There has been a little bit of an uproar in the burlesque community due to a show pay poll and subsequent release of a detailed infographic recently. While I try to keep up with all the things going on, it’s difficult to allow myself to be sucked into the negative rants on social media and follow the shit storm. However, it sparked in my mind a need for a bit of clarity on a related topic—adding value as a performer. If you missed my post about show pay, read here.
The conversation about gig pay has been going on longer than I have been performing. It is an important one, for sure, but what is to be done about it? How much is it really worth to perform? How much should we get paid to take our clothes off onstage in front of an audience? Who decided what it is worth???
The subject of worth is an interesting subject and will definitely be saved for another post. Especially when considering who decided what we should be paid for one act all those years ago when burlesque became a “thing” again, and what their story of worth actually was, and why their concept of worth of an act is not the same for everyone. But again…a different post.
When I first began burlesque, Jo Boobs had posted something on the nose book in response to the current uproar about show pay. I don’t remember all the words exactly, but I read it and took it to heart. It was about adding value.
What does adding value mean?
Adding value can mean many things to many people, but here is how I interpreted it. I determined that simply being a good dancer was not going to be enough for this world of burlesque. I had to add something to the package to appreciate my value that I add to the show in the eyes of the burlesque producers.
These are some of the things I did to add value:
Classes: all the classes I could take from anyone who was performing and teaching burlesque. I went in knowing a lot, but still eager to learn another perspective.
Costuming: I upped my game in my costuming by considering styling, design, construction, overall fit, innovation and malfunction avoidance. Adding a million rhinestones does not count.
Song selection: using music that no one has heard of/is not popular have been really good for making sure that I don’t get that email asking me to change my song because someone else is doing that song. Also, high energy acts seem to get booked more than done tempo. People want to be happy not sad!
Dependability: if you want to keep getting booked, show up on time. Send your music/notes in as soon as possible, giving the producer enough time to do their job. Be easy to work with. Be helpful. A producer’s job is hard enough without having to chase you around to do yours. Same rules apply in life, ironically.
Act quality: How much time did you spend putting that act together? Did you do it the night before or have you been rehearsing, constructing and planning for weeks? This will be evident to the producer and the audience.
Overall appearance: Did you take the time to do your hair and makeup? Is your costume in clean, steamed and working condition? Are you going to make a good representation of the show and the venue with your overall appearance?
Choreography/Staging: Are you just parading back and forth on the stage or are you changing it up with other movements, staging and level changes that keep the audience on their toes?
Variety: Creating a variety of acts that can be booked in various shows makes a performer versatile and more desirable for bookings. Producers have vision, just as we do, and the more variety of your acts, the easier it will be for them to book you.
Innovation: Can you invent another glove peel, way to remove a costume piece or other “gimmick” to impress the audience? Can you create a scene with sets or props? Tell a story?
Social media presence: Are you an influencer or can you sell more tickets to a show?
Performance background: What does your résumé look like? Can you sell more tickets based on prestige? Have you won titles?
All of these things are considered when booking talent for shows. Just think of your own experiences while attending shows. Which acts stand out to you and inspire you? Which shows are you absolutely glad you paid the ticket price for and how were they different from the ones that weren’t worth the ticket price to you?
I’m not even talking about just burlesque shows! Make sure you go see how other art forms are doing things. Ballet, theater, concerts, etc. You can learn so much from absorbing the small details that those shows are putting out, and why people are paying the higher ticket prices for them.
Burlesque is an art form, and it continues to evolve like all art does. Adding value to yourself as a performer is an investment in you, the performing community, and the arts for future generations. When you add value in the ways that I have described, you become an asset to the show and the venue/producer booking the show. Then your bookings increase, your dollars increase and your confidence increases.
Has this given you some inspiration? Do you have other ways you have added value to yourself as a performer? I would love to hear what you have to say, comment below!
Athena, aka Gazella