Booking Guidelines

Thanks for your interest in joining our long and illustrious roster. Our relationships with our artists run deep, and in some cases date back more than 50 years. We hope to enter a long and healthy professional relationship with every artist we hire.

I have enjoyed the amazing blessing of booking the Caffe since 2000. As the Executive Director of our very busy non-profit, I also handle overall management of the venue, fundraising, scheduling volunteers, managing concerts, promoting shows, planning menus, and myriad other tasks. Some weeks are devoted to booking, some are not. My response time to booking queries, therefore, varies widely.

Please read through our schedule to get a sense of our current programming. If you’ve never heard of the artists who perform here, and your music is entirely different from anything we offer, you’re probably not a match for the venue. I offer the following explanation of my booking process and preferences in order to help you decide if Caffè Lena might be for you.

What Should You Send Me?

Please get in touch by email. I’ll respond to your request by looking at your website and social media pages, watching the videos you post on your website as well as those I find on YouTube, viewing your promotional photos and posters, reading your bio, checking out who has reviewed your albums and given you testimonials, and looking at where people are hearing your music.


I get excited about musicians who are emerging in the national music scene, but that doesn’t mean I book artists who are just starting out. I look for people who have played festivals, colleges, clubs, and done some significant travelling. There are many venues where you can accrue that sort of experience. Caffè Lena is for people who have already done so.

I like music that is primarily acoustic, and either traditional or original. I need to get the impression that you are familiar with American roots music, and that those old songs inspired the current work in some way. You don’t have to include Shady Grove and Hard Time Killing Floor in your set, but do you know those songs? I like songs written by a person who knows heartbreak, adventure, and selfless love. I like a powerful emotional impact. I also like brilliant playing and wild quirkiness. I don’t like predictable rhymes, songs that can be played in the background, or that sound like pop music minus the expensive production. I like artists who are skilled storytellers; who tell the kinds of stories and jokes that listeners want to take home and share.

I look for people whose art thrives when they’re playing close to their audience. Though several of our performers have become household names over the years, if you’re viewing Caffe Lena as stepping stone on a path to major commercial fame and fortune, we’re probably not a great match.
I book shows about 4 to 6 months ahead.
It often takes at least a month to respond to unsolicited booking requests. And, I’m genuinely sorry about this, but my workload makes it impossible to respond to all requests. If you’re sending an impersonal bulk message, or it seems that you have not taken time to learn about our programming and preferences, I may not respond.

A Word About Breaking In As a Newcomer

About 25% our programming features first time bands. Those selected represent a tiny fraction of the number who apply, but they are our future and we love evolving our heritage and exploring new frontiers in roots music.

Opening Acts – Our openers are not new to gigging, they’re just new to the area. We don’t use popular locals to boost ticket sales for the headliner. Our openers represent our investment in the future of our roster, and are an opportunity for musical discovery for our audience. We pay a stipend of $50, provide dinner, and give you a 20 minute spot at showtime. You keep 100% of your merch sales.

Bright New Music Series – Named in honor of Kevin and Claudia Bright, lead donors to the Campaign for Caffe Lena, these monthly shows feature artists playing the venue for the first time. These are fresh, contemporary roots-based bands that are making waves in the national folk scene, getting strong radio play, charting, releasing albums, developing a strong following on social media, touring hard, and selling out venues.

Co-Bills – We pair compatible artists who are relatively new to the market to create a showcase concert of three solos or two bands. Examples include our occasional “See the Future!” sampler concerts, our Maple Leaf Music Series featuring Canadian newcomers, and multi-act fundraising events.

If you want to get your foot in the door of the regional music scene or are just looking to develop your stage skills, please join us for an open mic. We have a general open mic each Monday, and themed open mics (poetry, blues, storytelling, etc) on many Wednesdays. Check the calendar for details.

If you haven’t been dissuaded by what you’ve read, go ahead and send an e-mail to with a personal introduction and a link to your website. I love to review new music and set up the concert schedule, but as I said at the start, my job encompasses much more than that. With all due respect and apologies, it may be a while (one to two months) before you hear from me. If you’re looking for a very specific date and need a quick answer, please indicate so in the subject line of your message and I’ll make every effort to get right back to you.

I look forward to meeting you.

Sarah Craig