We couldn’t think of anyone’s advice we’d rather take than Miss Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Founder of the New York School of Burlesque and author of The Burlesque Handbook, which is why we’re thrilled to have her as our Burlesque Etiquette contributor! Have a question you’d like Jo to answer? Please title your email “Etiquette- _your issue___” and send to editor [at] PinCurlMag [dot] com and we will send them right over to her!
Have you ever wanted to distribute flyers at a show, and asked the producer if it was okay and been assured it was, only to find out later that the venue was annoyed because they were also having a burlesque show that night?
Sharing resources such as venues, marketing, skills, ideas, and knowledge is an important part of community, and it can be difficult to know the difference between when you are simply taking someone’s resources and infringing on their work. Often, it’s a simple matter of putting yourself in their shoes, but on occasion you simply must ask. The examples below are intended more as food for thought than as hard and fast guidelines.
Many times, I have seen–or have been in–painful situations that could have been easily avoided by simply asking a direct question of the person(s) involved, rather than indirectly asking around (which is sometimes necessary for clarity about the question you want to ask, but is never the same as directly asking the person affected) or otherwise second-guessing how the person might respond.
Most of the time the only reason to ask is because of the relationship you hope to maintain. These are not often issues of copyright law or trademark infringement. You can follow the letter of the law rather than the intention of the law and do as you like, but that is one of the weakest defenses I know. It won’t help your relationship with a person or a community at all.
Keep in mind, you only need to ask if you value your relationship with this person and your integrity, real or perceived, within the community you share. And you must decide before asking how you will respond if you get an answer you don’t want to hear. They may be inappropriately proprietary, controlling, and egotistical, and your request may have been merely a matter of form when you knew you weren’t doing anything wrong but were just paying your respects. Know what to do if the person turns out to be an asshole, what to do if you turn out to be an asshole, and what to do if you end up feeling foolish, hurt, or terribly frustrated that you can’t do what you want without complications. Most importantly, know what to do if you get a response that, even though it wasn’t what you wanted to hear, was given from the heart. If you give them the impression that by asking you intend to honor their response, then honor it. That is the soul of integrity.
Good times to ask:
If you want to have a show in the same venue as another producer. This may be up to the venue owner, rather than the producer. The venue owner is the real authority here, and few producers have exclusives with given venues. But if you value your relationship with that producer, it may be a good idea to ask. If there are already a lot of burlesque shows with different producers there, it is probably unnecessary to ask, but the producer will still feel respected if you do ask.
If you want to use the same music as another performer. As the venue is owned by the venue owner, the music is actually owned by the people who hold the copyright, not the performer. If it’s a popular piece of music such as Night Train or Bumps N Grinds, it’s obviously fair game. But if someone you know and respect has a signature piece to that music, or has obviously invested a lot in it, and you are likely to perform in the same circles, think twice. You are by all means entitled to use it– if you are frequently going to be in the same show, do you want to be constantly negotiating who will be using “Pour Some Sugar On Me” on any given night?
If you want to use or teach a move a burlesque instructor taught you in one of your numbers or in a class you teach. It’s usually not an issue if you incorporate the move into a performance– you bought the class, and there’s not much point in taking a class if you can’t use what you learn there The the source might be recognizable to other burlesque performers and devoted fan, but how that is usually fine. As for teaching it yourself, it depends on how common the technique is. Maybe they didn’t invent the Breakfast Bump N Grind (I learned it from Bambi Jones), and you could have learned it anywhere. But you didn’t; you learned it from them. And even though it may have been around for generations before they were alive (and it also may not have been), you don’t know if their choreography breakdown, teaching technique, and terminology originated with them. Whenever I want to incorporate moves from another instructor, I ask that instructor to make sure there’s no conflict of interest, and I credit them in class. It’s not enough to just assume it will be okay credit them in class–I find out how they feel about it. I have plenty of resources to come up with other material if they are feeling sensitive or proprietary about having their material taught by someone else.
If you want to use a photo. Any photo you find on the internet is owed by someone, and if you use it without permission, you are violating their copyright. I know it’s maddening when people don’t turn in their photos when you request them, but a found photo may not even belong to that performer–it may be the property of the photographer. Yes, the internet is changing the way we understand distribution and copyright, but it’s still a matter of respect.
If you want to use forms, disclaimers, sentences, descriptions, or other business you found on a website. These things are hard to write, may have been vetted by a lawyer at the site owner’s expense, and explain the structures of their business, which was probably carefully crafted with great entrepreneurialism. Business writing doesn’t just spring out of thin air. Just because it’s not “art” doesn’t mean there’s no process of creation. And it too is copyrighted material.
If you want to create a tribute number. Your intentions are probably nothing but honorable: you want to show appreciation for this performer and let the world see what they’ve done. However, almost all performers would rather perform than have a tribute to them performed; many of them worked hard to create a distinctive number. If you are planning to tribute them, there are certainly circumstances under which a surprise tribute could be a beautiful gift; but if you’re not sure, ask. And ask them, not their friends. And ask them twice, once to bring up the subject and again later to make sure they were honest with themselves and with you in the moment.
