These answers aren’t all of my own hand, I’ve seen these problems dealt with constantly, and here’s what we, as a whole have learned… You never know, your personal unanswered problem may be solved here, or, at least, give you some options, ammo, or a new way to look at the issue.
Choosing a Burlesque Name
There’s enough catchy names in the Burlesque World, and you have to walk a balance of getting something unique and catchy that seems familiar, and not accidentally choosing a name that someone already has. You do not necessarily need rhymes, homonyms, puns, or allusions. Get something that both describes your performance style AND your onstage appearance.
Google the name you want, it’s the quickest way to see if it exists. Search it as separate parts ( Boom Boom Machine ) and search for it as a single name in quotes, ( “Boom Boom Machine” ) that way you know you’re covered reasonably. Granted, if there are already too many too close to what you wanted, choose something else entirely. Take your time.
This seems an obvious solution, but, as time and again is proven, apparently it is not, and, no matter how far away someone is physically to their near-twin in stage-name, it creates hostility. So, now that we’ve dealt with the simple, let’s move on to the increasingly complex.
Unless you wrote it, you don’t own it. Yes, it is poor taste to re-use a song as someone in close proximity as already done, unless it’s an extremely different performance… especially if it’s a very uncommon song. On that subject, avoid popular songs, unless the performance is some kind of satire or comedic act that should use it. Ask yourself if it’s absolutely necessary you use it.
Remember all of the Sookie/Vampy “Bad Things” performances?
Remember the first one you’d seen? Fifth? Tenth?
There are literally billions of songs one can use (double-check iTunes availability, and then know that’s a tiny fraction of music as a whole,) so, ask yourself if it’s imperative you should use a song, if another performer has already, recently, or, more specifically, is her trademark. Hell, use Google again, for Burlesque and the (Song Title) with and without Video. You won’t necessarily rule anything out or in, but you’ll know immediately if it’s overdone.
Speaking of songs, keep in mind a few things about two-song and three-song acts. Unless you mix it yourself on your computer (lots of software you can use,) there is either an awkward lull, or even worse, and awkward tempo-change between. It quite often snaps the crowd out of it. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Find longer remixes, and minimize this. If not, make sure there is something relevant, exciting, or even funny in between songs to keep the pace up. Burlesque performers in the audience, I find, never really mind this, but the general audience always beings to murmur in those pauses. Just something to consider. Now, as for THREE songs? No matter how much the crowd loves you, unless you do something very dynamic, major costume change, something, anything other than a ‘Wow’ factor to immediately raise the crowd’s undivided attention and interest, they will begin to fade. It’s most likely best to split the act into two acts at that point.
You will also have to ‘normalize’ these songs as to not need soundboard adjustment in between them, be it too high or too low, relative to the last song played. This is very important to audience engagement.
Have I seen performers get away with this? Yes, I have. Very seasoned ones. For instance, song one is a dance. Song two is a strip. Song three is an aerial act. Even then, those three songs are very short, three minutes or less each… and Normalized, even custom-mixed by themselves, or someone they’d paid. Live band? You can worry less, and they can take visual cues to change things up. Make sure you get with them on this beforehand, though.
In summation, when you do two or three songs in a row, remember, it’s far more common for it to be distracting and disorienting for the audience than it will be it for it to work correctly in your head.
Get your rehearsal videotaped or honestly appraised by an experienced performer if you’re new and insist on doing this for the first time.
Don’t be one.
If you’re doing an ode or homage, convey that plainly somehow. Otherwise, you may impress fans, but you will antagonize peers. Ask for a second opinion. Your ‘twist’ or ‘version’ of an existing act (from long ago or not,) may not convey a new change the way you think it does, nor may it be as drastically different as you think it is.
