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Old 01-15-01, 09:49 PM   #1
Jim
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Butterfly Festivals: Shouldn't we be paid?

This has been bugging me for a while and I thought I'd bring it up because it's festival application time...

How do you all feel about festivals that do not compensate performers?

Personally, I've stopped going to festivals that do not cover travel and lodging expenses, plus a reasonable daily stipend.

I know the standard argument is that a successful festival generates big enough hats that it doesn't matter, but I feel that if a festival producer is going to profit from my attendance and my performance, I expect to be treated like a professional and made to feel appreciated.

I understand that there are festivals out there that honestly can't afford to pay massive daily stipends, however they usually make up for it in hospitality and appreciation... The problem I have is with the big-ticket festivals who treat their acts poorly and unprofessionally.

Anyone else care to share their honest feelings on this issue?
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Old 01-16-01, 01:07 AM   #2
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Well, I've never gone to any festival which doesn't compensate the performers. I guess that answers your question, and explains how I feel about this.

Some festivals don't even offer a daily per diem. Them guys I stay away from. When I 'pass the hat', that's cause I'm street playing where I wasn't invited and am doing it on my own free will. If I'm asked to play at some festival, there is no hat passing there, the festival pays me. I just can't see this any other way.

As for those scabs who would accept such thing, I thin that that lowers the value of all performing artist and takes away jobs from those who try to organize themselves to get decently paid gigs.

I know that there is a standard price rate among musicians, I suppose that there must be the same thing among actors, comedians, etc. One thing I know for sure, is that if I accept a gig that pays below the price rate, in no time, all the musicians in town will know this, and I'm gonna be in trouble.

So for me, the answer is very clear. I'm doing a favor to myself as well as the artistic community by sticking to the pricing rate.

As for those festival organizer who tell me that they can't pay more, or that they've found other artists who agreed to do it for cheap, I always tell them "You always get for your money's worth" ... And this I find to be very true in 90% of the cases.

Anyhow, this is my two cents worth. Good topic Jim
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Old 01-16-01, 06:58 AM   #3
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"The problem I have is with the big-ticket festivals who treat their acts poorly and unprofessionally."

Couldn't agree more with you Jim. We've seen our share of bureaucrats who don't know an artist from a hole in the ground, and respectively don't know how to treat a hole in the ground.

Here's a little story for you. Last spring we (The Cowguys) were booked up to perform at a local 10 day festival (paid). We happened to be around town for the few weeks before the festival so I arranged a few press appearances, one of which was performing at the major media launch for the festival. We show up, and obviously aren't getting paid for the bit of roving, or the few minute stage bit we're hoping to do.

So we have our gear off to the side and are a bit early, the marketing director turns to us and says "What are you doing here. I didnt authorize this!" I explained "Well we're here to entertain at your function, we were recommended by the artist handler.. etc etc." He grunts at me says "I'll make a phonecall and we'll see!"

So at this point, we're both pissed, and only I am justifiably so. Here we are doing them a favour (whilst doing ourselves a favour) and this marketing director (who doesn't know his elbow from a whole in the ground) has basically pissed on our whole day. Another organizer backs us up and we get to perform in a very low key way.. (ie. we don't even get any stage time.)

So we're working the crowd and we do a passing club routine around this energetic lady from the audience. This goes well, she's really into it and people like our bit.
The press release happens...

As it turns out the lady we worked with is the president of the festival! And i happen to overhear her telling a cameraman, "oh the best part of this whole thing was when The Cowguys did their bit with me!" I piped up, "We can do it again!" and we staged it for the TV cameras. (How does that elbow taste now marketing loser boy???!!) So everything worked out well.

Back to the original comment... There's no bigger turn off as an artist than to be treated like a replaceable piece of meat.
It's nice when festival or clients take into concern the needs of the artist and treat us like actual people... oooooh aaaahh.


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Old 01-16-01, 11:35 AM   #4
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How about festivals that call themselves "Busker Festivals" yet they don't allow you to pass the hat! Why call it a busker festival??? It conditions people into not tipping real buskers. Call it by any other name. To me a busker is someone who performs on the street and gets paid by people enjoying the show.

Which leads me to another question..... WHY NOT allow street performers to pass the hat at a busker's festival????
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Old 01-17-01, 03:52 PM   #5
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Right, Jim. Got a good meaty topic here.

