I can’t seem to escape it these days for the past couple of weeks all that keeps popping up on the social networking sites and blogesphere is talk of ‘working for free’ everyone has their two cents to throw in to the ring of fire so I’ve decided to add mine.
When you start out in burlesque I think you have to earn your keep, maid a few shows, get as much stage time as possible and work your rhinestoned tassels off!! I don’t personally believe it’s enough to turn up to a course of lessons and by the end believe you are ‘IT’ whatever IT may be. I got my start by myself and have never taken a set of classes I mean the Great names in burly history never took classes they taught themselves all they know & learned skills on the road. These days it seems especially after all the publicity has seen over the past few years everyone is running or attending classes - the Burly community can hardly begrudge this as it’s gotten a lot of ladies a lot of gigs and seems new shows pop up all over the UK and beyond!
But then comes the issue Burly shows are being set up all over the UK [mainly] that are billed as ‘world class performers’ ‘stars of burlesque’ and are full of lovely ladies but who are fresh out of burly classes. There is nothing at all wrong with running a newcomers & beginners burly night but promoters remember to bill it as such. There is nothing worse than turning up to a show [as an audience member] and not seeing a single name you know or an act that’s up to the diamond standard, you have to remember this may be some peoples first exposure to Burlesque and you want to leave them with a great memory and want them to come back to see more & not a sour taste in their mouths and minds.
expenses & fees
This is a tricky subject topic even after four years I have a hard time talking about ‘money’ ‘travel expenses’ and all the rest! But I know after being ridiculously enthralled in Burlesque since 15 years old in a textiles class at school, putting in countless hours of research and building on my craft I’ve earned my place in the burly community to start getting paid. Unlike some though I’m a reasonable price, I work out my outgoings & expenses and do it fairly where as some seem to think they are worth an awful lot more than they are.
If you’ve only started performing I think you should hone your craft for a good two years before getting a paid gig - taking newcomers spots at good shows with some exposure to great top billed performers who you can learn a lot off. I won’t deny after my very first show I started getting paid as I was given a residency and then picked up for a second residency which also paid me a small fee.
However ladies even if you’re a newcomer if they want you and the show isn’t local I think it’s well within your rights as a performer to ask for travel expenses - it’s only fair - the show is obviously making money out of your performance so they should be able to put their hand in their pockets and pay you.
The Big Bad Promoters
Over the past four years I have been lucky enough to come across some AMAZING promoters who think of every detail of their show, every detail to make the performers feel comfortable & the show goes so smoothly without a hitch because of the amazing organizational skills & I never have to hassel for money as they pay up front and in full [which makes my job so much easier] So before we get to the Big Bad Promoters let’s give a round of applause and a little tip of the hat to:
The Blue Room ran by the fabulous Luli Blue in Northampton!
The Burlesque Company ran by the delectable Pixie Amore in Sutton Coldfield!
Kitty Kat Cabaret ran by Amy Shaw in Shrewsbury / Oswestry!
Miss. Hilton Presents ran by Claire Hilton – Worcester
The Uk’s annual Tattoo Convention – Leamington Spa
And there are many, many, many more too many to fit in, which is a great sign isn’t it? I have been very fortunate to have performed at so many great show with fabulous promoters and I think it’s quite obvious the best promoters happens to be people who have performed themselves! – They know how important the music volume is, the lighting, where props must be and having a stage kitten that is professional to do the best job! & not to be too sexist but the best shows I’ve had the fortune to perform at have all been ran by women! So girl power ladies!
Now to the bad side or darker side of burlesque – The promoters that don’t pay, it really gets me going when a promoter puts on a show where they don’t pay performers & try to say it’s good exposure for you when you know full well they won’t ‘get out of bed for less than their fee’ for a show. Ridiculous! Is the only word I can think of right now, some people get far too big for their boots and sadly if they have a slightly well known name people don’t want to stand up and hurt their own image in fear of not being booked for another show.
Having had many a burly lunch, cocktail or trim finding day with lots of lovely ladies over the years the same names always crop up which means I have learnt to stay away from certain shows & certain performers – It’s quite upsetting to hear some of the stories where a fee was agreed and then not paid after the performer had done their part or even left up until the last minutes before the show still wondering how they are going to get home after the promoter had previously agreed to sort out travel or expenses – this does put a rather dark smudge on the glitz and glamour of Burlesque as a whole.
I know the biggest scandal on the burly circuit recently was the hassel with Scarlet Cuffs and LBW which was rather a shame to hear. I applied for LBW once and knew really I would never get through & on a personal note I probably wouldn’t ever apply again. I’m happy for the ladies I know who have gone through to apply and perform but it’s not for me.
I think as a performer we pay for enough, we pay for costumes, we pay for props we pay our expenses and god knows what else for at least the first year and then we’re expected to pay a fee for the privilege of performing at your show – no, no, no thank you! – I’ve also realised you have a very slim chance of getting though, either I’m far too familiar with keeping up to date on the scene of Burlesque and like to keep one ear to the ground or it’s what you’d expect the ‘names’ getting picked. Performers who have appeared on TV, performers who came and did the newcomers competition, performers who are friends with the promoters and performers who have the money.
Don’t get me wrong recently at a show a performer asked me ‘If you won or inherited a lot of money would you buy your way in to shows?’ now it’s no secret we all know some performers have money and have used it to good use and I have no qualms with that, my answer is simple ‘Yes’ and good to the ones who do have a financial backer, a rich family or a trust fund to fall on!
I know it’ll be argued ‘we have overheads to pay’ ‘it’s to make sure people actually do want to participate in the show’ and all the other excuses people want to push for the ‘paying to perform’ it’s just a little silly now isn’t it – with all the sponsors, tickets sold to all the shows & merchandise sold I’m pretty sure someone’s making a bundle & I assure you it won’t be any of the performers.
I seriously could go on and on and on about this issue but it’ll just go in circles of rage & annoyance so I shall leave it there!
[all posters included are shows I have preformed in and ALL have WONDERFUL promoters who run each of these shows and work darn hard!]