If you could have found information is easily accessible on the website, application, etc. It’s a lot of work to put those sites together, and disrespectful to ignore their work. You may just need some human contact, or the site may be difficult to negotiate; it is okay to let them know you at least looked for the information, and acknowledge that you tried to avoid taking their time.
For an exception to rules which are essential to the operation of a given show or business. Most of the time these rules are intended to smooth out and hasten production, not just to be bossy over performers. Being low maintenance is one of the key ways to get asked back.
If you can do a version of their number (usually described as “with your own twist”) or use their signature gimmick or prop. Seriously, no. You may not know whether or not they were the first to do it, or how much it has been associated with them. Copyright isn’t always the relevant issue. If you just want to steal the applause they get in that moment, you didn’t have a creative desire to incorporate it your way with a twist; you just want that applause. Think hard about this one.
If a person can give you free business counsel via email. Sometimes you have mentor/mentee chemistry with someone, or are just looking for hints or a link or two, and that’s cool. But if you don’t, you’re asking for hours of their time for no benefit to them.
If a person of color is okay with you doing a culturally appropriative act. There’s a ton of information on the internet about such things; you need to make your own informed decision without putting anyone in the position of representing their entire culture.
These are just a few very common examples. There are more complex situations, to be sure. If you find yourself in one, the best way to approach it is: just ask.
Want to see more of Jo’s columns? See: Sponsorship for Beginners, Like a Boss: The Harem Trope, Teacher/Student Dos and Don’ts, These Children That You Spit On: Established Performer to New Performer Etiquette, Stage Kitten Etiquette, Making Introductions: Emcee Etiquette, Photos & Pasties, How to Annoy Producers, How to Annoy Performers, I’m Just Saying, Headliner Etiquette – Part 1, Social Media Etiquette for Nearly Naked People
At BurlyCon 2013 I had the honor of teaching a class called “How to Mix and Mingle with your Adoring Fans.” I love to socialize with my audience and this makes me a “Socialite Stripper.”
Mingling with your audience post-show can not only be a valuable marketing tactic, it can sometimes be part of your contract for a special event. It’s a wonderful skill to have in your beyond-the-stage toolkit.
Some highlights I can share today are:
- Use the opportunity to reinforce who you are to the audience members by sharing a business card or future show flyer with those who approach you.
- Talking with the audience after a show and taking pictures with them extends the showgirl/showboy experience for a fan beyond the stage show. Often leaving them with a delightful “I got to meet the dancer” feeling and winning their hearts.
- Accept compliments with an open heart. A compliment is just as much about a person’s desire to muster up the kind words and deliver them to you as it is about you yourself.
- Be patient: Your audience is often more intoxicated than you are. This can lead to all kinds of skill needed to navigate your fancy self amongst a sea of tipsy fans.
You can learn more about me here at my website as well as links to all of my social networks and favorite endeavors.
Don’t sell your tits on Groupon. This seems like a perfectly good philosophy that’s really easy to adhere to…. So why then am I seeing so many burlesque shows and classes on Groupon? The myth of Groupon and discount coupons is that they give you a huge chunk of money at once, get the word out to thousands upon thousands of people who would have otherwise never heard about you, they then become loyal new customers and everyone lives happily ever after. This couldn’t be further from the truth- Groupon is the Devil.
Myths vs. Facts about Groupon and other discount peddlers:
Myth: Groupon merely helps me “get the word out” and I will receive a ton of loyal customers providing repeat business once they know I exist.
Fact: Groupon customers are loyal to Groupon. They are the Kmart bargain bin shoppers who are always searching for the cheapest deal- not the best product. Once they know they can get your services or goods for dirt cheap, they will wait for the next time you offer a Groupon. The most you will see as a return on your investment, “Oh my gosh! I loved the show. When are you offering another Groupon so I can come back?” Artfully illustrated in this short yet hilarious video.
Myth: Everyone is doing deals on Groupon- it must a smart business move!
Fact: Believe it or not, there are a ton of clueless and desperate business owners. This is part of the reason why more than 50% of businesses fail in their first four years. Sign up for Groupon- research the first 20 deals you get. You will find more than 80% are start-ups.
Myth: There’s legitimacy to being on Groupon. It’s a sign that you’re a real and legit business.
Fact: Anyone can be on Groupon. At this point, they are begging businesses to sign up with them. Seriously- Begging. Why?
Business owners and the general public have gotten smarter and realized listing on Groupon reads as desperate. After all, if your product is so amazing- wouldn’t customers pay full price? You won’t see Tiffany’s, Louboutin, Barney’s or Neiman Marcus on Groupon. Why? It reads as desperate and cheap- and they know it.
This is especially important in the world of burlesque- where the product is you. Are you the Payless Shoe Store of burlesque or the Louboutin Boutique of burlesque?
Myth: You just use Groupon to get them in the door- then you upsell them!
Fact: First off, Groupon users are cheap and want half priced stuff- that’s why they signed up for Groupon in the first place. Secondly, what are you going to upsell them on? Unless you get a very large cut of liquor sales at your show (which is mostly unheard of) or you own the venue, what are you going to upsell- a $10 t-shirt from your merch booth? Not unless their Groupon includes it.
