real talk

Pro Tips on How to get Pro Tips!

Photo of Lilly performing at Prive by Peter Jennings

Photo of Lilly performing at Prive by Peter Jennings

The topic of what should you get paid in burlesque laps like the tide; coming in and out of conversations but nothing ever really gets resolved. So, I decided to do a blog on it! 

I'm sure every burlesque performer has queried how much they should ask for in regards to payment. I know I have! So I've broken down what you should ask yourselves when trying to quote for your performances. 

DISCLAIMER NO.1: 

These are my own personal thoughts and views on the topic. My own way of sussing out what to charge may be totally different than your own and that's ok! Different strokes for different folks. 

So, to start...

EXPERIENCE

It's a no-brainier that a brand new burly baby wouldn't charge as much as an experienced burlesquer, but how do you define that? Experience. Experience doesn't mean the amount of time someone has been performing burlesque (although it does factor in) but also how much training they've done, how much actual performance experience (i.e. treading the stage) they've had in shows, events, etc and how much they've grown as a performer. 

DISCLAIMER NO.2: ELITISM VS. EXPERIENCE

A quick note about elitism as opposed to experience, as this is topical in our industry currently.

Elitism is a state of mind that comes from a person and how they personally perceive and conduct themselves. If people think like that, then that's their prerogative and reflects their own (possibly deluded) values of self worth. Elitists see themselves as the 'creme de la creme' of the scene; they snob any one who isn't of their "ranking" and are generally rude and stand-offish, ALL THE TIME, not just in social settings (some of my friends suffer social anxiety and retreat into themselves in social settings, but would be HORRIFIED if someone felt snubbed by them).

If you choose not to associate with particular people in the industry because you personally aren't a fan of them or the way they conduct themselves, that's NOT ELITIST - for me personally, that's just me exercising self care. However, always be polite and civil, there’s no need to be unprofessional. This is an industry and if we want to be treated as professionals we should behave as such. Remember the ol' ego vs confidence rule - there's a VERY slim line between them. Always err to the side of confidence - always be humble.

If you have EXPERIENCE in something, and you offer your expertise or advice (if wanted and/or requested) to someone with less experience than you, that's not being elitist, that's being helpful. I’m making this distinction because I’m not writing this blog from an elitist point of view, but from one of (quite considerable) experience. I don’t claim to know everything but I feel I know enough to write this after so many years in the industry as a producer, teacher and performer.

Now, moving along...

My band of best burly babes and I were talking about this subject and how experience came into play with sussing out what to charge. So upon a lot of back and fourth conversation, we came up with categories on how to define the varying levels of experience in burlesque. I've listed them with explanations underneath. Starting from the bottom.. 

DISCLAIMER NO.3:

Throughout ALL of these categories, every burlesquer, no matter their experience, should always continue to learn, develop and grow. Professionals included.

Baby Lilly performing at The Burlesque Masquerade Ball in 2010 in Wellington. Photo by Sara Jane Austin.

Baby Lilly performing at The Burlesque Masquerade Ball in 2010 in Wellington. Photo by Sara Jane Austin.

ROOKIE

A Rookie is a burlesquer with 0-1 years experience in performing burlesque. During this time, they're honing their craft, learning from burlesque schools, private lessons, resources such as YouTube and developing their burlesque persona. A Rookie burlesquer, regardless of their experience, should get paid something - if not with cash, then with something with the same value such as a private burlesque lesson. 

NOTE: If you're a Rookie and performing in your Rookie/graduating revue, you shouldn't expect payment as this is part and parcel of your course. 

AMATEUR

An Amateur burlesquer has 1-3 years experience. They've done some training, they've got a couple of routines under their belt and are continuing to develop and grow as a burlesque artist. Payment wise, I'd say the same in regards to the Rookie. 

