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!
(Click images to enlarge)
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!
If you are in showbiz everything is negotiable. A successful negotiation is when all sides leave the table happy and eager to return to do business with one another again. Here are our top 5 tips for making sure your negotiations run smoothly.
1. Know Your Price in Advance
Performers: You are not putting a price tag on yourself; you are putting a price on your numbers. Thinking this way will help you to not take negotiations personally and allow you more versatility. Your signature numbers or those with large props or a lot of supplies should cost more than your smaller numbers that have less preparation required. Creating a new number should cost more than booking an existing one, and travel out of town should cost more than performing locally. Price out a range that you think is fair for each of your numbers, and each possible scenario, this way you have a starting point and aren’t going in blind. Going in blind leaves you at the mercy of the producer.
Producers: Know your budget for a show in advance. Know the costs of everything from the venue and security to the advertising. Come up with a firm number you have for talent. Then take that number and decide how to use it. How many performers do you want? Are headliners paid more? Once you have priced out each slot in the show you are ready to start contacting performers and negotiating.
2. Keep Your Contact Professional
Texting is a completely inefficient and unprofessional form of communication for a proper dialogue. Always conduct negotiations by phone or email. If you conduct by phone initially, follow up with a summary email of your conversation so everyone is on the same page.
Never mix a business call with a pleasure call. Many times we are working with our friends in this industry. Never start a conversation with dinner plans, gossip, or current events, and then try to transition into a business call. That is an old salesman trick to get people off of their game, because it is hard to be firm with a friend, and hard to switch gears from casual to business. Always open with the business conversation.
3. Collect Information First- Resist the Urge to Answer on the Fly
Collect all the information first. What numbers are being requested? Is there a theme to the show? What is call time? Is there a proper dressing room? What’s the venue?
As a producer, you can quote your budget for the numbers you are requesting, and as a performer you can name your price (see #1), but the minute you realize your numbers don’t match, back up. It is perfectly fine for either side to say, “I’ll have to think about it. Can you give me a day to get back to you?” If the answer is no, and one side or the other cannot wait a day, it’s probably a situation worth passing on, as anything worth doing is worth doing right. Do remember to respond by the deadline you set.
4. Always Negotiate with Long Term Gain/Relationship in Mind
Remember that the goal of a successful negotiation is that both sides leave happy and eager to work together again. Never burn a bridge over $20. It’s fine to stick to your guns, but always be respectful, and leave the door open for contact about the next opportunity. You may see eye to eye the next go around.
5. Consider other avenues of payment
Maybe you’re not meeting eye to eye on hard money amounts, so what about throwing other things into the mix? A trade works when both parties benefit equally. Maybe the producer is also a fabulous costumer and you need a new shimmy belt. Maybe the producer can set up a workshop for you at their dance studio or hook you up with another space in town. All of these have value and should be considered. Avoid accepting trades that don’t actually benefit you. Remember 99% of the time, “It will be great publicity” is a lie. All you publicize is that you work for free.
How to Annoy Producers
by: Jo “Boobs” Weldon
In this month’s installment of a two-part article, we will discuss how performers can annoy producers. This doesn’t mean that in every case the performers are doing anything dishonest or unprofessional; it merely means that these behaviors often irritate or turn off producers. Please note that it is not about just knowing specific actions that might irritate producers. Like all etiquette issues, the essence of understanding how to behave is making an effort to put yourself into the other person’s position. You are unlikely to be able to read their minds, but you stand a much better chance of interacting successfully if you at least try to understand why they want what they want instead of trying to get them to care about what you want.
Next month, we’ll talk about how producers can annoy performers. If you have any annoyances you’d like to have mentioned, please email them to email@example.com.
This first article is split into two sections in order to help you:
A) Get booked by a given producer, or figure out that you’re not right for their show
B) Work well with them so that they will book you again, or even if, having had you in their show once and having decided you’re not right for their show, they would have a good enough impression of you to give you a second chance in a different show or give you a good reference to other producers.
How to Annoy Producers
If they haven’t yet booked you:
1. Feel entitled to be in their shows, for any reason at all.
2. Critique their shows, even when asked.
3. Flyer for your show at their shows without asking, or be miffed when they don’t allow you to flyer when you do ask.
4. Tell them you don’t like X kind of performance without knowing that they also produce X kind of shows.
5. Say, “I’m too busy to come to your show and see what it’s like, but I’d love to be in it.”
6. Say, “I’m from out of town and I haven’t had time to check out your website or do any research on you, but I’d love to be in your show.”
7. Tell them your story and try to get them to care what YOU want. Whine about how bad you want/need the gig.
8. Assume that classes, good press, or fancy graphics on your business card are the equivalent of stage time and a developed performance.