Fact: That is partly true. You will get a huge check. Depending on the discounter you sign up with, you will get anywhere from 1-3 giant checks. But are they really that giant? You sold 200 classes on Groupon. Normally they would be $20 ea., but to participate in Groupon, you must offer a really steep discount- so you offered them at $10/ea (they will try to get you to go much lower- but more on that later). Of that $10, Groupon takes half- so you get $5 per class. You now have a total of $1000 for yourself- that’s great, right? Well no, the IRS will take 30-40%- so let’s do the math in your favor and say you now have $700. That $700 will be divided into two checks- one you receive in 30-60 days and is 30% of what they owe you. The other 70% is held for 90-120 days to account for chargebacks, invalid purchases, refund requests, etc.
Not bad for a day’s work… But it’s not a day. You now have 200 people to fit into your classes while still trying to accommodate your current students as well as new ones that aren’t Groupon users. You still have to pay for studio space, keep the lights and air on (the electric company isn’t running a Groupon!), create a bunch of new classes to fit all your new customers into as well as answering all of the phone calls and emails that will pour in. Trust me, I will illustrate later why by the end of the process, $700 no longer seems so great.
Myth: I was really smart and offered a long redemption period, so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
Fact: It’s human nature. Tons of folks will call right away to use their coupons, and tons will wait until the last possible minute. There isn’t much in between. How do I know? Keep reading…
Myth: I was really smart and offered a few tickets on Groupon, just so I could advertise I had a “sold out” show!
Fact: No one is going to be impressed that you sold out using Groupon. (And yes, someone will see it, post it, and everyone will know.) Of course you sold out using Groupon- but at what cost? You practically gave away tickets! Now you appear desperate, you have permanently devalued your tickets (Who’s gonna pay full price again?) and with it- devalued the burlesque shows in your town- lowering the price point for everyone around you who wishes to remain competitive.
My Personal Groupon Story:
It’s true –I am writing all of this from experience. In June of 2011 I ran a Groupon for my pin-up photography studio. Summer is our slow time of year and we were in a studio in a less than desirable part of town and we wanted the money to get nicer digs. When we saw a similar business in another state listing on Groupon, we decided to look into it as Groupon would be the perfect way to achieve our new studio goals. I was leery of being completely overwhelmed with Groupon business so I kept my cap low and my period until expiration long. The result was a listing that sold out in 37minutes- it was a pin-up photo shoot for $150 including hair and make-up (we sold out at 100) and a Pin-Up Party for 4 gals for $449 (we sold out at 50). Both packages were less than 50% of full retail. After Groupon’s take, we made $18,725. Splitting this with my partner, my hair and make-up artist at the studio, we made $9362.50 each. After putting money in the bank for taxes, we had $5,617.50 each- a large part of which we invested into opening our new location.
The other part of your Groupon equation- the clients. The phone calls and emails started pouring in and we booked a good 20% of our indebted shoots in the first month- which was great as we had time on our hands for the summer, and were newly energized by our new digs and fat paychecks. By fall our regular business started to pick up and we were booked pretty consistently. Then the holidays hit. In our busiest time of year, all of the sudden a wave of Groupon purchasers wanted to come in so they could use their photos as Christmas presents. The end result was either frustrated regular clientele or frustrated Groupon purchasers. There just weren’t enough hours in the day. For each Groupon redeemed it was 1 hour of time from the hair and make-up artist, and 2 hours of time from me (including post-production/ PhotoShop). I ended up hiring two different Photoshoppers to help me get through the work load- which meant I was actually paying Groupon holders to let me shoot them!
Meanwhile, Groupon and every other competing discounted sign up program is calling me at least twice a week begging me to sign up for another Groupon. You know why? It’s huge and great business for them! (Until people finally caught on to how much they were screwing small business owners and got turned off, the backlash began, and their stocks plummeted, but I digress…..)
I finally stopped working 16 hr days after Valentine’s day and things slowly returned to normal. That is until May, when everyone got a “Your deal expires in 30 days” email from Groupon- and then the process cycled again. Then there were the “I’m angry my deal expired” calls, and the “Can you get me in tomorrow calls.” As a business owner, you want to provide the best possible experience for your clients- but it’s almost impossible with the Groupon model.
To this day we still get calls from our past Groupon clients wanting to do another shoot or refer their friends; they are just “Waiting for us to do another Groupon.” When they ask us when they should expect it, we smile and say, “never.” We were one of the lucky ones; our business was able to survive Groupon. We have a very healthy client base of ladies willing to pay full and fair price and a good amount of work- all with happy clients we are happy to see. Some businesses can’t survive Groupon and it actually puts them out of business.
I know, I know, you may be thinking I sound a little bitter or dramatic. I assure you, it’s a very similar story that I have heard from several other small business owners I spoke with when I saw their ads- everyone from a massage therapist, a custom fragrance shop, and a popular local spa. That was back in 2011; it has now gotten so bad that all you have to do is Google or read their stock report. As it turns out, only dinosaurs are still running Groupons.