HOBBYIST 

A burlesque artist who identifies in this category is someone who has been performing for at least 2 years and purely sees burlesque as a hobby. Not as a job, not even a part time or casual job, a hobby. They do not perform for money, rather they purely perform for the thrill. As per the two categories above, regardless of their affiliation to burlesque, they should still ask for compensation. Note - some performers may stay at this level for their entire involvement in burlesque, and that's totally ok!

PROFESSIONAL HOBBYIST

There is two differences between a Hobbyist and a Professional Hobbyist. One is that the Professional Hobbyist performs casually (i.e. this is not their full time job, maybe not even their part time job) but they do expect to get paid for their performances. They will have also been performing for at least upwards of 3+ years. That payment will reflect their experience in the industry. They will expect money as payment rather than other forms of compensation. Two, they'll have an overall professional manner and market themselves as such. They will generally have at least a designated FB page and/or Instagram account for their burlesque persona as well as possibly a designated email address. Again, like the Hobbyist, a performer may stay at this level for their entire involvement in burlesque.

and finally...

An oldie, but a goodie! From L to R - The Magenta Diamond, Venus Starr, Australian and Miss Exotic World 2012 Imogen Kelly, Bonita Danger Doll, Leda Petit and Lilly Loca (moi!) pictured at Venus Starr's 'Carousel Cabaret' in 2014. Photo by Directive Photography.

An oldie, but a goodie! From L to R - The Magenta Diamond, Venus Starr, Australian and Miss Exotic World 2012 Imogen Kelly, Bonita Danger Doll, Leda Petit and Lilly Loca (moi!) pictured at Venus Starr's 'Carousel Cabaret' in 2014. Photo by Directive Photography.

PROFESSIONALS

The jump from Professional Hobbyist to Professional is quite substantial, and for the following reasons. A Professional Performer sees burlesque entertainment as their part time or full time job. They, like Professional Hobbyists, conduct themselves professionally, have social media platforms covered for their persona, but on top of this they will most likely have a website and YouTube channel too along with a designated email. They'll tend to have a certain level of polish, have at least 4+ years in the industry and have evolved their own particular style, brand and acts which they are known for. They will sometimes also have merchandise you can buy either online or at shows, which may include (but are not subjected to) posters, clothing, used nylon stockings, etc. Professionals will continue (like all the other categories - hopefully) to put money into their professional development and create high quality, polished acts with costumes, etc to match. Professionals will always expect payment for their acts and will charge according to their experience. 

Ok, so there's the different categories. You may agree or disagree, but that's what we came up with. 

You may notice I didn't put any actual price tags in there. Well, that's because you can't simply apply a stock fee for burlesque. It all depends on who and where you are performing, which leads to my next point.. 

WHERE & WHO YOU ARE PERFORMING FOR

I'm going to talk about these in categories as it's easier - what you charge depends on your experience + who and where you are performing, so let's have a look:

BURLESQUE SHOWS

Now, the kinds of burlesque shows I'm talking about here are the ones run by people within the burlesque industry, not ones created by event companies or by the corporate world.

Real talk - I've been producing shows since 2011. Each city has its own climate, and in the big smoke (aka. Auckland) the theatre and live performance climate has always been tough. A lot of the time, show producers are self funding their shows and depend on the profits of a show to pay their cast and crew. If we break even, we do a happy dance and get the party poppers out. If we make a profit, we crack open the magnum champagne! (jokes - who can afford them anyway?)

Some producers do what's called a "risk share" where every performer in the show, regardless of their experience, will get an equal share of the profits after expenses. This is a fail-safe way for producers to pay people, but they should always do a budget and have some idea as who what the minimum will be. An experienced performer may ask for a retainer, but generally so long as the producer is up front with you and if you are happy to do risk share, than so be it. Sometimes it pays off aannndddd sometimes it doesn't. Personally, I wouldn't do a risk share if I had to travel (I've been caught out before). If I wanted to test out an act and if it was a local production, sure, but I wouldn't be performing one of my more elaborate acts for a minimal fee. 

