If you would like to perform at the Borderline, please send a CD (web-based music is unacceptable, as our computer speakers are $10 junky ones and they will not do justice to your performance) and some information about you or your group by snail mail to Sol Zeller, 7 Elyise Road, Monsey, NY 10952.
What does it take for a performer to get booked as a headliner at The Borderline? I have been asked this question many times so let me spell out very clearly what I am looking for and what factors I use in making a decision. First of all, the person or group should work in the folk style, not jazz, rock, hip hop, etc.
The first thing that you have to realize is that our job is to entertain people. We want a performer who will positively impact the audience members so that they will be willing to come back again for the next concert. Contrary to popular opinion, only a small percentage of our audience members are hard core folkies or bluegrass fans. Most are just there to enjoy a night or afternoon of good music and companionship at the reasonable price of $20. Name recognition does not mean much to them. They want to hear somebody who has a good singing voice and plays his or her instrument with proficiency. They also want to hear songs that are well written, and the melody is just as important as the lyrics. The song has to have meaning for them and be about something that they can relate to. I have had many submissions from singer songwriters whose material sounds more like chants instead of melodic songs. To make matters worse almost all of the songs on the disc sound the same. That is NOT what I am looking for. Also, many of them are about very personal situations that many audience members can not relate to. Let’s be real. Not everyone out there in the audience is interested in why you broke up with your girlfriend. You may feel the emotion in the song but they do not. But on the other hand if you sing about a situation that affects all of us at present or has done so in the past, then you have in effect bonded with the audience. That has been the secret of many successful folk singers such as Tom Paxton, Si Kahn, and more recently Pat Wictor & Joe Jencks. I try to hear most of the performers that I book in live performance. Interaction between the performer and the audience is almost as important as the actual performance itself. If I can not do so I will ask for a CD that I can play on a stereo with high quality speakers. It is impossible to judge how a performer will sound in my venue through web based music that is played through cheap $10 computer speakers. We can only do 6 or 7 concerts a year which can translate into an average waiting time of 3 to 4 years for performers who apply. Of course, if someone is so good that they blow me away at the first listening I will make an exception and try to get them in right away. However that has only happened 3 times in our 7 year history with 2 male singers and one female singer, all 3 of whom were virtual unknowns at the time. Also, if you are a rock performer who can also do folk, you need not apply. We do not want any “loud” music where the percussion and instrumentation is loud to the point that it drowns out the lyrics. Don’t bring along a drum kit; that would be an automatic rejection. Traditional instruments such as a tom-tom, dumbek, djembe, are ok. If anyone has any further questions on the matter I am willing to answer them.
Sol Zeller, President, Borderline Folk Music Club