9. Fail to respect their aesthetic but be miffed when they don’t respect yours.
10. Imagine that their life is easier than yours and that they have to hustle less than you do and they make tons more money than you do.
If they have booked you:
1. Be unreliable and/or late.
2. Be rude to other performers or venue staff.
3. Be needy and unable to fulfill their requests, such as sending music or promo in advance.
4. Assume that you are now part of all their shows which follow.
5. Fail to mention their show in your monthly mailer when the date on which you’re performing with them is during that month.
6. Send them a barrage of emails asking how you did. Just one asking for feedback is fine.
7. Complain about what you were paid even though you agreed to it–or failed to discuss it with them before the show–without talking to them about your dissatisfaction at all.
8. Complain because they book people with whom they’ve been working for years more often than they book you.
9. Complain because they book new people more often than they book you.
10. Complain about anyone they book besides you.
By the way—notice that I didn’t use the word burlesque in any of the above! It doesn’t matter what the job is. It isn’t just about burlesque. The point is that people hire you for the reasons they need to hire people, and not for the reasons you want the job.
Also, everyone makes some of these mistakes on occasion. Furthermore, everyone has a hard time approaching people with whom they work about issues like feedback, re-booking, and pay. You’re not neurotic if you’d rather not do these things. But it’s the ability to do more than you should have to do, and being easier to work with than you need to be, that will make you stand out.
Want More? Check out Jo Weldon’s Etiquette Column entitled Photos & Pasties
Holy Spring- it’s tax time; you know- when we all run screaming. Well it doesn’t have to be that bad. With a little organization(keeping good monthly records and adding those up per quarter make end of the year taxes much, much quicker) and some sage advice you too can be breathing easier knowing exactly what you owe, or will receive.
By day, Lexa Lusty has worked as an accountant since 2007, has prepared taxes for all business types and has experience in operations management, internal audit, and fraud. We are delighted she threw her hat in the ring for a little tax article to get you started. Like with your best costumes, and anything in life- if you want it done right- have it custom tailored to you by a professional.
Burlesque & Taxes
By: Lexa Lusty
It’s tax time. The time of year you act like all those burlesque shows, DJ gigs, and emcee spots were just for fun. No need to report anything, right? Many people think that as long as they are receiving cash or not receiving a W-2 or 1099 they are not responsible for filing the taxes owed on that income. This is untrue. Filing your taxes isn’t just about obeying the law or contributing to the fiscal health of our country. It isn’t something to fear and avoid either.Let’s take a look how and what you need to file, and, of course, those exciting questions about what you can write off.
First, let’s determine if you have a business or a hobby. The IRS requires you to report all income regardless of the classification! Uncle Sam considers the following when determining if you are in it for fun or if you have a business:
- Do you spend enough time and energy into the activity to indicate an intention to make a profit?
- Do you rely on income from the activity?
- Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability? Did you build a website to promote yourself? Did you take classes to learn new skills or refine the ones you have?
- Did you make a profit in any three of five consecutive tax years?
If you answered “No” to all of these questions, then you probably have a hobby and a tax problem. Unfortunately, hobby losses are limited to the amount of the reported hobby income and if you don’t itemize then you can’t write-off any of the expenses unless your adjusted gross income is less than $16,000. If your adjusted gross income is less than $16,000, then you probably have more things to worry about than taxes- like trying to put food on the table. I know. Don’t kill the messenger!
If your adjusted gross income is greater than $16,000 and you itemize then you can deduct the hobby related expenses up to your hobby income but, they are subject to a 2% floor of your adjusted gross income. For example, if your adjusted gross income is $50,000 then you must have miscellaneous deductions greater than $1,000 ($50,000 x .02). The first 2% of miscellaneous deductions don’t count so to speak.
If you answered” Yes” to the last question, then you definitely have a business. Sole proprietors report the income and expenses of their business on Schedule C of the 1040.
Finally, you’ll need to keep receipts for your expenses in the event that you are ever audited. It’s also a good idea so you don’t have to guess how much you’ve spent in the last year. Being audited is not as scary as it sounds when you have receipts to support your case. To do it right the first time, let’s take a look at some common expenses that you might incur. You might be surprised what the law allows and doesn’t.
Yes, you can write off the business portion of the following on Schedule C:
- Photo shoots
- Business cards
- Accounting fees
- Amounts spent on exercise (i.e. gym memberships and class fees)
- Cell phone bills
- Agent commissions
- Rent for storage
- Mileage or Actual Auto Expenses
- Computers & Equipment
- Interest on credit card charges related to business expenses
- Festival Fees
- Legal & Professional Fees
- Office Expenses
- Office Supplies
No, you cannot write off:
- Clothing that is adaptable to everyday wear
- Cosmetic surgery
- Interest on your credit card related to non-business expenses
- Manicures, pedicures and other personal care expenses
Be careful with:
- Lunches that have a business purpose – Yes you can write them of, but not if it is lunch with coworkers or considered a meal for yourself while working late. It’s good to write on the receipt what was discussed and who was present.
