A couple of months ago there was a conversation in the burlesque community about producers who were demanding exclusivity of their performers. Lili VonSchtupp, the Foul-Mouthed Buxom Godmother of Los Angeles Burlesque wrote the following article, and I am reprinting it here with her permission.
As performers we sometimes forget that without producers there are no shows. Lili is a successful producer of the longest running weekly burlesque show in town. When she speaks, it pays to listen:
The value of exclusivity runs both ways.
As producers, we have every right to ask for exclusivity. It benefits a producer/show to have you only appear with them. This doesn't make us greedy, or mean we’re trying to keep you from working and making money, this makes us a good business people who want to run a consistent show and keep it going for years. We have seats to sell in order to pay you. The more seats we sell, the more money we have to pay performers and the more we get rewarded for the hard work we do to keep a show going in this economy.
- Level of expertise
- Cost of production (Large props and expendable props)
- Ticket price and venue capacity
I have well over 250 weekly shows at Monday Night Tease! under my belt, and I require certain exclusivity to some acts, requesting you not perform the same act 2 weeks before or after at another show in LA. I'm responsible for paying you so I do get to set guidelines. If you don't like them, please work elsewhere. I don't take it personally. And neither should you. That is how a free market works.
“But Lili,” you say, “they want exclusivity and don't want to pay more.” Yes, sometimes they do. And the best thing about a free market is...? You can say no. That producer/show will survive or fail because people want to work there or they don't. If enough people don't, it will fail and a new show will pop up in its place. Businesses fail every day. Businesses start every day. Or you can go exclusive at a lower rate, build better shows with your producer and all benefit later as ticket prices can be raised and pay can be increased. YOU need to decide what is right for you.
No one said we all get to be stars. Most of us will never make a living as a performer. Maybe you need to reset your expectations for the career you chose. Most of the artists I know are part time, no matter how good they are. There simply isn't a large burlesque circuit of $1000 a week gigs, either for working nightly or for a one-time exclusive fee.