As a festival that's been around for a
dozen+ years, our office gets regular calls
from other event producers looking for
contact information for street artists. Our
first question is always "So what's your
budget?" It's part of our job to educate other producers about the art form, to impress upon them that this is not a free
method of adding animation to their other
activities.

I believe it's up to each individual artist
to determine what they need to work a given
festival, to choose to work for no fees. Perhaps it's a way of filling a few days between paid gigs, maybe the destination is attractive, maybe it's a resume builder. Whatever. But I also believe those events that don't offer fees would be forced into
establishing a budget if enough artists said no to working for no fee.

I know we haven't been the best paying fest in terms of cash fees, but we do try to compensate in other ways, as Jim described. As we mature, we've been able to gradually increase what we pay. And we're now expert late-night errand runners (baby food, car
batteries, linoleum and evenly weighted fruit now our specialty!)

As for Dan's question, it's possible that a festival/event will hire buskers, but not allow them to hat because of restrictive by-laws. Yes, I agree that it doesn't teach the audience what's necessary to support a street artist, but it may be a producer's way of introducing artists to the street on a path of education and eventual change. "Look. Watch these fabulously talented and non-threatening humans who look nothing like the panhandlers your laws were created to address."

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Old 01-18-01, 08:01 AM   #6
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Which festival do you belong to, Lynne?

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Old 01-18-01, 02:14 PM   #7
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Chance,

Lynne is from Waterloo.

Lynneski, why don't you have an email address and link to the Waterloo buskers page in your profile?

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Old 01-22-01, 01:29 PM   #8
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Why? Cuz I'm just an idiot who wanted to post right away and took the fastest route to filling out my profile.

I've since mended my ways. Humble apologies.

And all you other producer-types I know who lurk on this board ... what say you on the subject of fees for fests??? Hmmmm???

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Old 01-23-01, 06:41 AM   #9
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I apologize to Jim for going a little sideways from the original question, but I think it will be close enough to help out...

About 8 years ago a magician friend from Buffalo, NY told me he was in the habit of working restaurant gigs for just $25.00 per four-hour's work of roving the tables (plus table tips and a free meal afterwards). I lovingly told him how crazy he was to work for anything less than $100 PER HOUR - and screw the free meal!

He had a plan, he said: At this price he would never be refused by even the most cautious manager; he could still make a modest living; and next year, after proving his worth and skills, he would raise his prices. I scoffed. He also thought he could generate a side business by passing out his business cards to each table he worked. I scoffed more.

Two years later he called to say that he wished he had listened. No one would hire him above the original $25 dollar mark. And to add insult to injury, he hardly ever got any side work, either. After working an estimated 60+ restaurants, he had no where else to try, at least in Buffalo.

And the moral of the story is, that not only did he poison the well for himself, but also for any magician who comes after him who might be used to working for more professional wages, "One hundred dollars per hour? You must be joking! Why, we have a local guy who works for $25 for four hours!"

Which brings me back to Jim's question. Unless and until *every single busker* refuses to work under certain unsavory conditions, there will always be someone ready to step in and accept the job. And each time it happens the producers involved are programmed to react towards us, and this is brought on by our own actions. If even one of us works for free "they" will always think there are more of us to be found.

I told my friend that I only wanted to work for the places that were willing to pay my fee of $400 per night, and to hell with the rest. Because I was only available to work for the folks who knew, in the most professional sense, how valuable an entertainer like myself can be to their establishment. If I have to beg or otherwise 'convince' them that I am valuable, then something just is not right with this picture.

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Old 01-23-01, 07:15 AM   #10
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Well put, when I first started, I thought it cool to get offered $50-80 (1986-8) to turn up and work. My stuff takes 5-8 hours and I thought it cool to have my hat subsided. I was making a living, working a lot, killing myself, and I never actually met any of the people who had employed me.
Wayne Condo (Circa '89)told me to double my prices and I did. I got less work but made more money and people paid more attention. Within a year I did it again. Did it again in '95.
In Melb. now, there are 6-10 good pavement artists available at any given time and the going fee is good because we passed on Wayne's comment.
THE MORE SOMEONE HAS INVESTED IN YOUR ACT, THE MORE RESPECT, ARTISTIC FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITIES YOU WILL BE GIVEN. Of course, only if you keep delivering.
It is my New Year's Resolution to do it again.