- Bar Tabs/Entertainment. These have to pass the Directly-Related Test. These are deductible (up to the 50% Meals & Entertainment limit) if the *main purpose* of the entertainment/meeting was to conduct business, you did engage in business during the meeting, and you expected to receive income or some other business benefit in the future.
For the most complete resource of allowable deductions and assistance in navigating your return, it is a good idea to consider the use of a tax professional especially considering their fees are deductible. Feel free to contact me for a referral at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This material does not constitute tax, legal or accounting advice andLexa Lustyisnot in the business of offering such advice. It was not intended or written for use and cannot be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding any IRS penalty. Anyone interested in these topics should seek advice based on his or her particular circumstances from independent professional advisers.
Lillith Grey has been lighting up the stage for over five years as a burlesque and fetish performer, musician, and emcee, and can frequently be found performing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education, and is currently completing her Ph.D. in psychology. She has worked as a psychotherapist, educator, and social justice advocate, and currently teaches at a local university while working on her research. She travels extensively, teaching classes and workshops on a variety of subjects including relationships, communication, trauma, body image, sexuality and gender, and diversity issues. Lillith is also active in the Leather community, serving on the NLA-International Writing Awards committee and as a co-chair for the Women’s International LeatherFest. Visit her at www.LillithGrey.com for more information.
Have a question for our new advice columnist? Please title your email “Lillith- _subject___” and send to editor [at] pincurlmag [dot] com
A close friend and I perform together at a lot of small burlesque and variety shows. We started burlesque together and have worked together ever since, but lately we are butting heads. I really love performing with her but I am worried that our friendship is suffering because we work together. What can I do to make sure both our friendship and performances are strong?
- Torn in Texas
Dear Torn in Texas:
The blending of personal and professional roles can be really difficult, but it seems like you are committed to working it out, which is a great start. This issue impacts a lot of performers and producers – since we are such a small community, we end up blurring the lines between friendship and business, which can lead to ruffled feathers, minor tiffs, or even major conflicts.
Since you two started your performance careers together, then it makes perfect sense that you’d be butting heads now. Burlesque is an art form crafted by time – when you first started performing; you probably approached your acts differently than you do now. As you’ve become more experienced, you have likely developed your own style and your own way of doing things, both on and off stage. You’ve probably also realized how much work is involved, and you may be developing a better sense of how dedicated you want to be. This kind of growth and development is a really important part of each performer’s journey. Allowing each other the space to develop independently, even if it means in different directions, is a marker of a strong friendship.
Think about these as two distinct relationships: a personal relationship and a professional relationship. They certainly blur together at times, and that’s part of what makes it fun, but don’t forget that they are unique roles that should be nurtured equally. If you come to a point where you are unable or unwilling to continue attending to those roles, it may be time to consider letting go of one or both of them. Since it seems clear to me from your question that you are hoping to maintain that strong friendship and continue perform together as well, here are some pointers to help you along the way…
One of the most important things that you bring to the table as a friend and as a performer is your own level of insight. The more you understand yourself, the better able you are to communicate your own style and find ways to support each other. If you know that you tend to procrastinate, you can ask her for support and friendly reminders. If you prefer having written choreography rather than memorized, you can say that up front and avoid annoyances down the road. Do you prefer to start rehearsals immediately, or do you like to chat a bit before beginning? Simply knowing how you work best and letting the other person know, leaves a lot of space for compromise and mutual understanding.
Small conflicts are usually indicators of underlying frustration or anger. If seemingly trivial things feel more important than they should, you may need to do some deeper reflection on how things are going. For example, if you are frustrated that she tends to be a few minutes late to rehearsals, a deeper reason might be that you are feeling like she doesn’t care about your work together. If she thinks you are too controlling about the choreography, it may be because she feels like her voice isn’t heard in the creative process. Similarly, things can carry over from other parts of your relationship. If there is something going on in the friendship, that will show up in your work together, just like these work conflicts are showing up in your friendship. Having well-developed personal insight can help create a safe space for open and honest dialogue.
Now that you’ve had experience as a performer, it’s probably time to renegotiate how you work together. Talk to each about what works and what doesn’t for you. How much time do you need to prepare for a show? How many rehearsals do you need? How frequently do you want to perform? Are you allowed to perform solo? With others? Do you consider this a hobby or a career? How do you want to brand yourself to your audience? Which shows will you be in? How much do you need to be paid? The list goes on and on…. Different performers have different preferences, but the problem comes when we don’t explicitly talk about these questions because we end up making assumptions about the other person’s wants and needs. Remember, if you’re going to work together, you’ll have to compromise, but it’s impossible to compromise if you don’t know what each person needs.
