Harold Sanditen – How to get the best from a cabaret open mics and how to record a CD


“This is career number four,” says Harold Sanditen. He’s worked in manufacturing, investment banking, as a theatre producer and at 52 (proving it’s never too late) he became a cabaret singer. He’s now hosts the weekly open mic night at London’s Crazy Coqs. There are really three parts to this interview. First Harold tells me what brought him to the world of cabaret, then we discuss the Crazy Coqs open mic nights and finally the process of making and selling CDs.

As a theatre producer Harold worked with stars like Steve Guttenburg, Kim Criswell, Clive Owen and Kathy Burke. Flitting between London and New York’s theatre scenes he soon discovered and fell in love with cabaret. He attended cabaret workshops learning from the greats like Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Mason, Sharon McNight and many more.

When I was writing Cabaret Secrets everyone told me about the value of open mic nights. Harold discovered this for himself when he started singing and still goes to them now when he needs to try new material out. “If you don’t know whether something is going to be funny or [a song] is going to work, open mics are the way to find out.”

If you’re thinking about going along to one of Harold’s open mic nights but you’re a little nervous (who wouldn’t be?) he explains here exactly what you can expect. He stresses it’s a friendly, supportive environment, “a safe zone”. It’s also an incredible showcase for your talent. You can invite a potential booker along to watch you perform and you’ll find that Ruth Leon – Artistic Director of the Crazy Coqs attends most open mic’s on the look out for new talent. That in itself is a huge incentive for anyone to turn up.

Come prepared. Harold explains they have a pianist and a bass player so bring charts that they can read easily. Make sure they are already clearly marked up with any changes you want to make. There is no time at all to rehearse. You’ll have about 15 seconds to explain to the pianist your tempo and then you’re on! You’ll hear Harold explain in details what songs work best but it’s worth knowing it’s not expected for you to introduce yourself or tell a story – due to time constrains it’s often better just to sing. Harold’s trying to squeeze around 18 performers into 90 minutes but he will give everyone a moment to plug their show or whatever when they’ve finished their song. Do come prepared with your business cards or flyers – everyone is there to promote themselves so don’t be shy!

The interview then moves onto what goes into making CDs. There is lots of very useful information here for anyone thinking about recording their own disc, especially if it’s from a live show. We cover bar codes, mastering, the pros and cons of working with a record company, distribution, download cards, MCPS, PRS, ISRC codes, artwork, and live albums versus studio recordings. Please listen and I promise you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money.

Click here for more details of the Open Mic Nights at the Crazy Coqs. You can also see Harold perform his own show there in May 2014, more details are on his Facebook page here.

Recorded in London 15th June 2013.

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