booths in this range.

$1,280-1,700 for 8×10 or 10×10 comes with 4 badges – additional badges may be purchased for $250 each (if you do this early though, the booth gets an early bird special of just $175 per additional badge.) Many folks try to reach a booth and just ask them to get them a badge for which they pay the $175 fee and then offer to work at their showcases or to pass out showcase fliers.

The One-Day badge, which has some restrictions, may be purchased for the whopping fee of $495. However, I would totally recommend that if you are considering doing this next year, that you pay this amount and go check out the convention this year to get a sense of what it is before you lay down all that money to participate. This now becomes $495 well spent.

This schedule is as follows: Friday – 9:00 am–5:00 pm SET UP ONLY – Conference is not open to the General Public yet. Saturday – 2:00 pm-6:30 pm – Conference Open – this and Sunday will be the busiest days! Showcases all over the place. Sunday, – 1:30 pm-6:30 pm – Conference Open! Showcases all over the place. Monday – 9:00 am-11:00 pm & 1:30 pm – 6:00 pm – While the conference is still open, you will see much less traffic today. Some booths are even starting to close down and go home so, to maximize your Showcase potential for next year, try to get your shows up on Sat/Sun AND if you are doing shows off-site, consider doing one show on-campus either Sat/Sun to reach buyers who do not want to go off-campus during the day. The more opportunities to see you means more chances of getting a booking. Hedge your bets!

Speaking of being seen…the big trick for the booth is to get the buyers to see their showcases so that they can sample the acts that the booth is trying to sell. These showcases happen all over the city in all the clubs and venues and many more take place right at the Hilton in the various meeting rooms. Just to give you an idea…there are over 1,300 showcases happening all day long all around the city.  This is a MASSIVE operation and very confusing to go into your first year cold without knowing how things work (or don’t) so, again, I’d recommend you that you considering attending with a One-Day badge to check it all out and possibly pick up booth cards to follow up with later. Perhaps there is an existing company that your act would match with and you can join them under their umbrella next year.

Get your $495 dollars worth by getting their card. WARNING WILL ROBINSON…DO NOT DO TRY TO CHAT UP A BOOTH MANAGER AT THE EVENT. It will be resented. Remember, the booths are there to sell and you would be taking up valuable sell time by engaging their agents or reps in chat. They will remember you for sure, but for all the wrong reasons!

Once participating…how do you get folks to your booth? Well, all participants are sent a little Showcase “Bible” a few weeks before the Convention AND each booth manager is sent an electronic Email list of all buyers. This Bible lists every single showcase and every booth participating with times/locations. What I would do if I were a buyer, and what some buyer have told me that they do, is to go through this book and highlight all the shows that I would like to see or consider for my venue and create a schedule for myself. This would be the most time-effective way to do the convention. On the first day, as a buyer, I would walk the Halls and visit all the booths that I know I want materials from for my venue and then I’d see all those showcases. Day 2 would be finishing up on the above and more showcases and Day 3 would be browsing for “other” things but you’re REALLY tired by now and probably have already seen enough to fill your season. We call Day 3 the “Zombie Shopping Day”!

Again, pre-conference preparation would be to utilize the E-mail list to start to blast to folks who are attending weeks before the event. This is how you would get yourself considered when the buyer is starting to highlight their “must see” book but know who you are sending to. I’d rather take 100 names from the list and know that I am appropriate for their venue and include a little personal note (do your research on who has played there before, etc.) than do a blast to all because you’ll be sending to circus people and ballet troupes and it’s a waste of your time and theirs. This list, however, is only sent to the Agent/Production Co. of the booth and not all participants so you’d have to have a good relationship with the booth owner in order to ask for it.

There is one other thing that they give out only to the Booth Manager and that is a huge book filled with all the names of the venues & participants broken down by State/Country and listing what they are and who they book. This is THE item that you need to do your follow up and again, unless you are working with the Manager vs. just being allowed to use the booth space to off-set their costs, you’re not getting this book. Sometimes though, on the very last day, APAP will put them out for whoever wants to take them.

This brings me to the all important follow up. APAP is only successful if you have gotten a business card from every person that you have chatted with (I usually write some kind of reference of our chat on the back of the card.) I usually wait 2 weeks as you can imagine them going back to their offices with all this information and trying to decompress from the convention and then trying to contact the people they went to see. I usually write a letter saying, “We spoke at APAP about “xyz”; here is the Press Kit/DVD that you asked me to send and the price sheet. Please contact me directly if you have any further questions.” If you are part of a booth and not one of their people, YOU must do the follow up so make sure you allow yourself the time in late January and early February to do this. You will then have to follow up to see if they received the materials 2 weeks after that. Usually it’s still sitting unopened on their desk or their Secretary has tossed it. This, at least, gives you contact with the booking person to resend the materials or for them to say “no thanks” so that you can move on.