Sources of Client Based Income
By: Red Hot Annie
We’re delighted to have Chicago’s Red Hot Annie joining the Pin Curl team to contribute her insights on the business of burlesque! Have a question you’d like Annie to answer? Please title your email “Business- _your issue___” and send to editor [at] PinCurlMag [dot] com and we will send them right over to her!
Whether you are an aspiring or established performer, some of the most important choices you’ll make in your burlesque career will involve who to work with, who to turn down, and when to ask for more money.
This is the first part in a series of resources intended to help performers book themselves at the best rates possible under various circumstances. As a stand-alone resource, it is vague. Please keep in mind that this is simply the foundation resource – the jumping off point to get us all on the same starting page. Your feedback is encouraged, but know that many of your questions may be answered in the subsequent resources.
This resource primarily illustrates the differences between a producer, a booker, and an individual – giving you a clearer picture of where the money comes from and why some opportunities are better than others. It’s important to consider your rates on a “sliding scale” – in other words, sometimes you may be stuck at a ceiling of $50 for an act, when other times you could make $500 for the same identical act.
The most important piece of information when quoting a performance is to know WHEN to quote WHICH rates, with an understanding of the financial flexibility of the person who’s deciding whether to hire you.
Please keep in mind that any individual can be working in various capacities – sometimes they may be hiring you as a Producer, while other times as a Booker or an Individual. The examples below are a jumping off point, but – as always – there are exceptions!
As with any of my resources, this is an on-going project, subject to adjustments based on new information.
(Click image below to enlarge)
Want more advice from Annie? Check out her other columns here: Lifespan of a Burlesque Act
By: Dapper John
The past few years have seen an explosion of new talent, with performers, producers, and choreographers popping up everywhere and putting on creative and interesting shows. Many participants in this burgeoning burlesque scene, however, are worried about how to protect their ideas from unauthorized borrowing. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is not flattering to spend months perfecting an original routine, only to see it performed by someone else a few weeks later. In this article I hope to clear up some of the confusion over copyrights and trademarks, and describe, in general terms, how each may be used to protect original ideas.
Please note, this article is a brief overview and only scratches the surface of a very complex area of the law. It is intended to provide general guidance only and should not be viewed or utilized as legal advice to be applied to fact-specific situations. Contact an attorney for any specific questions or for advice regarding a specific situation.
What is the difference between a copyright and a trademark?
Copyrights and trademarks share many similarities. Both are registered with an agency of the federal government. Each one gives the owner exclusive rights to the work, meaning the owner has the right to prevent anyone else from using their work. What exactly is the difference between these two forms of intellectual property protection?
A copyright protects the expression of a person’s ideas, and is focused on the originality of the piece. Copyright protection is given to creative works like writing, computer programs, music, choreography, lyrics, graphic designs, sculpture, photographs, movies, and sound recordings. The expression must be “original,” which, in this context, means a work that is not an exact copy of another work. Copyrights are also self-executing, meaning that an author is automatically protected by federal copyright. Nonetheless, copyrights can be registered with the Library of Congress, and certain remedies for infringement require registration.
A trademark, on the other hand, protects something that is used to identify where a product or a service comes from, and is focused on distinctiveness. An example of a trademark would be a distinctive logo, like the Pin Curl logo on the cover of this magazine, which is placed on products to inform consumers that the product came from that particular company. The logo itself is not trademarked, but its use in connection with a particular product or service is protected. Just like a copyright, a trademark can be established without formal registration, although, as explained below, the protection will be limited in scope. Trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
There can be some overlap between the copyright and trademark. If you paint an original picture, that picture is protected by copyright. If you use that picture as a distinctive logo to advertise your business, it can be registered as a trademark. Both protections will be there, and it is only a question of which protection you use to enforce your rights in the work. That, in turn, depends on how those rights are violated. If your picture is just copied, it’s a copyright infringement. If it’s used to sell a different product, it’s probably a trademark infringement as well. In the context of burlesque, copyright can be used to protect original performances and choreography, while trademark protects stage names and logos.
What is the time and geographic scope of a copyright and trademark?
One of the most important differences between trademarks and copyrights is that copyrights will expire. As a general rule, copyrights for your new work will last for your lifetime, plus an additional seventy years. Trademarks are issued for a finite period of time, but they can be renewed and, as a result, could last forever.
The Copyright Act provides nationwide protection of a copyrighted work. There are separate national copyright laws in each country, although international treaties—specifically the Berne Convention—facilitate protection of copyrights worldwide. Protection in one Berne country will be extended to other Berne countries. A list of countries who are signatories to the Berne Convention can be found here.
The geographic reach of a trademark depends on whether or not it has been registered. Trademark rights in the United States can be established through mere use of the mark in connection with the associated goods or services. Without federal registration, however, the rights established by use of the mark will be limited to the geographic area where the mark is actually used. Thus, later users who adopts the same or a similar mark without knowledge of the prior user may develop their own trademark rights to a different geographic region. For example, if you use a logo to advertise your performances in Texas, you will have trademark rights as to that logo in Texas. If another performer unknowingly starts using the same logo in New York, then that performer will have his or her own trademark rights in New York. Accordingly, a mark owner who relies only upon common law trademark rights may encounter obstacles to his or her ability to use the mark (and to exclude others from using its mark) as the owner starts performing in other places.
