Recent Subscriber Questions (vol. II)

We’re going back to the mailbag this week to answer more great questions from subscribers on things like email outreach, historical music, multigenerational audiences, perfectionism and more…

(Feel free to keep your questions coming, BTW!)

#1. Working With Multi-Generational Audiences

Matt was asking about “tips for working with multi-generational audiences.”

This is something I’ve put a lot of thought into over the years, mostly because I’ve ended up in some unexpected situations along the way…

  • More seniors than children show up at a concert for kids
  • Kids show up at a performance for adults
  • EVERYONE shows up for a summertime outdoor concert

Suddenly, you’re wondering “who am I playing for” and “should I be catering more to the adults or the kids?” and “how do I keep everybody engaged.”

Here’s how I handle things…

If the booker has told me, or if I have any intuition, that I could end up with a mixed audience of kids, adults and/or seniors at a gig, I make two tentative setlists.


Because the audience makeup isn’t always what they say it’s going to be.

Setlist A – for a truly mixed audience
Setlist B – amendments to Setlist A if very few kids (or very few adults) show up

This way, I’m covered either way.

If I do have a truly mixed audience, I tend to split things down the middle in terms of repertoire – I include a few things just for the kids, I don’t give elaborate song introductions or do as much “educating” as I would with adult audiences, and I include everyone in the participatory parts.

Adults love to see kids interacting with the music, and they also don’t mind participating right along with the kids – I’ve had audiences of adults doing all kinds of silly stuff in this context.

But I also wouldn’t aim everything at the kids. Even at a “kids” concert, if their parents are there, include them too.

I hope that helps Matt. Feel free to comment below if I’m not quite answering your question.

#2. Finding Regional and Historical Music

Steve wanted to know:

“How to research period music. I’m playing out quite a bit, but trying to step up to the next level with a historical theme, like you do. I am based in SW Ohio.”

Hey Steve – you know I love a question like this, and I don’t talk about this side of things much on the blog because most of my readers aren’t doing regional or historical music.

Lots of ideas for you:

  • Mary Eddy’s 1939 book “Ballads and Songs From Ohio” (try used booksellers or your public library)
  • Recent book on the Ohio song collecting work of Anne Grimes
  • “Ohio State Ballads” recording (and liner notes) by Anne Grimes

You should find plenty of good music and stories in those three sources, but if you really want to geek out further, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has vast holdings of field recordings made in Ohio (and every other state in the Union). You’re bound to find some gems there too.

I feel like this is such a worthwhile path to pursue, because:

a) the material is important and rare, and there’s almost nobody else is doing it – you’ll get a lot of satisfaction from your work researching it, and people will appreciate your efforts

b) a program of these songs is highly marketable to schools, libraries, museums, community events, historical societies etc.

As we’ve said here before, themed shows get booked.

#3. When Things Aren’t Perfect…

This is the first of three questions from Skyler – – I’ll see if I can get to all three today.

She wanted to know “how to put your work out there when you don’t feel it’s perfect.”

This is an easy one for me to answer.

Things will never be perfect! (And, most people won’t notice the small things that bother you, the creator.)

That said, you definitely need to have a standard, and you don’t want to put unflattering things out there.

But, if you tend to lean toward perfectionism and an unrealistic standard for yourself (as I do), get things close to where you want them and then let it rip.

#4. What An Outreach Email Looks Like

Skyler’s second question had to do with what an email to a potential venue, school, or center looks like. 

I should probably do a whole post or webinar on this at some point, because this is a fairly common question.

And, of course, there’s no one right answer.

I would encourage you to keep the following things in mind though:

  1. The recipient is BUSY – make it short and relevant to them
  2. Your subject line matters a lot
  3. Your first sentence is also very important – if you don’t hook them there, you’re probably in the trash folder
  4. Have one goal in mind for the email – don’t try to accomplish five things with it
  5. Put yourself in your recipient’s shoes when writing – what do they care about and how do you help them achieve that?
  6. Don’t ask them to click on a bunch of links to learn more about you (they won’t)
  7. Include a powerful testimonial or two
  8. Ending with a question can be a good way to elicit a response
  9. If you don’t mind using the phone, you could end with “I’ll give you a call next week to see if ….”

#5. Performing Live On Camera

Skyler’s last question was about “how to perform live on camera without instruments.”

I perform live on camera all the time, both with and without instruments, and I think it all boils down to keeping your audience (who you can’t see) engaged.

How to do that?

  • perform for your camera, looking directly into it (which translates to looking right at your audience)
  • aim to make a connection with them
  • involve them
  • assume they are responding just as a live audience does
  • build in some feedback loops – message board, or chat function, or even by text
  • don’t acknowledge that you can’t see/hear them – be comfortable
  • be confident and engaging and you’ll carry the day

There’s no substitute for just doing this a handful of times – you’ll figure out your on-camera “persona” and settle in pretty quickly.

I always ask for feedback afterwards, too, so I can get a feel for how things went on the other end.

Hope that helps!

About The Blog

The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms for Connected Educator MonthSince leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.

Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.

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