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Old 01-23-01, 10:57 AM   #11
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What I do is send a press kit with a price list. then if I want to busk it I ofer a discount for the busking rights. It shows worth to what I do, and even if I work for free (hospitals, local lions club fund raisers ect.) thay still get a bill, with the price still visable wich I then void. so this way I am not taken forgranted.
I have yet to work a "BUSKER FEST" but would not work one that will not allow for a hat, it seems counter productive.
I did get stung once like that. I had given the discount for busking only to find out that it was agenst the law in this town, and the person who was in charge was nowere to be found....but that is another story...

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Old 01-23-01, 06:32 PM   #12
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I agree with Jim

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Old 01-23-01, 10:39 PM   #13
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Since we all seem to be more or less agreeing here about what "should" be done, I guess the question should be phrased a different way. Artists who have chosen to appear at street fests for little or no fees ... why'd'ya do it?

I know with a number of the fests on the circuit there's a huge "love" factor, but for others there's simply grief to go along with the meagre paycheck. Crappy pitches, unschooled audiences, too many performers, crashers gone unmolested... The list goes on. What motivates you to take a job that doesn't recognize the artist as a professional? (and honest, I'm not looking for your Achilles heel ;-)

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Old 01-24-01, 07:10 AM   #14
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Hang on here. Most of the posters here are well known acts and I'm sure many of you can charge what you like, but I can't.
It's hard to imagine a better way to improve your reputation than crashing a good event with a kick arse act.
Lots of people ask why I do it and the answer is simple "because I can" (not to mention that I love it). It gives me power, a choice. I am doing what I want, when I want and for whom I want. If I am contracted, I have to do what someone else wants, when they want, where they want, etc.
These decisions can make or break an act and have more often than not been the latter.
I'm an unknown, still rough around the edges, with lots to learn, maybe I'm not ready and I reserve my right to crash any festival I see fit.
Whilst saying that, I cannot understand why some-one running a festival, would try and attract a headline act (especially an out of town or international act) without a very reasonable retainer, travel assistance and other support. Or spurn a brilliant crasher.
After all is it not the performers that the event is based upon.

Sometimes you all sound so old, been there done that, Gazzo's givin' up the game, Raoul's retiring the Radiated Rockster, Robert's roving to research his record, forbidden to work by his spouse, Peter has permanently postponed his paintings on the pavement and The Grand Master of Smirk hasn't said any thing funny for months.

Some of us out here are just finding our feet.




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Old 01-24-01, 09:25 AM   #15
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I can't imagine a better job to find your feet in. Age wise, i'm a meager 25, been finding my feet almost every year now. Jon and I have always been the young uns on the circuit.. and I think that the reason that some acts will work for cheap, or no retainer is because they're hungry. We've all been there, it's been awhile since your last show, you're bank account is dwindling a bit, and you just want to get a good show in... you think "retainer?" I think it all comes down to acts not charging what they're worth. I know we're still not charging what we're worth, but we just redid our press materials, and will likely be redoing our costumes this week and just got a report of our income over the last two years as a business. That seems to be the major achilles heel, treating performing as a business, and getting a press kit that accurately and fairly represents yourself.
Don't get me wrong we love doing it, but it's also a business. One of my favorite moments was at the Ottawa busker festival one yearwas watching Jim (Jim show) and Bill Ferguson have it out over why they performed . Jim performed because "he loved it! loved shows, making people laugh, etc." Bill performed because it was "his living, it was his job, he makes money!" Bill was trying to get Jim to say that he too treated performing as a business... or something along those lines. Bill and Jim both have such great and different characters that it was just so interesting to watch them interact (but thats just what good comedy is about isnt it?) Anyways, Big hats, up your rates, and see ya!
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Old 01-24-01, 11:09 AM   #16
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Prof Willie: "Most of the posters here are well known acts", no offence to you or anyone, but I dunno where you get this idea.
For sure, you weren't talking about me, I'm certain. But then again, I looked at all the others posters, and you know, there's no Mister Universe in there. I think that 'well known' here, is kind of a stretch.
Sure, many performers in here are perhaps better known than others for having performed all over the place. But you know, the street performing world is not Hollywood.