Luckily, a U.S. federal registration on the Principal Register confers nationwide “constructive notice” of the registrant’s ownership and rights in the mark, preventing a later user from claiming lack of knowledge of the original mark. A federal registration provides a nationwide scope of protection over later users of the same or similar marks in connection with the same or similar goods or services.
In certain foreign countries, federal registration within that country’s registration system is the only way to secure trademark rights, and the first to file an application for registration has priority over later registrants, regardless of who actually began using the mark first in that country or elsewhere.
Can you copyright the name of your troupe, your performance name, or the name of a specific show?
Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans are not protected by copyright law. Similarly, copyright law does not apply to aesthetic elements such as simple product lettering or coloring. To be protected by copyright, a work must contain at least a minimum amount of authorship in the form of original expression. Names, titles, and other short phrases are simply too minimal to meet these requirements. This is why you will often see books and movies sharing the same title.
Names, slogans and phrases which are used in connection with a product or service should be protected by registering a trademark, so long as they otherwise meet the distinctiveness requirement.
Can you copyright a burlesque show itself?
Ideas, procedures, principles, discoveries, and devices are all specifically excluded from copyright protection. As a result, a burlesque show itself, as an idea or concept, cannot be protected by copyright. Specific aspects of the show, however, such as original choreography or music, can be copyrighted. A distinctive name or logo for a show can also be trademarked.
Can you copyright choreography?
Yes, if it is original and fixed. Choreography is the composition and arrangement of dance movements and patterns usually intended to be accompanied by music. To be protected by copyright, choreography does not need to tell a story or be presented before an audience. Each work, however, must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression from which the work can be performed. Common methods for “fixing” choreography are a video of a performance or written choreographic notes. Keep in mind, though, that choreography that is only performed in front of an audience, without video or notation, cannot be protected. Choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded are unfixed and cannot receive copyright protection.
What is the scope of such copyright (eight count, one move, ect.)?
There is no clear standard on how many steps or other movements are required to create a copyrightable work. The Copyright Act itself does not define choreography. In one of the only cases to address the topic, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that “social dance steps and simple routines” cannot be copyrighted (so the two-step or a simple grapevine cannot be copyrighted), and went on to define choreography as “the composition and arrangement of dance movements and patterns, [which] is usually intended to be accompanied by music.” Yeah, not so helpful. Something tells me judges are not big dancers.
But what “series of moves” is original enough to be copyrightable? Newly-created steps, in isolation from any particular sequence, might be “original,” but are probably ineligible for protection, as they constitute “ideas,” “systems,” or “methods of operations” excluded from protection. Combinations of steps, however, could be original and copyrightable. Group of dancers performing steps in unison are also likely to increase the originality, and, therefore, the copyrightability (I’m a lawyer, I can make up words) of a work. Unfortunately, no court has provided guidance on this issue, so the lines remain fuzzy.
One interesting aspect of copyrighting choreography is that copyright in choreography is not tied to a specific piece of music. A dancer could, theoretically, infringe on another’s choreography by performing an infringing dance to an entirely different piece of music.
It is similarly unclear when a dance infringes on a protected piece of choreography. The general test for copyright infringement is whether the infringing work is “substantially similar” to the copyrighted work. Again, there is little helpful case law in this area, leaving choreographers in the dark as to when imitation changes from flattery to infringement.
Can you copyright or trademark a prop or gimmick?
Not really. Remember that a copyright protects the expression of a person’s ideas. A prop by itself is a device, and, therefore, is not likely to be considered an expression worthy of protection. A description of a prop could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the prop. An exception may exist for props that are themselves original works of art similar to a painting or sculpture, whose copyright protection would exist independently from their use in a performance. Additionally, a copyright of a performance may prevent another performer from using a substantially similar prop in the same way, because doing so would infringe on the copyright of the performance. This would not prevent a performer from using the prop in a different performance, however. Finally, a prop that is sufficiently unique may be patented, but patent protection is well beyond the scope of this article.
Let’s look at an example that ties all these concepts together. A performer performs under the name “The Doughty Brunette” and uses a distinctive banana logo in all her advertisements, business cards, and promotions. She also has a giant banana prop that she rides in an “original” way in her signature routine. For the past three years, TDB has performed this routine in an annual Banana Festival show that she also produces, called “The Phallic Fruit Extravaganza.” This show has been videoed a few times and is available on Youtube. What can be copyrighted, and what can be trademarked?
