Sue’s Views

A Blog by Sue Matsuki

Live Performance as we come out of Covid

by | May 19, 2021 | Sue's Views | 0 comments


We are all very excited by the CDC’s recent statement that masks are now no longer going to be required for outdoor and indoor clubs and restaurants, but this is still a very personal choice for each of us.

With NO judgement on whatever choices you will make in the up-coming months as we all try to find our way back to the “new normal” of live performance, I wanted to share a couple of updates on what’s going on in the clubs and about my own performance choices for you to consider as you try to decide how to book your big come back! I just posted a complete update on what’s happening at all the clubs called, “We’re Back!”. Please read it by clicking here:

The decisions you make are, or course, based on how you feel about the vaccination and wearing masks but the decision to attend a show is actually our audience’s views on those things so I would say:

  • Ask your fan base how they feel.
  • Are they ready to go inside to see a show?
  • Are they going out at all yet? If so, where and under what conditions?
  • What’s important to them as far as the safety measures being taken by the places you will sing?
  • Do they prefer to start attending shows in places with some kind of ventilation or outside air flow or do the majority of your people feel OK going into a room with air conditioning and some social distancing of the tables?
  • When they go to 100% capacity (rumored to be in September), how do they feel about that?
  • Evaluate your options and book your room accordingly.

Let’s face it, if your people will not show up, what’s the point of doing a show? I would say take a minute to check-in with all the people you know currently attend your shows regularly and ask them. It could save you a lot of time, grief and money.

NY is currently allowing places to be open at a certain capacity with Covid precautions being enforced but as of the end of May the curfews will be lifted, in July they say that things will return to “normal” but that has not been clearly defined yet and by September we are hearing that, barring any spikes in Covid, we are back to 100% capacity. Masks are not being required but many places are being given the option to ask people to wear them. Here is a link the official statement:


As you can read from the “We’re Back!” article, everyone is poised to come back full force by the Fall. Most places are currently taking bookings with the codicil that the contracts may be cancelled due to any CDC recommendations and spikes in Covid by that time. This will also time out with whether or not they officially decide we all need a booster shot in the Fall. There are SO many balls still up in the air so all we can do is proceed with caution to safeguard our own health and well-being and the health and well-being of our fans, friends and family.

Right now (and this can, and I am sure, will change) I am choosing to only sing in clubs or restaurants that have in-door and out-door seating options and where there is fresh air flow happening. I am choosing this path not for me (although I would currently only attend shows in places like this) but for my audience. I did ask them how they felt about coming out to see a live show again and I asked before I accepted the booking.

As you probably know by now, Gregory Toroian, Skip Ward and I have been booked at Pangea every 2nd Sunday to bring back our Open Mic/Jazz Brunch. We are doing it there because that’s where we started this event but also because they can open up that front window and their front door allowing fresh air into the room. The stage is elevated and far enough away from both the in-door and out-door diners so we (and they) are totally safe. These exact conditions are also being followed at The West Bank Café by they way. When booking your show, after you have surveyed your audience, you should ask the booking agent or the club/restaurant:

  • What are your current Covid precautions? When will they change and how?
  • Do you have in-door and out-door dining options?
  • Are all your staff vaccinated?
  • Do you have partitions between your tables?
  • What is your “sold out” capacity? (You’ll need to know the for financial reasons as well when building your budget.)
  • Do you have a contract?
  • How will I get paid? Cover Charge (or percentage of your cover charge), Tips, Dinner? Do you have a per person, tech or room charge? Am I paid at the end of the night in cash or do you send a check? How long does it take to get my check? Make sure all these things are in your contract.
  • What is your cancellation policy and, if a Covid spike happens, what will that mean to me? There should be no ramifications if Covid cancels your show…it’s called “an act of God” in contracts meaning something the club or you had no control over.
  • What restrictions do you have for me and my band?
  • Do you have the capability to live stream? Are you providing that person? Do you have the Wi-Fi capacity for me to bring in my own person? Do you expect any compensation from any tips or cover charges earned from my live streaming?

As we all come back into the work force to sing, we have a unique opportunity to change this historic Pay-to-Play contract that many of these places offer. WE now have to be vocal about what is working for us and what is not working for us. Many of us made more money live streaming and doing shows for tips than we netted from doing a show in a club where we had all these other fees to pay and then had to pay for our musicians. Why would we want to go back to that format? Can we collective change this and how? I know, after speaking with Sidney Myer, that Don’t Tell Mama has changed their contract to reflect the times and to favor the performer making a few extra dollars. Keep your eye out for these changes and then don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Also, do the math!

