• Yes, admission to my show was $15. No, you cannot hire me to do that same act at your private party for that same $15.
• A producer is not a Rolodex; if you want her to “send a couple girls” to your party, you will pay a booking fee.
• Don’t ever ask a producer to “send a couple girls” to your party.
• Would you show up entirely alone at a stranger’s house because they ‘sounded nice in the email?’ Neither would we. This is why you pay for a handler.
• Would you show up at a stranger’s house with the blithe assumption that you’ll most certainly get paid after your performance? Neither would we. This is why you pay a deposit.
• Here’s a scenario:
“Hi there, Worker Bee, this is the Boss. We’d like you to go to a sales conference in Shanghai. It’s only two hours long, and since we’re such a benevolent and altruistic corporation we’re going to pay you a hundred dollars for that two hours. How’s that, huh? … What’s that? No, you’ll have to buy the plane tickets … No, no we won’t be compensating you for the 72 hours of travel time either. But a hundred dollars, huh? Can’t beat that.”
Geography is tricky, I know, but here’s a good rule of thumb: if we can’t take the subway home* after the gig - be it a private party or an out-of-town venue - then you’ll need to cover the travel expenses.
• Drink tickets are not currency and “the chance to hang out after the show with some really cool people” does not pay the rent.
• I’ve never understood the assumption that if someone is a good burlesque performer, they’ll also be good at “walkaround.” (Let’s face it, I don’t understand the concept of “walkaround” entertainment that isn’t actually doing something, like close-up magic or tarot readings or making balloon animals.) If someone can satisfactorily explain to me what about my stage performance as a stripping sandwich implies that I’ll be stellar at talking to guests at your party while wearing a sexy devil tail then I’ll … go to your sales conference in Shanghai.
• It’s just great that you’re part of a small and wildly unsuccessful theatre company - and it’s really neat that along with your aggressive IndieGo-go campaign and asking your aunts and cousins for non-tax-deductible donations to produce your site-specific all-female free-verse adaptation of Death Of A Salesman, you’ve decided to put together a super-fun benefit with all kinds of wacky acts and some great raffle prizes from the yoga studio downstairs and five-dollar-a-glass-suggested-donation pink wine, and as a fellow artist you just know I’d jump at the networking opportunity of performing three numbers for free on a Saturday night in a warehouse in Bushwick, because I’ll have a great time hanging out and mingling afterwards and supporting the arts. Really. That’s just swell.
• Before you hit ‘send,’ glance over that email and see if it anywhere contains the phrase “no pay but opportunity for exposure.” Now replace that with “I will skull-fuck your grandmother’s corpse in the middle of the kids’ table during your next Thanksgiving dinner,” and decide if you still want to send it.
• Yes, I am an experienced and skilled professional in my chosen field. No, you cannot “pick my brain for a couple of hours” over a cup of coffee.
• Once upon a time the public school system taught things like elocution and correspondence. We had typing classes and practiced business interviews and learned how to tuck in our shirts. And then they invented the internet and everything went completely to hell.
Here’s a sample cold email, just to prove that it can still be done correctly:
“Hello Ms Performer;I am putting together a holiday party for my office that will take place at a Midtown restaurant on the night of Friday, December 17th. We’re interested in booking a classic burlesque act as part of the evening’s entertainment, and I’m writing to inquire about your rates and availability. Please feel free to call or email me at your convenience, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have as well. I look forward to speaking with you.Thanks,A. Reasonable Request”
And here’s an actual FaceTube message I (and, apparently, more than a few other performers) received some little while ago:
“i need a show this Tuesday with 3-4 girls. can you swing it? 10pm show”
I would hope that my 8th grade Business Practices teacher is not required to explain this one.
* I’ve heard that in some parts of the world private citizens actually own their own automobiles, though I don't entirely believe this. The premise is the nonetheless the same.