The names, “The Doughty Brunette” and “The Phallic Fruit Extravaganza” can likely be trademarked, as can the banana logo, so long as they are all distinctive. This protection will only cover the areas where she performs, unless she registers the trademarks. The specific, original motions or choreography she uses to ride the banana can probably be copyrighted, as least as they appear in the video. She should put a short “copyright: [name]” notice on the video, just in case (she can use that fun symbol: ©). Registering with the Library of Congress would ensure that she is protected. This copyright would prevent someone from riding a substantially similar banana in a substantially similar way. If the banana is unique is some way, like if it jiggles or turns into a chili pepper mid-act, she may consider patenting it. A copyright or trademark will not prevent someone from putting on their own phallic-fruit themed show during the Banana Festival, so long as it does not use the same (or a substantially similar) name or logo. Another performer may also create a similar banana prop, so long as she does not copy the same movements used by the copyright holder, or infringe on any patent. In all cases, the performer should consult her local friendly intellectual property lawyer.
The Lifespan of a Burlesque Act
By: Red Hot Annie
We’re delighted to have Chicago’s Red Hot Annie joining the Pin Curl team to contribute her insights on the business of burlesque! Have a question you’d like Annie to answer? Please title your email “Business- _your issue___” and send to editor [at] PinCurlMag [dot] com and we will send them right over to her!
Obviously, like all graphs or systems, a person could have some elements from a higher Phase and still have an act that is in the lower Phases, or vice-versa. It’s not fool-proof, but certainly a good tool when learning burlesque – or as a professional who finds herself stuck!
Burlesque Rates of the Union
An issue ago we finished up our Guide to Touring series. It was with touring in mind that we dreamed up the idea for our Burlesque Rates of the Union. We asked several gals from all over the country what to expect from their hometowns and compiled their responses into an easy to access reference table. Be sure and grab the Best of Spring 2013 for even more cities!
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Part I in our Guide to touring got you on the road, so now that you’re there what should you expect?
First Scenario – The performer reached out to the producer.
If you’ve reached out to the producer to get the gig, make it as easy on the producer to say “yes” as possible. Here’s a few things to consider:
- Make sure you make it easy on the producer by giving him/her everything they will need in advance well before your trip:
- *high res* photos for press
- a brief bio or buzz words to use in promotions
- your tech/stage notes and music
- Your itinerary & your phone number
More advance Preparations you *must* make ahead of time:
- Have your lodging set up and choose a place as close to the venue as possible.
- If you won’t have your own transportation, do a little research to figure out the public transportation or cab system in the area.
- Have dietary restrictions? Travel with lots of snacks that do meet your needs or map out restaurants/groceries close to your hotel that you can hit up on the way.
- Make a list of what to pack and go over it several times, trying to plan for the unexpected. You don’t want to have a curling iron or stocking emergency in an unfamiliar town under a time crunch. Also, plan an extra casual outfit and dressy outfit so no matter where the after party shenanigans take you- you have the perfect outfit. (No one likes to ride a mechanical bull in an evening gown.)
- Make sure you have the producer’s phone number, email, and a secondary contact saved in your phone.
- If you are using merch as a way to hopefully bring in some extra money during your tour, make sure everything is ordered in time to arrive long before you leave so you can make any last minute changes if something is wrong with your tees/glossies/stickers/etc. Pack as much as you can to bring with you, or consider shipping them to the producer before the event if he/she is okay with that.
- Additional Gigs. Each producer feels differently about this, so make sure you clear everything with the original booker. You are on the road to make friends, not enemies. Once you get the all clear (and maybe even a list of places to start) from the producer, reach out to other shows and burlesque schools in the area to see if you can land a second show or workshop to help cover your travel costs. Make sure you can get to and from all of your gigs using either public transportation or cabs. It is unreasonable to expect a producer to bring you to someone else’s show by tech rehearsal.
- Plan some wiggle room in your plans to go to lunch before or go for drinks after the show with the producer or fellow performers, but don’t take it personally if no one is available to entertain you. While you may have a day free of obligations, others may have day jobs, children, deadlines, so don’t be hurt if you aren’t invited out.
After the trip
- A brief thank you card, or email sent to the producer is never a bad way to go.
- Follow up with the connections you made: performers, fans, producers, or otherwise telling them what a pleasure it was to meet them and how you can’t wait to see them again. (Only if you mean it.)
Scenario Two – The producer reached out to you.
In addition to all of the above, with this scenario, it’s a little safer to assume you will be hosted, though you want to be a gracious guest, so how do you navigate? The short answer, as Jo Weldon puts it, is *read your contract*! If you aren’t given a contract by the producer, consider having your own performance contract. If something is non-negotiable for you- make sure it’s in your contract!
- It is very reasonable to expect the producer to either bring you to and from the airport themselves, or have someone assigned to that role so you will arrive safely at your hotel/host’s house. It is also reasonable to think that transportation to and from the venue will be provided. However, you should always know where you are staying in advance, as well as where you are performing, so in case of emergency you can catch a cab or public transportation.
- It is reasonable to think you will be asked to join the producer or someone he/she has assigned to host for lunch, dinner, maybe shopping or sightseeing sometime during your stay as that is all part of being a good host, but please do not take it personally or be hurt if you are not asked. While you’re experiencing a new city, the rest of the crew is experiencing their daily grind.