With the capacity to live-stream, for me, if a club were offering to sell tickets, honorably track those sales with concrete proof along with my live in-house audience sales and do the live streaming for me (similar to what Bernie Furshpan is doing through The Triad/Metropolitan Zoom/Studio A) for a reasonable amount or percentage, then this would offer more ways to monetize my show, especially while the restaurants and clubs are still not at 100% capacity. I would ask, why can’t this new business model happen even when we’re back to 100% in the rooms?

Going back to my original point of this Sue’s Views though, ultimately, even if the clubs allow 100% capacity by September when we are all scrambling to get dates, will our audience be willing to sit in these rooms that close to each other? I have 3 shows already booked this Fall but they are in a room where there are windows to crack and in a place that intends to keep the partitions up for a while. Ultimately, you have to do what makes you comfortable and what makes your audience comfortable.

Happy Singing! Here’s to putting LIFE back into New York NightLIFE!


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Sue Matsuki

Sue Matsuki

Co-Editor & Instructor, Cabaret HotSpot and Cab U

Sue Matsuki is the co-author, along with David Sabella, of So You Want To Sing Cabaret (Rowman & Littlefield, June 2020). Sue is the Managing Partner, Co-Editor, Reviewer, Vloger and a Columnist (Sue’s Views) for an on-line entertainment magazine: www.Cabaret She taught Cabaret classes at: The Ridgefield Theater Barn and UCONN in CT, MAC-to-School and Cabaret Hotspot in NY and for the Canadian School of Performing Arts. She has served as Treasurer on the Board of Directors for MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs). She, along with Gregory Toroian, her long time Music Director, now host a monthly Jazz Brunch Open Mic at Pangea. Matsuki also produces benefits and corporate events and is the Producing Manager for Urban Stages’ Winter Rhythms series where she also hosts a Vlog called Urban Stages’ Artists Chat.

Matsuki’s most cherished awards come from winning the 2020 Bistro Award for Outstanding Collaboration celebrating her 25th year of working with Music Director, Gregory Toroian; getting her poster up on Don’t Tell Mama’s “Wall of Fame” for her show How’s That for Openers? celebrating the 33rd Anniversary of singing at the club and being selected personally by the late Julie Wilson as the very first 2004 Julie Wilson Award Recipient, given by the Mabel Mercer Foundation.

Matsuki is an 11-time MAC Award Nominee and a 3-time Winner (in seven different categories), mostly recently she was nominated for Major Female Vocalist. Her MAC history includes: 2002 MAC Award Winner for Female Jazz/Pop/R&B Vocalist; 2002 Nominee for Best Female Recording for her first Jazz CD, A New Take; 2004 Nominee for Duo/Group (with Marcus Simeone); 2006 MAC Award Winner for Special Productions for her sold out 7 week run of 10 Years in the Making with her Musical Director Gregory Toroian; 2007 & 2010 Nominee for Female Vocalist; 2008, 2011 & 2012 Nominee for Duo/Group (with Edd Clark); the 2008 MAC Award Winner for Specialty Song (“One Stop Shopping” by Page/Matsuki/Toroian); and the 2020 Nominee for Major Female Vocalist.

This Jazz/Cabaret/Comedy veteran has played every NYC Cabaret room including: Feinstein’s at the Regency, Feinstein’s 54 Below, The Metropolitan Room, Arci’s Place, Town Hall, Don’t Tell Mama, Pangea, The Algonquin, The Beach Café, The Laurie Beechman Theater, 88’s, and has even played Carnegie Hall along with several legendary Jazz Clubs including: The Village Gate, Birdland, The Iridium and Sweet Rhythm. She has performed in Alaska, Los Angeles, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, Nyack, Maine, Fire Island, Florida, Providence and Las Vegas!

Her jazz CD, A New Take, was nominated for the 2002 MAC Award for Best Recording and her Christmas CD, Sue & Edds FABULOUS Christmas both receive air play across the country and internationally. She is also featured on folk singing legend Christine Lavin’s original music Christmas compilation CD, Just One Angel with a song that she co-wrote with Paul Stephan called “Christmas Angel”.

Matsuki was a Super and “Diva Double” at the Metropolitan Opera where she has been featured in Moses und Aaron; Tristan und Isolde; Norma; and Il Travatore.

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