Having some level of personal insight will also allow you to negotiate your working relationship based on what your own needs and interests are. Talk about how you’re going to work together – if you are going to integrate social time with work time, decide how you will know when it’s time to work and when it’s time to play. I occasionally perform with a gal who has a “working notebook.” When the notebook’s out, it’s a signal that we’re talking business and we’re getting stuff done (usually while drinking wine and gabbing about whatever books we’re reading and our latest thrift store discoveries). When the notebook goes away, so does the business. It’s a nice way of integrating both while still being clear about boundaries and roles.
Effective communication happens in person. Most of the time email and text do nothing to reduce tension or clear up misunderstandings. Instead, they perpetuate misunderstanding and create unnecessary conflict. A healthy dialogue allows space for complexity, clarification, non-verbal cues, emotional expression, and nuance, and it has a sense of give and take in the moment. Email and text offer none of those things. Emoticons don’t count as sharing your feelings.
Also, keep your drama offline. Keep. Your.Drama.Offline. Facebook and Twitter lull us into believing that we are just venting to our friends when we post overly emotional or derogatory messages online. We also tend to not recognize when we are creating or perpetuating drama because it feels so personal and so relevant at the moment we post it. The truth is that it comes across as inappropriate and disrespectful. It’s not only unprofessional; it’s also hurtful to your friendship. At tempting as it is, when in conflict you must avoid technological communication!
Another major pitfall in communication is passive aggression. This is a big one that a lot of women in our culture struggle with. Think about how kids are socialized, generally speaking: boys tend to settle their differences physically or verbally, and are encouraged to be assertive and stand up for themselves. Girls, on the other hand, are typically expected to be nice and gentle, so the necessary assertion of boundaries and needs has to occur in passive ways.
When you write a post on Facebook about “someone” doing something to you, when you make snarky comments about something rather than just confronting it head on, or when you tell lots of other people about a private conflict, you are acting out your aggression in a passive manner. This is particularly hard to deal with when you’re on the receiving end of it because it leaves you feeling unable to protect yourself – you know you’ve been attacked, but the manner in which it was done makes it hard to defend yourself. Dismantling passive aggression takes special attention, since many of us have had it ingrained in us since birth. Learning to communicate assertively and directly (albeit gently and kindly!) will smooth things out considerably.
It’s not show friends, it’s show business
I think one of the most difficult things about this art form is the financial side – this is an expensive lifestyle, with very little tangible reward. Whether you’re performing or producing (or both!), you have undoubtedly invested money – perhaps even a lot of money – into your work. Money is so important in our lives – when we talk about money we’re also talking about our personal sense of security, which can be a scary thing to feel unsure about. Many of us get very protective over that part of our lives, and understandably so.
If your friend is producing a show or bearing any sort of financial responsibility for more than just herself, it’s important that you realize how intense that is. At face value, it may seem simple – just rent a venue, hire performers, and sell tickets, right!? WRONG! Not only is event production much more expensive and complex than it seems, there’s also a great deal of emotional cost as well. When a producer signs a contract accepting financial and legal responsibility for a show; that’s a lot of weight. Depending on how big that weight is, she might have to make some decisions that you don’t agree with. It is important for you to recognize that when her money is on the line, her role has to be a professional first.
Even if she’s not a producer, she’s still investing money, time, and energy – and these are valuable resources! You may have different ideas about how much of those things you are willing and able to invest in your work. You may have different plans about where you hope your path will take you. All of these “big picture” issues end up being manifested in small things, like how much time someone can spend rehearsing or how far they are willing to drive. If you can have a dialogue with her about where you see yourselves going and how you each intend to get there, you’ll have a better understanding about the physical, financial, and emotional cost of performance.
Power struggles are tough, but the good thing is that it means you both have strengths and are willing to be assertive about them. Many times when you end up in a power struggle, you miss the fact that the other person may have ideas that compensate for your weak points. If you put down your boxing gloves for a minute, you can turn the situation into something that benefits of both you. For instance, if you butt heads about the creative direction an act will take, you might take turns being the “artistic director” for your acts. If you have conflicts about how the business side is being handled, talk about it and decide who will handle what aspects of the management. Maybe when one of you is creative director, the other can take on the business side (i.e. handling communication with producers, taking care of music prep, handling payment, etc.).
If it turns out that you are on two different paths, or if you continue to have conflict that cannot be resolved, then you may need to mutually renegotiate your working relationship in order to save your friendship. That does not mean you have to stop working together, but it might mean that things have to change. As you consider making a big change like that, remember that the development, growth, redefinition, and sometimes even the ending of a relationship can be a very healthy and empowering process for everyone involved. When you find that you are able to speak your truth and hear your friend’s truth without judgment, you’ll be able to navigate the waters of the personal and the professional with ease.