You can and will come across acts that are similar to the yet-to-be-performed ideas in your head, but you need to take that hit. Unless you can press on, and do it a million times better, again, take the hit. It happens all of the time in all arts, and not limited to performances. If you find that act existed a long, long time ago… make sure you credit the original, and ask yourself if your’e really bringing anything really new to the table. It’s fine to be jealous when you see it, or hear about it. All that means is you idea worked. Hours, days, years after the fact, you’ll wish you turned it into a learning experience and moved on, concentrating on innovation than to be accused of being a copycat.
But it can happen after the fact, post-performance, what do you do?
Immediately approach the offended/copied performer, and state your case. Come to a public understanding, so that you can both handle it with grace. It will mean a lot to the other performer, but, most importantly in the time of social media, it will greatly improve your standing in the community and set an excellent example.
This is not limited to flyer designs, troupe names, show titles, stage names, show themes, even jokes told by the emcees onstage.
Some of you are professionals. Some of you are well on your way of being professionals. Some of you are not, and really want to be professionals. All of that is fine. Act professionally, and you will be held in high consideration upon formal introduction.
Undercutting / Overcharging / Pricing Yourself
Every angry angle of this situation is rooted in truth. One thinks a lesser performer charges too much. One thinks a peer charges too little. One finds out one performer makes more than you, and another, in the same troupe and show, makes too little.
There’s no right answer. But you need to understand the factors.
Audience members are oblivious to everything to makes the show the show. Promoters and such could care less about dance school, practices, costumes, props, and their costs and time invested. Some girls work harder than others. Some girls already have a lot of practice under their belt. Some girls already have a hundred costumes. Some have better paying day-jobs than others. Some are veterans, some are newbies. Some have more cumbersome props than others. Some acts are far more involved altogether than others. All of these are good things, it provides variety. Trust your troupe leader. Talk it out with them, if need be.
Usually, the rule is ‘you get what you pay for,’ and that’s not meant as an insult or praise to anyone when the checks are handed out, but it’s not always entirely up to the troupe leader : most promoters do not care, and, ultimately, it’s usually the promoter’s budget your leader is dispensing.
How do you price yourself to a troupe leader, agent, promoter, standalone client?
The fuzzy logic of pricing yourself is something you need to be proficient in to be a troupe leader, and if you’re not a troupe leader, find one you’ve worked with and ask them. What goes into estimating your cost aside from local fame, experience, and availability?
Here is what your troupe leader sees :
- Venue Rented by you, or Venue working WITH you.
- Price of Admission and how it’s divided
- Venue Capacity/Expectation
- Provided or Self-Promotion (and the quality of)
- Percentage (if any) of the Bar’s sales.
- Weekend or Weeknight
- Other possible gigs you could be working that night
- Distance / Parking Price (if applicable) / Cargo (Props, etc)
- Backstage available or Public Restroom
- Soundguy or not, and bring CD? Laptop?
- Quality of lights, sound, stage size… overall Quality of venue
- Ability to dress rehearse there, with or without Sound/Lights operator
- Drink Tickets / Discount for performers
- Number of fellow performers on the payroll (expect larger casts to yield lesser pay)
It can not, and will not hurt your reputation to do a ‘blowoff’ cheap gig. It will if you make it a habit, especially among your peers. It will also encourage dodgy promoters to undercut everyone. You will have to negotiate, just have a margin of negotiation proportional to your trouble in mind. Be reasonable. Do not work for or with others if they are not.
The legendary Satan’s Angel will demand you to get top dollar, but times have changed, and, frankly, there’s too many options for uncaring promoters to consider for a deep discount. If there was a Union, I’d insist she run it, there is no better defender for performers than she.
Favours are fine, on occasion (don’t be taken advantage of,) but raise yourself, your brand, your legend to worth every penny when someone finally gives you what you deserve 🙂
This is Elektra-Cuete, from Minneapolis. When I met her, she already had broken in on the scene, and was working her way into being indispensable in the Twin Cities’ Burlesque Community, interested in promotion, booking, and better performances …and learned the hard way. However, it has and will continue to pay off, because, well, she’s fierce, and her performances continue to impress audiences, and her professional demeanor keeps her respected and highly-billed.
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