Deadlines. Most administrator types like me live a life of deadlines. They rule everything – and it’s not just administrators who live by deadlines. If you’re a musician, you know all too well the deadlines you have to live by: getting a sonata up to speed by your next lesson, getting your singer’s music practised and rehearsed by her recital date, etc. etc.
Publicists like me have to write to deadline, submit photos to magazines and newspapers by deadline, proof house programmes, ads, brochure copy, you name it – all to deadline.
I thought I’d share my experiences about what you need to know about house programme deadlines for, say, a Major Performing Arts Group, which we’ll call “MPAG”. What any marketing department will require are the following:
-your long and short bio
-high-res, high-quality photos of you, your band, etc.
-any important notes about the repertoire, show concept, etc. Without this info, we have bloody hard time selling the show to your audience.
Most MPAG hire freelancers to write the house programme notes.
The Marketing Department – henceforth known as the “TMD” need this info months in advance. Why? Because many house programmes are divvied up into four annual issues:
1) September - November
2) December – February
3) March – May
4) June – August.
The “outer” refers to the glossy pages full of articles that cover the 3-month time span, say, Sept – November. It may cover things like an upcoming artist, details about her music and the projects she works on, etc. The outer stays in the house programme for the 3-month run. So often the articles will be overviews of what’s coming up in the next couple of months; sometimes preference will be given to a concert further down the road, so that the article doesn’t quickly become out of date.
The “inner” refers to the matte pages that cover specific concert info – repertoire, soloists - or it may simply state the concert date, name of artist, with little else if it’s a jazz pianist known for improvisation, or a rock band playing expected tunes plus (as of yet unwritten) new material. The inner changes every few weeks to reflect concerts within a shorter time span than the whole Sept – November issue.
The editor of a house programme deals with marketing staff and freelance writers, and rarely communicates directly with artists or managers.
If you are a singer-songwriter playing at MPAG, and your concert is November 1st, then TMD needs your materials in early July. Yeah, that’s right – FOUR MONTHS before your gig. Because you’ll be going into the Sept – November issue – which must hit the venue BEFORE September 1.
Here’s the workback schedule:
Concert date: November 1
Issue: Sept – November issue
Date of shipment of house programmes to venue: August 28 (for Sept. 1)
Submit materials to printers: August 24 or so
Editor to receive final drafts from freelancers and TMD of MPAG: mid-July. She needs a lot of time to proof everything; she needs to allow for people who will be late with the deadline; make edits so it reads like one cohesive document, and not a mish-mash of material from many different sources; to format every page; to figure out photo layouts; line up all the logos of sponsors; ensure the donor page is updated; allow time to ask for re-sumbissions due to technical difficulties; etc. etc. etc.
So if you just had a photo shoot, and sent your new pic to the marketing manager at MPAG in early October, all excited about seeing it in the house programme for your gig November 1 - bad news – you’re way too late.
These deadlines also affect the cover. If we’re putting together the house programme for September – November, then a September artist cover dates right away. We’re more likely to see if a late November artist can go on the cover. If the pictures are good, it’s a done deal. So bear this in mind for photography – high-quality, high-res, well-directed vertical pictures are a must. Horizontal images cannot be used for a cover!
When in doubt, assume on the ridiculously early if you’re not sure about deadlines for your materials for your upcoming gig. Remember that marketing departments can work up to a year in advance, such as with season announcements – so the earlier you submit your materials, the better. Trust me: you will NEVER hear a marketing staffer say, “I can’t believe you’re calling me 8 months in advance! You loser-keener!” Much more often than not, we’re tearing our hair out and cussing like sailors, wishing materials were submitted to us earlier.
Now, here’s a newsflash: when you cause us to delay printing, you cost the MPAG money.
When you don’t submit your repertoire on time, you force the MPAG to add inserts into the programme at the last minute. Designing and printing inserts cost money. Ushers need to be paid to stuff the programme. If the MPAG doesn’t include concert info in the house programme, customer service reps get screamed at by angry patrons or subscribers. It’s not fun.
A beautifully edited house programme is a sight to behold; you know it when you see one. You know a poorly-edited house programme when you see a bio that reads, “so-and-so hails from Toronto, Ontario, Canada” when you’re reading it IN Toronto. Or you’ll come across spelling inconsistencies. Or the name of a well-known work written in two different ways on one page.
A word about flyers – SAME THING RE: DEADLINES. If you’re a musician with a MPAG and have an interesting project coming up you thing the patrons would be interested in, please broach the editor or house programme coordinator with your flyer several months in advance. Most MPAGs have relationships with other MPAGs in town; “let us put an insert in your programme, and you can put one in ours.” So often there’s an obligational insert that’s already been promised. Then there are future concerts the MPAG wants to promote of its own. There is a limit to how many inserts you can include; patrons don’t like having six flyers fall in their laps. Also, MPAGs can’t have poorly printed inserts or inserts about something totally unrelated to the concert (again, more unpleasant calls are taken by customer service when this happens).
And finally, when you have questions about the house programme, ask for the right point person. If you have a contact you’re most comforable approaching in admin, it’s fine to approach her, but don’t assume she can fulfill your request. Ask her for the name of the right person and she’ll be happy to hook you up. Chances are, she’ll prefer your request emailed to her so she can forward it on.
Any questions?? Bring ‘em on.