What I'm trying to say is that 'well known' performers varies depending of the city, or the area. It's possible that I performer which you have never heard of may be well known in a place which you have never been at. So 'well known' is a very relative thing.

One frequent bad habit that I noticed among several performers is this tendency of theirs to enjoy to stare at their belly button, and loving it. Though I dislike this by times, I think that that's perhaps the key to their success. There is this performer in my town which I will keep nameless cause there is no need to diss him. He does a bit of everything, dancing, juggling and music. Basically, he does a bit of everything but everything a little bit. His act is far away from perfect, and I'm sorry to say but most people, including myself thinks that it kinda sucks. Despite all, this performer has the biggest ego you could imagine. And he gets all the gigs, is hired at all the major festivals in the area and he gets paid a lot. It blows everyone's mind. And yes, many are jealous of him. Personally, I think that he deserves this. His act may suck, but after all he's found a way to convince the folks who hire him that he's hot.

This kind of thing is all about ego. And I don't think that not being 'well know' is a good enough excuse to give.

On the other hand, I prefer Brian's version.
We've all had hard times where we're broke, hungry and that the rent is late. That's how life goes, shit happens. In conditions like this, I'm pretty sure that everyone will admit doing a gig for cheaper because it was better than nothing. However, such practice shouldn't become a habit as it only helps to grow the idea in the mind of potential customers, that they can hire performers for cheap. It takes a long time to change such preconceived idea in the mind of people.
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Old 01-24-01, 01:30 PM   #17
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I think my original gripe was with two or three specific festivals who are very established, very popular and very well funded...(a couple of them in the $100,000+ range) yet they do not pay any stipend and two of them do not even pay travel expenses. They continually get top name acts FOR FREE and profit heavily from them.

I understand that many acts starting out (like me just a few years ago) need a place to show their stuff and build a resume. I did it. I did it because I didn't know any better... and if I did know, I probably would have gone anyway for the experience.

I just think these producers know what they have and know there will always be lines of performers waiting for the chance to pay their own way to perform. It's not right. I wish we could all agree to DEMAND to be compensated for what we're worth. Or at least be treated professionally when we arrive (Thanks, Lynneski!)

Like Brian said, I do this because I LOVE it. It's too difficult and time consuming to only be partially invested in it. However, I have bills to pay like everyone else, so when I perform, I want to be compensated. And like Peter Voice said earlier, I'm finding the more I charge, the better I'm treated before, during and after a gig. It's amazing.

I think the point I'm trying to make is:
Don't work festivals for free. It diminishes what we do. If we all stood up and agreed to not work for free, they'd come up with the money.