- The tab question. Generally whoever asks, pays, and in most situations it is the producer. However, in situations where the entire cast is going out it’s understood it’s every man or woman for him/herself. The safe bet? If you can’t afford your meal- don’t order it.
- I’ve seen producers offer “welcome packets” when they know they are going to be too busy to be a good host (mainly festival situations) that provides sightseeing, dining, and shopping recommendations, as well as phone numbers for cab companies and places that will deliver food to your location. I always thought this was a great touch.
- It is unreasonable to expect the producer to run you about town for items you forgot, places/people you “must see”, or anything else that tickles your fancy. Have to see the Space Needle while you’re in town? Make plans to get there on your own.
So you wanna tour? You want to get out see new performance styles, learn and grow as a performer, make business connections, and get your name out there. Part I of our Guide to Touring will give you some resources for doing just that. Part II will run in next month’s issue and guide you through what to expect as an out of town performer and how to make the trip as affordable as possible.
Approach #1 – The Tried and True Method: The Festival Circuit
As Coco Lectric puts it, “It’s very hard to cast someone you’ve never met or seen [perform] live.”
The festival circuit is the most popular method of getting your name out there and also the most expensive. Lula Houp Garou shared some of her strategies in a recent interview with us, and while they are *so* worth reading, she sums it up with, “Have I recouped all the money that I have spent on festivals? Not at all. Do I still consider the investment to be worth it? Absolutely.”
The new 2013 Burlesque Festival Guide is out and there are over 30 festivals in the U.S. alone, and unless you have unlimited resources and a very empty calendar of obligations it is impossible to hit ‘em all. So how do you decide?
Midnite Martini’s approach: Focus on the mid-sized festivals. “I have done the really large festivals and everyone is so nervous and there are so many people it’s hard to make real connections or be noticed, or really remember the acts that you should notice. I really enjoy the smaller festivals as they are more laid back and there’s more opportunity for a whole lot of networking.”
Coco Lectric’s Approach: “I have a list of the major festivals that I want to hit each year, and festivals I have enjoyed in the past, and I do those. I make sure to make it to BHoF every year.”
Donna Denise’s Approach: “ I do as much as I can. I want to be able to go to them all, but I have to narrow it down to places I want to perform in more often.”
Tips for making the most out of festivals:
- Do go to as many of the shows as you can and make sure to compliment the acts you genuinely enjoyed. Try to focus on other performers’ acts and needs as much as your own. You want to impress the producers of course, but you also want to impress your fellow performers both on stage and off.
- Do go to all of the workshops, classes, after parties, and all of the other extras. You are surrounded by new people- make the most of all of the new connections. If there are other shows going on around town outside of the festival , check those out as well if possible.
- Do follow up when you get home. Add people on Facebook, drop them an email and let them know how much you enjoyed meeting them. Keep in touch.
Make a list of all of the cities you know with a large burlesque scene, or a scene in which you are particularly interested in performing. Now make a list of all of your out of town friends, relatives, exes- anyone who has a couch on which you can crash. See where you converge. You have a sister in Dallas you say? Great- let’s start there.
Step 1- Take your vacation days from the day job to go visit your sister, and plan your trip around a time when there are a lot of shows (a long weekend perhaps).
Step 2- Research the local scene. Who’s who among the producers and performers? What kind of shows are being produced and in what kind of venues? Which acts do you have in your arsenal that will fit well?
Step 3- Reach out. In a well-crafted email explain that you are coming to town and would like to perform. If you’ve already met who you are reaching out to, remind them of where. Let the producer know that you are familiar with his/her work, what you like about it, and which acts you have that are good fits and where they can learn more about you and said acts.
Step 4- Know the expectations. If you get a bite, make sure you find out the following: Are you able to perform in other shows on the same night/same weekend/etc? Would having you teach a workshop be something enticing to the producer, or just more work for them?
Step 5- Get referrals. If the producer who booked you doesn’t mind, or if they cannot book you during the time you’re in town, ask for referrals. Try to get a short list of other folks in Dallas whom you should contact, as well as surrounding cities. It’s time for the Piggy Back.
Approach #3- The Piggy Back
Whether you’ve used the festival approach or the whoring approach, the piggy back is a valuable strategy. So you’ve been booked in Dallas, but you’d like to do more in your week away- enter the Piggy Back.
Grab your map of Texas and look around. If you have a car or can afford to rent one, it’s a straight shot to hit the San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Corpus Christi scenes. It’s now time to repeat Steps 2-5 from above for each of these cities. If you play your cards right, the dates line up and the stars align, you could feasibly schedule four shows in four cities in four days- which makes you- officially on tour!
Now what to expect when you get there? Check back next month for Part II.
When I first wrote this article, I created a list similar to the one I had used in “How to Annoy Producers.” However, that didn’t quite work; based on the responses I got from performers when I asked them what etiquette mistakes producers make. It became more of a “business practices” forum than an etiquette forum, but hey, fair enough. Etiquette is all about respect, consideration, and awareness of other people’s comfort and business etiquette demands the name. So let’s go there.
