So you have your CV, cracking photoset, you have video links to your best acts, you may even have testimonials from credible sources (yes, credible industry related – not friends and family!) and you’ve done a year (or over 30 shows worth) of newcomers slots. So how do you go about getting a paid show?
Target Producers / Shows
Sounds obvious and it is! Do your homework when it comes to shows. Make notes on the kind of performers they usually book and what you like about the show. It might be that you’ve been to their shows before. but on the whole, target shows that book performers of your kind. There is no use in applying to every show you’ve ever seen – shows that book high-end glamour acts that drip with rhinestones when the style of burlesque that you perform is more a comedy/character act. Similarly, applying for a comedy show when you perform in a serious style.
Once you have your list of shows, make sure you write a personalised email to the producer. It looks so much better than a ‘dear whoever it may concern’ email – especially when the producer can see who else you’ve emailed as you’ve cc’d everyone else. Don’t forget to add your video link and fee expectation (with expenses) in the email – even if these things are on your CV. Never be fake! Statements like “I’m a massive fan of your show” and “I’ve been to every one of your shows” will not help you get a booking, especially when it’s clear from your address that you live at the opposite end of the country. Things producers like to read are why you have applied to their show (what acts you’ve noticed they’ve booked before and how you would fit onto their bills). What they don’t like is statements like: “I will blow your audience away”, “I can add so much pzazz!” No. Be real. Be honest and be down to earth.
Fee and Travel Expectations
A hard one. Everyone’s fee will be very different. Everyone will also be likely to be paid a different fee to the one they expect. It’s very subjective. On the whole, performers with less that 30 shows experience (or a year) cannot expect to demand a payment, but may still get paid if the producer thinks they are worth it. A performer with 1-2 years experience can expect £50-£100, while headliners usually ask for between £100-£200 depending on their level of experience and exposure. Obviously some headliners will ask for more.
Be realistic with travel to. Quote advance travel and buy your tickets advance. Check mileage re fuel. Never buy rail/travel tickets on the day and expect to be paid that amount. Producers are often working to very tight budgets and your total amount payable will have been signed off at the time of booking confirmation and it will be your responsibility to stick to what you’ve agreed. If you decide to buy a more expensive ticket bought on the day of travel, the onus will be on you – ie you will only be paid what was confirmed.
Getting No Response / A Rejection Email
So you’ve been really excited and hopeful about a show you’ve applied for but you receive an email saying you don’t fit their bill or they are not casting right now… Unfortunately that is all par the course. Yes it can be gutting to be told you haven’t got the show but you have to have thick skin when applying for shows as there can only ever be so many performers on the bill. Take it on the chin, there are plenty of other producers who will book you. Don’t give up rehearsing or applying for shows. And don’t hate the show who can’t book you at that time!
If you don’t get a response back at all (and this is more common that receiving a rejection) it’s probably that the producer only contacts performers they want to book (producers are busy people). It’s okay to drop another friendly email, but never, ever hassle and bombard producers with emails. And in the case of a rejection email also, never, ever email demanding to know why you’ve not been booked.
Getting a Booking and Confirming
So the happy news is that you’ve been confirmed for a show, they’ve sent you a date and you can do it! Yes! Reply as soon as you can to accept. If you don’t do this, it may look like you are not bothered and a slot will be offered to another performer. A con formation can come in a number of different ways: it can be an email outlining date, fee, expenses and acts. It can be a contract or a separate document of confirmation. By accepting confirmation of a booking (which can simply be saying you’ll do the show), you must ensure you are available on that date. Never seek out a better show on a date you’ve already been booked for – and if another show offer comes along on the same date as one you’ve just booked, you must honour the original booking. Word soon gets out amongst producers of performers who continually pull out of shows in favour of other bookings and it’s the quickest way to not be booked again.
Keeping your Booking
So, you’ve confirmed your booking and you are looking forward to the date. Do remember if the producer contacts you for information, technical details or music, that you must send any information they need before their specified deadline. A producer that has to chase for info will just strike you off the bill. Not only does it look like you are not interested, it also makes the producer’s job harder. Remember they have a million things they need to do for a show – they may need photos for publicity to meet a press release / press deadline, technical information to meet a theatre deadline – or they may be performing elsewhere themselves for a month and are arranging everything ahead of time so they have everything they need when they get back.
Courtesy at the show – and how to be booked again!
One of the most crucial parts of your booking will be to make that booking special. Even if you have a run of 20 different shows, that producer will have booked you for their show only and will be expecting you to be on top form, not turn up late / tired / moaning / slagging off other shows or performers. If you are asked to do a tech run, please ensure you arrive in time for your allocated time slot as holding up tech runs could impact on the doors being opened late and the show running over. Be nice (sounds obvious – and it is!!) to everyone connected to the show – from fellow performers, show staff and audience members. Don’t be a diva and demand more space, hog the mirror, etc. And don’t be false. Again, just be real. and always respect the fact that some performers have different ways of preparing for stage – some might warm up, some might run through routines on an ipod, some might go hyper, some might just take themselves off to get into character. If they look like they are in ‘preparation mode’ and might not appreciate an interruption, leave them to it.
So the moment has come! You have worked hard to get this booking, you’ve been looking forward to the show for weeks and you are just about to hit the stage. The main thing is to enjoy it! Enjoy the show – and enjoy the atmosphere après show. You never know, you may be booked again!