Otherwise, producers offer a set fee. The good thing about set fees is you know what you're getting from the outset, which is nice and handy for budgeting purposes. Taking into account the climate, which I chat about above, a lot of producers really do try to pay the best they can for their performers with the budget they're given. But don't be expecting $500.00+ per act as to put it simply, burlesque producers can't afford it. We do what we do because we're passionate about the industry, producing and showcasing performers as well as our own skill set. For an amateur, you'd be looking at between $50-$100 per performance. For a professional hobbyist or professional, $100-$200 per act. If you get a headlining spot, perhaps $200-$300 per act. That's just a generalized figure and may fluctuate between varying producers. 

Bottom line, in burlesque shows, don't expect top dollar. But regardless of experience, do ensure you do get paid. 

PRIVATE BOOKINGS & CORPORATES

You've received an email asking for you to perform at x place at x time for x long. Then they ask you "how much?". Well, how long is a piece of string?

Below are the factors you need to take into account when quoting for private or corporate bookings:

  1. Your experience - If you're promoting yourself as a premium product, but don't have the experience, you're going to stab yourself in the foot with a stiletto heel - and it will hurt. Do NOT over promise and do not say you can do something that isn't within your skill-set. Always be honest and price accordingly. If you are an expert at performing burlesque, and have the experience behind that to prove it, then feel free to charge top dollar. Also, on this subject, if you think you're not comfortable taking on a particular gig, or you think that your skill set isn't suited to what the client wants, that's OK. I often pass gigs on to my fellow performers who I know would be a better fit if I can't actually do what they're asking for (see my notes on saying no at the end of the blog).
  2. Time - How much time will this booking ask of you - now I don't mean this just in terms of time at the actual event, but in regards to rehearsal, packing, prop moving, travelling, preparation re. hair and make-up and then, of course, actual time you'll need to be at the event and how many performances. 
  3. Travel - This also merges in with time, but how much travel is involved? Will they cover your travel? Or will you need to sort your own? This also factors in accommodation, etc too. If the client will cover travel & expenses, then you don't need to cater that into your quote. If they don't, then you will. Note that this factor is more relevent for performers who are performing out of town.
  4. Who is booking you - Ultimately, you need to value your worth and review each client as a case by case basis. Regardless of it's a hens party wanting a fun, flirty strip tease act or a corporate body who want 2x highly glamorized burlesque acts with large props for their bosses birthday soiree with some mingling afterwards, you need to be the judge as to what you should charge by taking into account all of the above. 

So for these kinds of gigs, start chatting with fellow burlesquers and see what they would charge, then after analyzing the above, think of what you'd be happy with. Ask burlesquers from a range of different experiences so you can get a feel for what various performers charge. You can always be negotiable, but don't allow for a client NOT to pay you what you believe your worth. But again, take into account your experience. 

My final thoughts on this..

GET PAID 

I know I sound like a broken record here, but please ask for payment or compensation of some sort. If you don't, you devalue the industry and allow for producers outside the scene, private and corporate clients to expect more for less. If we want burlesque to be seen as an important, relative and serious art form, we need to treat it as such. 

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH SAYING NO

Seriously, if someone doesn't want to pay you what you'd like, then politely and professionally tell them no. Simple. Don't do something for free because you're desperate for a gig. Again, that kind of behavior does nothing for the industry and those in it.  

This also goes for my point above regarding if you feel you cannot offer what a client wants/needs. Don't take a gig because you are afraid of missing out. There's so much to be gained from sharing opportunities with others and if you feel like another performer fits the mold better, then put them forward instead and graciously decline. But, always leave the door open. 

Phew, that was a long one! I hope you find this helpful and informative. 

Lilly x

Goals for 2018 + review of my 2017 goals

Original photo by Bruce Jenkins

Original photo by Bruce Jenkins

New Years Resolutions... yeah, nah. 