First of all, any producer who thinks they are getting away with hitting on performers (if they hit on you, that’s a whole other thing), avoiding payment to performers, or taking advantage of new performers’ ignorance is wrong. You are being talked about and slowly blacklisted, and whether you know about it yet or not, you will.
As you read the following, it’s fair to remember that there are all kinds of exceptions, especially among friends, and some people simply have different preferences and levels of annoyance. Just about every producer, no matter how seasoned, makes some of these mistakes sometimes. However, be mindful of personal feelings even in business situations. It’s just good business to be respectful and polite.
Okay. Now, to what makes performers feel disrespected:
The number one complaint was about dressing rooms. This may be partly because I’m in New York, where there is such a dearth of real estate. However, the fact remains, it is rude to surprise the performers by having them dress in a bathroom while the bar patrons go in and out of that same bathroom. If you think this never happens, you haven’t worked in New York! Performers complained about lack of space, lack of privacy, lack of mirrors, lack of light, extreme heat and cold, and dirty conditions. Wow! So producers, if you want to preserve your respect and build your reputation, make sure that the performers have a clean private well-lit mirrored space in which to prepare. If you don’t have those resources, simply make it clear to them when you book them for the show so they can prepare for the conditions–that is where you show your respect to them. And if a performer chooses not to work with such conditions, respect it and don’t think of them as a diva. Everyone has different reasons for performing, and some performers are less social than others; some simply have such delicate costumes they can’t use those dressing rooms. It’s not personal.
The second most frequent complaint, oddly, was about producers who “say they want to book you but never do.” Personally, I think that it’s simply difficult for a producer to in fact know who they might want to book over the course of time. Their show may change; the performers’ style may change. But producers, be fair. If you are positive you are never going to book someone, don’t enthuse about putting them in your next upcoming show which is already booked solid. Let the performer get on with their business relationships with other producers.
The third most frequent complaint was about pay. The circumstance of booking a show depends largely on the producer’s relationship to the performers. Is it a friendly neighborhood show? Is it a large production where the producer is fronting a lot of money with no guarantee of full return? Is it an established weekly show with a steady audience, or is it a new show that needs performers who can support by doing just a split of the door? The primary etiquette concern here is to be honest with the performers. Tell them what and when you are paying, and tell them when you book them; then pay them that amount in a timely fashion. Respond promptly to all emails about money, even if the answer is “I don’t know.”
Another frequent complaint was about producers booking without giving information. When you book a performer, give them as much information as possible: date, time, venue, venue address, ticket price, pay, call time. Will there be a stage? A kitten? A curtain? A DJ? What music format do they need? Who else is in the show?
And it’s an odd little thing, but all performers are very sensitive about stage time. It may not be polite to talk to one performer who you don’t intend to book about how excited you are to book another performer. I’m just sayin.
Further, there was a particular loathing for not being warned about photographers being in the dressing room. And for using a performer’s photo without permission, or to promote a show s/he’s not in.
Here are a few things I have found rude:
1. Telling me it’s good exposure. Dude, I’m already pretty exposed.
The etiquette solution? Pay me, or be the New York Times.
2. Trying to get me to help them book someone else when I’ve never been in one of their shows before and can’t really give them a reference.
The etiquette solution? Contact that person on your own and don’t drop my name.
3. Trying to get me to co-produce (work on booking, promotion, venue scouting, etc. without credit or pay.
The etiquette solution? Ask me if I want to help produce and offer me credit or pay.
4 Expecting me to do the same kind of pro bono work for them I would do for people I know well.
The etiquette solution? Wait till you know me better.
5 Not asking people what music they are using and what kind of number they are doing, ensuring duplication.
The etiquette solution? Ask people what they’re doing, for heaven’s sake. Are you kidding me, two people doing white fan dances to “Feelin Good” in the same show?
6 Posting “blind strikes” on social media. An example would be, “Certain people better not be booking the same performers I’m booking” or any other statement that clearly implies to whom they’re referring.
The etiquette solution? Grow some ovaries and get a face-to-face, and keep it discreet unless this person is a clear and present menace to the community.
7 Asking performers to perform in a benefit for them to do something that performer is paying to do themselves; or in a benefit that doesn’t really serve the cause as much as it serves attaching the producer’s name to that cause.
The etiquette solution? Involve an established charity that serves the cause. Or, pay the performers to perform in the benefit. You heard me. Yes, people get paid to perform in benefits, even if it’s just cab fare.
8 Asking me while I’m on my way out the door for the show if I can do two numbers and then being peeved when I can’t (I don’t mind getting together another number at the last minute when I can).
The etiquette solution? If I can’t do it, say thank you and move on. And if someone cancelled and I’m covering with an additional number, you have a little extra cash you can offer me, do you not?
9 Doing a six-hour show with no way for us to get drinks or snacks through the entire event.
The etiquette solution? Have water and some non-messy snacks available.
10 Insisting I wear a big fancy white costume and asking me to get dressed in a dark dirty room.
The etiquette solution? Warn me about the dressing room and ask me what I have that’s appropriate.
Overall, as you can see, we get cranky when we’re disrespected! We really want to just have fun, but we do work hard on our numbers and in order to keep going, we need support and good manners!