Who gets paid the LEAST on stage?Aug 15, 2021
For a young performer, it's not important how much you're going to get paid when you're older, you just want to perform. Although I love the innocence of that, I do think it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.
I do a lot of Q&A sessions and I've never had a parent ask me how much their child could earn as a performer, or what the options are for getting a promotion in this industry.
In other industries, you can set targets and goals. Promotions are possible and career paths are usually pretty clear, but it's not so clear in the Performing Arts. If you're lucky enough to get a job, then you're comfortable for the length of time the contract lasts, then you're right back at square one. Job hunting and probably moving back in with the parents.
It is really hard for professional performers, there is so much competition out there that the producers are spoilt for choice. They can pick and choose who they want to use and if you try and negotiate a better deal, they can easily replace you with someone who'll do it cheaper.
One way to stop that from happening is to have more than one skill so it becomes harder to replace you.
I have a couple of different businesses, one is My Theatre School, an online education platform that gives you the opportunity to work with industry professionals no matter where you are in the world. The other is a company that produces shows for our clients that tour around Europe and Asia. Different companies use me and my team to manage and produce all of the creative aspects of their productions. So they set the budget and I have to negotiate with the agents and clients on their behalf. I’ve been doing this for well over a decade and although what I’m going to reveal today isn’t true of every project, some contracts might be different, it is universally understood to be very common.
Producers try their best to keep costs down to a minimum, and one of the most expensive assets of any show is the performers. I've seen some ridiculously low contract offers being made, and more often than not they’re being made to Dancers.
If you're a dancer with no other performance skills, then you're competing with thousands of other dancers who can do the same thing as you. It doesn't matter how hard you've worked, whether you think you deserve the job or not, they can offer you the least amount of money possible because if you don't take it then they'll have somebody else that will.
There are a couple of incredible opportunities for dancers but more often than not, a dancer in the ensemble will be paid the least out of all the cast. You'll get less money and also on cruise ships, more often than not you'll be asked to share cabins, while the singers get their own accommodation.
Is it fair? No, but they can get away with it. Why? Because what you have to offer as a dancer is available in every town in the country.
However, there is a way to get ahead of the other dancers out there, and that is to work on your singing and acting. If the person next to you in the audition is just as good at dance, but you can also sing a bit, who do you think they're going to choose? You!
A dancer who can add harmony or potentially cover a soloist when they're sick is a much more exciting option for the casting director. By developing your weaker skills you're going to be a lot more employable.
I really worry about students who "just want to be a dancer on the West End". They're going to be disappointed and there's a good possibility they'll end up going back home to be an assistant at their old dance school. Not the way they'd like it to go I'm sure.
If you have a weakness, whether it's singing, dancing, or acting, you need to work on developing that specific skill. Having more 'strings to your bow' is going to make you more employable. I know you'd work for free just to get on that stage, but one day you're going to want to go on a nice holiday or even buy a house, and it's very unlikely you'll be able to afford to do that on a dancer's wage.
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