As much as I like to think that the new year allows for us to change, grow and turn over a new leaf, figuratively speaking, I don't really believe in them. Why? Because generally they're not well planned and generally are set up to fail. Like deciding to not each sugar for a year... good on you, m'dear.. but how committed are you REALLY to staying off the sugar crack?

I don't mean to sound like the new years grinch, because I try not to be, but goals, dreams and aspirations should be well thought out, simple and realistic. I'm not going to inform you how to write goals, how to stick to them or how to successfully stay off sugar. But, I will impart what my very few goals of 2018 are, and what my 2017 ones where and whether I upheld them.

2017 Goals:

Mine were: 

  • Self care
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Don't take s**t from anyone
  • Up your game

Yes, I am aware they're short and simple, but they actually encompass a lot of different things. I'm sure there's posts about how having very specific goals are better, blah blah, but this is what works for me. 

Self care

Self care was at the top of my list - having had a break down in 2015 and finally getting help (which if you follow me on social media, you'll know I am very public about mental health awareness and its importance) I had to learn the hard way that I needed to make myself a priority. So, I did. The simple action of being a bit selfish, instead of completely selfless, made a huge difference for me. If I was tired, I went to sleep instead of being a martyr and working until midnight. If I needed help with my daughter, I asked. If people sucked the energy out of me and it didn't serve me to have them in my life, I let them go, which leads me to my next goal.

Surround myself with positive people

This is something I have been working on for a very, very long time. I'm naturally empathetic and feel emotions very strongly. I also feel others emotions and thus if I am near or surrounded by negative people or negative energy, I feel like a Dementor from Harry Potter is hovering close by. I let go of negative people, deciding to not be afraid of potential backlash, awkward public bump-in's with people I had deleted or unfollowed on social media and again, hold onto my goal of self care.

Don't take s**t from anyone

I hate confrontation. Despise, loathe confrontation. This has been a very personal challenge for me as from when I was a kid, who was bullied right through until my mid teens for being "different", I was basically a door mat. I just wanted to feel accepted, a part of something. That, is what theatre allowed me to feel. I finally felt home, that I had a place I belonged outside in the real world outside my imagination and my parents. I decided last year that I was allowing people to have control over me, to abuse my good, empathetic nature and trust me, I've had my fair share of narcissists and manipulators and I decided enough was enough. I'm 30 years old, I know who I am, my mind is healthy and I am not going to allow anyone to tell me what I can't do, what I should do or what my limitations are. Also, I wanted to be a role model for my little girl, as I didn't want her to go through what I did growing up. This goal in particular I am proud of, as I have spoken up when I have needed to and I didn't allow myself to be a doormat. Sure, there's a few times I have decided to walk away and be the bigger person, and I still need to work on personal confrontation, especially with volatile characters, but on the whole I felt like I nailed this, as well as my other goals.

Up your game

Now this I feel like I really nipped in the bud. I'm very aware of the difference between ego and confidence, and I really, really hope I never look egotistical as that's not me at all, but without going into huge amounts of detail, here's the things I'm most proud of this year: 

⭐️ Winning the national title of Supreme Grand Tease New Zealand 2017, as well as other titles and accolades. This was so freakin’ cool - considering I performed alongside and was in competition with 30 of NZ’a fabulous burlesque talents. Absolute tops!
⭐️ Performing in the Hollywood Burlesque Festival - seriously HUGE one! 
⭐️ Producing 6 burlesque and variety shows for Cassette Nine and UXBRIDGE Arts & Culture, as well as an event for Auckland Council
⭐️ Coming third in NZ’s first drag king pageant, King of all Kings 🤴 
⭐️ Performing in about 35 live performance shows, events, Parties and theatrical productions. I’m aiming for more in 2018! 🤜 
⭐️ Teaching some truly lovely, wonderful, talented ladies the art of burlesque through Bambina Burlesque Academy NZ
⭐️ Being featured in prolific magazines such as Viva, Fashion Quarterly, Sinical Mag, Eastlife and various newspapers and online publications and blogs.
⭐️ Being featured on Newshub and having the fabulous Verity Johnson cover my trip when I went to perform in the USA in Hollywood. 