I also have taken that bigger book with all the listings and chosen venues in the States that I want to work to then send materials to them saying something like, “I attended APAP this year and visited your booth and I think this act (or my act) would fit with your roster, Enclosed please find my Press Kit/DVD for your consideration.” All they can do is say “no” right?

It’s all about the follow up! It’s a tremendous amount of work but if you or the booth that you are in do not do this; you have just literally thrown your money away. There will be no bookings to off-set your costs of participation. If you can’t do the follow up, hire someone to do it for you telling them which venues you want to solicit. It may be better to actually have someone rep you in this way anyway as it looks like you “have people”.

Material Check Off List for the Booth:

Booth decorations – large, fabulous poster of your act or acts and a banner to hang over the back of the booth. CANDY!!! Chocolate and those small bottles of water are the two things that people will stop at the booth to take. A bowl for all the business cards which needs to be secured at night.  (Everyone puts things under their tables at night. It’s secure there.)

TV or DVD player to play all your acts’ clips on a loop so that it keeps rotating. These devices must have headsets as they do not allow the noise of these clips in the hall.

Sign Up Sheets or Showcase Coupons – since many of the shows happen in NYC clubs, how does one coordinate FREE entrances for the APAP participants? There are several ways as follows:

-People come to the booth to sign up and then your booth people must have that check-in list at the box office.

-People come to the booth to get a coupon from you allowing them FREE access to the show for no cover or ticket price.

-You put on all your materials that FREE access to all your booth showcases is granted by showing your APAP badge but, for this, you must work this out with the Club too don’t forget.

-It’s a good idea that if a club is charging the two-drink or $15 minimum that this be listed on all materials so that folks don’t stay for 10 minutes and walk out not paying. The club would then charge YOU for this so make it clear on your materials what the deal.

A postcard or brochure with each of the acts’ information on it as a quickie pass-off around the hotel and/or a postcard selling all the Booth’s showcases. I think it’s better if you are a booth with 6 acts to have a booth showcase card and that each individual act has their own card as well. Many a person who will come to the showcase will have had a card passed off to them in the restaurant at lunch time or in the bar after hours or just smoozing in the lobby. Always have them on you though. My friend Joan Crowe (the original Queen of Shameless Self-Promotion) would walk around the hall with the postcards in the back of her pants under her jacket and she was like Quick Draw McDraw pulling them out to hand out whenever she met someone.

While you need to have Press Kits there (Photo, reviews, one-sheeter; price list; business card; DVD or CD; Tech Requirement, etc.) for anyone who asks for one, don’t just pass them out. Let them ask for it. People will dump them and you will have wasted all that money. Think about the traveler sitting in their hotel room preparing to go home. They have luggage limitations and will not take any of this with them. The One-Sheeter; Flier/Postcard and/or Brochure is all you need or, the new wave is just passing off a DVD or CD package so you do away with all the written materials and give them something to play for their Boards or Committees who are the ones considering your act. Prior to participating in the convention, set up an electronic press kit. You have a whole year from today to start checking off all these things. Speaking of Boards and such, my big mistake my first year was not to take younger buyers seriously. Many Universities send out a committee of younger folks (because they are booking their own market) and I guess I did not spend the same time with them, thinking they were not “real” buyers and it was to my detriment. They bring the materials back to the Boards. Just keep this in mind. Older folks could be booking the “Blue Hair” circuit of Senior Centers and affluent Trailer Parks…ya never know!

The One-Sheeter is a blurb with a photo of the artist or their show flier and specifically about the product you are selling. If you already have reviews for that product, they will be listed below the basic show/entertainer information.

The Price List should NOT be given out if you can avoid it. Many places have more budget than you may pitch to them for the act and you’d be under-selling your act. I usually say, “It’s in this range but I am sure that I can work within your budget. Let me send you the full press kit and I’ll include the sheet with the breakdowns.” Then I’d try to find out what their range is to come in at a bid that I know they can cover. Go see who they have had there. Look at what they price their tickets at and figure out their take by the number of seats. You must have a Price Sheet in the booth though and be prepared to discuss the financials on the spot if someone asks. I’ve set my own sheet up to reflect the following information:

-My show with piano/vocalist only $______

-My show with a trio (piano/bass/vocals)  $_____

-My show with a quartet (piano/bass/drums/vocals) $_____

-Thereafter please add $____ per additional musician

-Travel and per diem expenses

-Hotel transfer

All materials printed for the booth must list the showcase times and the booth number. THIS is the key to getting people to see you and to be able to come to book you after they have seen your show or showcase.

By now your heads are probably ready to fall off with all this information but, I wanted to get this info to you so that those of you who wanted to spend the money for a One-Day badge could consider doing it to see what it’s all about for you possible participation next year! I also can now just send this column to people when they ask be about APAP! Phew!

Sue Matsuki

Dream it, Believe it, DO IT!

To contact me with a question or a column idea please send an email to: Sue@CabaretHotspot.com

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