(BTW, I'm not talking about pure busking... That's a different thing entirely. I love that I'm only paid by my audience when I do it. It's a self-contained, self fulfilling, self-regulated venture. I'm only ranting about 'Festival" busking.)
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Old 01-24-01, 02:38 PM   #18
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I totally agree with Jim. We should get paid for what we do, especially if the festival/event is turning a tidy profit on the acts/people it books.
Regardless of where you are in "the food chain" of performing, not getting paid does diminish what we do. Not only as a performer, but in all aspects of the performing arts.
The general public, while they may love/admire what performers do, think that it only takes guts and the ability to go on a stage and be silly/dramatic/act like an ass to be a performer. what many people don't take into consideration is the hours of work it takes to be a performer. The sacrifice of money, time, energy it takes to do this (any performing not just street) should be compensated.
I've not done many street festivals, but I have been doing Ren Fests for 6 years now. What happens in many owner/booking peoples minds when an act/performer works for free/very little (low-low balling) and gets a following is they begin to look at ALL acts in that light. "Well the "Jugglers of Doom" are popular with the crowds, why should we pay Dan Looker twice as much?"
You also diminish your importance in the overall picture of the event. Suddenly the Coke guy, who they have to pay, or the Port-o-John guys are more important that you, the acts that the public goes to see. If they have to pay you then they are investing in you. What they get in return is a draw to the event. Something that will make them more money, because people will see you, like you (hopefully) and come back again next week/next year to see you. Odds are they will bring friends with them so they can show them the "cool act". Thus, you are making them money, an investment that will payoff. So if you are making them money why should they not pay you. If not in a fat check then why not travel? Or put you up somewhere?
I don't mean being a Prima-donna about getting money, but getting a payoff in your investment of time. Think of all the time you have spent coming up with your act, working the tricks, refining the patter, developing flow in your show, painting props, booking your act, worrying about how to take advantage of traffic flow so you can get a big crowd, doing promos, your time on stage, your prep time before the act, the rest time after, pacing yourself so you can do 4 or 5 sets (possibly more) with the right energy in one day. I'm sure I've left something out, but my point is there is so much more to being a performer than just "getting on stage and acting like an ass"
Quick story (too late you long winded ass)
I was doing the Maryland Ren Fest. and this guy came up to me after my show, complimented me and then asked what I did for a living. !?! I told him that this WAS my job, I'm a full time performing artist, doing creating mask/movement theatre and street performing. He said "Really? No what do you really do?"
"This this is my job"
"Really?"
"Yes, what do you do?"
" Well, I'm an attorney."
"No your not, that's only on TV. What do you really do?"
"Honest I'm a attorney."
"Oh, really well have you worked on any cases I've heard of? Scopes Monkey trial? Sacco and Vanzetti? How about OJ? Did you go to school for that? Or did being an Attorney come easy to you? I bet you sleep all day and then go out and read some legal briefs"
At that point he stopped me, we both laughed and he said he got my point, and that he had never considered that performers work just as much.
Ok we are not out saving the world, but we do work at our (dare I say it) craft and we should be compensated, even if all a new festival can spare is respect.
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Old 01-25-01, 08:22 PM   #19
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I believe that fulltime professional artists NEED to be paid, and SHOULD be paid. In Canada, the Fairs have a rating system. A, B, or C, circuit. So if you are going to work them, you know what kind of money you can expect from them, according to their rating. Being new to Busker Festivals, I would appreciate it if someone could post a listing of said Festivals for all to see their rating. Then professionals could opt to work only the paying Festivals, and performers who need the experience, or who are willing to work just for hats, could go for a lower rating. Everybody has to start somewhere, but it's annoying for fulltimers, to be expected to perform at a big budget Festival for less than their worth. The less they pay you, the less respect you get.
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Old 01-26-01, 07:37 AM   #20
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Another perspective..

There are basically three ways of being compensated for our outdoor creative endeavours..
1) On the one end, the Performance Fee. You charge what you believe you're worth or can
negotiate, the hirer retains control (usually) of where, when, what, how, etc, as he's holding the cheque, you do the best you can, he's happy, you get paid..

2) On the other end, the Hat. You are in full control over when, what, how, etc and you know instantly at the end whether you did your job well. The only obstacles are licencing regulations, and whether you got number one or twelve in the draw that morning along with the weather etc.. Most of you have been there or are trying to..

3) And then that big GREY area, the Retainer. Usually half a performance fee and the right to "hat" (in Oz anyway).. guarantees you'll turn up and give it a shot even if the rent is due and you should be on the main pitch with everyone else..it surfaced in Oz as a way for smaller community events and one day festivals to be able to afford quality street acts, after all, using what we get in our hats as a yardstick, we're not exactly cheap.. now large scale arts festivals can afford it but your local fair?..

And this is where Jim's initial thread comes in. As long as everyone played fair, the system worked. But some festivals decided that they could save on their budgets by adopting these "retainers" even though they were in the big league and could have paid the standard fee's.

And as Jim wisely wrote earlier, there were always acts ready to step in at lower rates,
thus negating the time spent by those who had worked there prior and set up a quality fee structure.

Although street fests have running costs that would surprise most of us, there is now it seems a growing trend, especially by those fests that Jim alluded to, of "losing the respect" thus we start to feel like products instead of valued artists. Maybe that explains the "love" angle that Lynneski brought up. It's amazing how a simple thing like a complimentary beer at the end of another 3-show day can make all the difference.
My personal belief is that if those running a street festival truly believe in helping to make their community feel the "magic" that is our art-form whilst acknowledging the artistry and the exponents of that "magic" then they have my support for what it's worth. Whilst those that seek to simply use us as commercial attractions for whatever motive (usually money) can do
without my special "magic".

Dom

PS: To BFlat's (cool name for a muso) Hollywood response to the Prof, I believe he meant to point out that many of us "posters" actually know each other, some of us real or even too well (unlike most computer forums). And within this ever growing street family there exists an ever changing hierachy but that's another story/thread..


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