So.. what are my goals for 2018? 

2018 Goals

Kinda same, same but a few others added in. See below. 

  • Work smarter, not harder (am already making tracks to do this!)
  • Invest in my professional development (started on this in late 2018 and continuing now)
  • Grow my empire (Va-Va-Voom Productions, Bambina Burlesque Academy, Lilly Loca)
  • Level Up (Acts, costumes, etc)
  • Don't take s**t from anyone
  • Self Care (which I am including my former goal of surrounding myself with positive, like minded people into as it's really a part of self care)
  • Keep a weekly blog (which I am already doing right now!)

What are your goals? Feel free to leave a comment below! 

Next week on the blog: Burlesque Essentials

Burly Mumma - The Role & Importance of being a Burlesque Mentor

Welcome to my first blog! How very exciting!

I've decided to do a once a week post about whatever it is I feel inspired to write about, whether it be about anything to do with burlesque (including costumes, poses, advice, etc), #realtalk about life, the universe and everything (get the reference?) interviews with some fabulous, inspiring people or recommendations about products I use, brands I love or people with skill sets I think you'd like to hear about.

If there's anything in particular you'd like me to blog about - give me a bell via my Contact Me page!

For this first post, I decided to go back to a post I made on Facebook nearly a year ago when it comes to the role of a Burly Mumma (aka, Burlesque Mother, Burly Mom, etc). Having taught burlesque since 2010, and then opening my burlesque school Bambina Burlesque Academy in 2014, as well as having taught professionally as a drama teacher in high schools, primary schools and as an adult educator since 2009, I understand how important the role of an educator is to society. A teacher does not just teach - they influence, inspire and help people to harness their students creativity. They shepard their students whilst helping them discover their true potential.

Because of this, how a teacher speaks, motivates and presents themselves to their students is hugely important. An unprofessional teacher, who says hurtful, potentially damaging things to their students shouldn't be an educator. Someone who is educating burly babies for their own personal gain or for self absorbed reasons shouldn't be an educator. A teacher educates because they feel compelled to help others. They genuinely care about educating the masses about their particular passion. They want to help others to grow, learn and develop. It's not a selfish need, it's a completely SELFLESS profession. Professionalism is paramount. It can take one snide comment, one off-handed, throw away line to completely derail a students emotional and physical well being. But, it can take one genuine comment, one beautifully positive moment of  time with a student to bring about a  profound difference to that particular persons emotional, physical and mental well being.

So, without further ado, here's my thoughts on what a Burly Mumma should and shouldn't do.

A True Burly Mumma does the following: 

- Nurture, support and help to develop each of their individual students talents. 
- Guides their students as a shepard. 
- Allows for their students to go to different courses, experience different dance styles without prejudice. 
- Goes and supports their burly babies when they perform in shows. 
- Congratulates them on their successes and helps them get back up when they fall of their sparkly horse. 
- Helps their students find their niche and style and works with them to develop it.
- Create and find opportunities for their babies to perform and grow.
- Build their students self confidence so they can learn to love and appreciate their individuality.

A Burly Mumma does not/shouldn't:

- Hold a student back by informing them they shouldn't try something new or explore different avenues.
- Be a dictator.
- Inform their students there is one way or the highway and that their way is the be all and end all.
- Doesn't support their babies in performing in other people's shows or even starting their own ones.
- Brings them down due to their own insecurities and undermines them. 
- Spits students out in blocks as sheep with no individual style or flair. 
- Makes students feel insecure about themselves. 
- Not allow for students to explore their horizons and try new classes lead by different teachers.
- take credit for their students talent.

I'm not perfect, I know - and other Burly Mummas, I'm sure you'd agree with what I've said. We need to help grow the next generation of Burly Babies and support and nurture them to become the burlesque stars they're born to be.

Lilly x