OOOOH how I wish my parents didn’t give me any home training or hadn’t sent me to Sunday school! This is a performer’s rant. Just giving you fair warning so that you can click off and away if so you choose. This is the first time in over three years of doing burlesque I've been so moved to post a public complaint. The majority of the people who hire me are great! But one's like this one I'm writing about are the worst.
I am more than a little bit annoyed by people who seem to think that all creative people are hobbyists. It’s almost as if some people refuse to accept that there is a creature called the professional performer. Welp, guess what? There is. This creature may not be a celebrity. You may not see them on your television set every week. They may not be on Broadway or in your mainstream movie house or major art gallery. They probably aren’t filling arenas like Madison Square Garden. But guess what, they are working professionals. Let’s take a look at actors. About 2% of them are celebrities (and often for a very limited time unless nepotism gave them an in). The majority of actors in the US do not work as actors most of the time. Somewhere in the middle is the working actor. They can still do their own grocery shopping (and probably have to) without being mobbed. They can roam freely around the world unrecognized. However, if you were friends with them, you’d see them pop up every so often in a show, film, a commercial or hear them in a voiceover. Perhaps, they ARE in the chorus or principal in a Broadway show.
Being a creative person of any other type is much the same. There are the “celebrity names”, the hobbyists and right in the middle are the working professionals. Depending on their disciplines, they may do a combination of things. Perhaps they also teach. Maybe they do a few days or nights as a freelance something or nother. They may piece together a few different creative careers vocalist and voice over artist, for example. Perhaps they work in children’s television between creating commissioned paintings. Perhaps wedding and journalistic photos to major publications fund their art photography projects. No matter how they string it together, the bulk of their living comes from their creative work. This is amazingly fulfilling and fun to do – except, when it isn’t. For me, one of the most disrespectful things I have to deal with is lack of respect for my time as an artist. It’s as if because I chose to do something fun with my life, my time shouldn’t hold the same weight as someone who clocks into an office every day.
Here’s one of many examples I could use. I get booked for a private event for a particular time – let’s say 10pm. The day of the event I get called hours before to be there an hour early. Oh, ya know, because I’m sitting around doing nothing else with my life besides waiting with baited breath to coddle clueless clientele demands. I work it out so that I can leave the work that I’m doing earlier than I was supposed to in an effort to be a flexible, team player. I arrive earlier than 9pm. I’m told I’ll go on at 10pm. There is a set list. The set list is switched around after the show has started. The set list is switched back about ten minutes later. The event is not running on time. I could have come at 10pm because it is running so late. In the middle of the listed set an unannounced comedy act erupts on stage. That act is disrupted by the host who goes on a diatribe in an effort to get the fidgety crowd to listen to said comic. THAT comic then calls up two more comics. Three comics do stand up routines in the middle of an event that is already running late. An unannounced break happens after that.
Now, this is live entertainment and things happen. Things often don’t go as planned. I am well able to go with the flow. I’m extremely easy going. I, myself, have been on the other end of things out of my control causing me to be late (stalled trains, traffic and miscommunication, for example). I felt horrible and was verbally and sincerely apologetic. THIS however, was just a blatant disrespect of time. Not once was there an apology or explanation. The energy in the room shifted from celebratory to antsy. “The host asks at one point is anyone in a rush to get out of here?” I think he gets the vibe from the hushes murmur of a response that this crowd is not trying to party all night. “I know some of ya’ll gotta go to work in the morning.” Yep, and some of us are AT WORK right now. In fact, those of us that are AT work right now thought that we would be OFF work already. There is no overtime. If I complain, I’ll seem like I’m being a diva, right? I’m supposed to just sit silently smiling. I’m supposed to be thrilled at any opportunity to do what I do. How ‘bout you just pay me for my time, I go home and YOU go on stage and do what I do since it holds so little value?
The part of it that really drives me crazy, though, is that at the end of the night: After time jacking me from my first job, after having me perform hours after I was scheduled to perform, after having me on stage while people are walking out the door because they’re so tired of sitting there, I get asked if I have a PayPal account. ...Pardon?
*moment of silence filled with curse words in my head that I am much too polite to say out loud*
So, you mean to tell me not only did you blatantly disrespect my time but now you will also steal the service I provided? I’m sorry, but “I’ll pay you in the morning, cuz, ya know, cash flow…” is NOT an acceptable answer. “But you killed it! My boyfriend, the tall light skin guy, was like she could get it.” Perhaps, she could glean it from the look of disgust on my face. I didn’t bother to explain to her the .000000000001% of f%#*s that I do not give about what her boyfriend thinks of my f*&^ing factor.
When I negotiate events for myself I get a 50% deposit to hold the date. I then have it in writing that I’m to be handed the balance once I arrive at the venue of the event. I am doing this particular event as a favor for a favorite client and did not do the negotiating myself. I think it is really unfair to be held captive at the end of the night waiting to be paid at a private event. There are no tips to divide. There’s no door split to calculate. The fee is set ahead of time. I've provided the service you've hired me to do already. Now you want me to trust you to pay me via PayPal in the morning when we don’t have working relationship the first? This will however, be the last. Get me once, shame on you. Get me twice, shame on me. When I produce (and I have not done it much), I pay my performers in the dressing room while they are getting dressed. I have a spread of healthy snacks and sweet treats along with drinks for them in the dressing room. I provide a table with any toiletries they may need or have forgotten. I try my best to create a relaxed vibe for the people (whom I know I cannot afford to pay their full value YET) because I appreciate their time and talent. There are creative people who bless me with their talents for free and I try to show as much appreciation for it as possible.
Time and time again whether the creative person acts, sings, dances, takes photos, does visual arts, etc. they’re expected to work for little to nothing and be happy about it. My landlord and other bill collectors will not be happy about it. Therefore, I cannot be happy about it. Yes, I would do this for free, if I had no bills, if I wasn't a full time freelancer. Just because a creative person is not a celebrity does not mean that they are not a working professional. When one negotiates a fee for work, one gets paid said fee asap. Simple. Easy.
Why do creative people constantly have to fight for this really simple concept to be understood? It drives me crazy. It’s not that difficult. End Rant.