Whether you are thinking about taking your first burlesque class, are coming up to your first show or are already performing but have a problem you just don’t know how to solve – our Agony Aunt Diva Hollywood is here to help. No problem is too big or too small for Diva so if you have a question feel free to drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been performing for just over a year now and over the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time and money on costumes and improving my acts. I feel the standard of my acts has risen (I’ve also had the opportunity to perform at some very good shows) therefore I’ve decided to up my fees this year (they’re very reasonable). Since I’ve done that I’m having trouble with promoters not wanting to pay for performances and it’s getting me down. I get contacted a lot to do charity shows for free but when I’ve put so much time and money into what I do, as much as I’d like to help charities, I can’t always work for free. I’m also having trouble with some promoters wanting me to perform for them for a lot less than what I charge. I’m just looking for some advice on where and when a performer should compromise? I don’t want to turn down shows and I feel bad for not being able to perform for what I may have previously asked as it’s the recession but when I’ve put so much money, time and hard work into what I do, should I really compromise that, if it means me getting little in return?
Many thanks, Anon x
this is a tough one and as you have pointed out we are in a recession and people are feeling the pinch. Promoters are maybe not getting as many people through the door as they would like, or have had to take on more risk, and this means usually they might have trouble offering as high a fee as a performer would like. Another thing to consider though is that the entertainment business is like a pyramid, because there are lots of smaller shows and very few of the larger prestigious shows which pay really well. By raising your fee you are stepping into a more selective part of the scene where there are simply fewer jobs. I decided to ask around to see how other experienced performers felt about this subject, the majority told me; this year they have been accepting lower fees than in previous years, because otherwise they would not be getting the bookings! Some have bolstered their earnings by combining their performances with a workshop before the gig. Most performers agreed that unless a performer has a unique act with a buzz around it, an act which top promoters simply can’t get from anyone else, you will not get the bookings which pay at the higher level. We have always astounded our USA counterparts on how much we do get paid compared to performers in the states, however, this now seems to be changing. I have heard of more and more burlesque performers who used to perform regularly but are now looking for other jobs to help with their income. I think the days when lots of burlesque performers could earn a living solely from gigs have now gone. So, unless you have a financial backer, have an act with a big buzz behind it, or have a lucky streak, you are going to find it hard to exist on the wages of an entertainer. I think this is true for all of entertainment, whether it is comedy, magic, music, or burlesque … there are very few who get paid well.
As for getting your new fee, you will have to prove to promoters you are worth the extra. Promoters want to excite their audiences with elite acts because that’s what makes their shows successful and brings them status. If promoters haven’t seen your improved acts, and are not yet convinced, it may help to get some really good video and images out there, so promoters can see what they are paying for. Realistically most promoters like a safe bet, the personal touch is paramount – if a promoter can see you perform in person then they are much more likely to put you on their bill. As far as charity gigs go, I normally charge a small fee that covers expenses/ travel and my time. I will not do them for free anymore as it leaves me out of pocket and there is wear and tear on my costumes, car and me to keep in mind. I would love to do them for free but it is just not possible. I think it was Dirty Martini that said that strippers buy new houses and cars with their wages and burlesque performers put our wages into costumes. If performing is not your only source of income and there is a gig you really want to do, because the promoter is lovely or the venue is great, I say do it. For me burlesque is much more about the adventures we have and the people we meet. Good luck!