Having done drag now for eight years, it makes me wonder: How are things changing? One thing that never changes is the business side of drag. It is not cheap to look fabulous and everything has a price.
I decided to devote this column to figuring out what you’re worth. Most queens typically get offers from bars to come perform and for some they have established relationships with different show directors. Others are just trying to get a booking for the first time. It’s important to understand what you are worth when it comes to your time, your talent and your energy. One of the things to keep in mind is whether or not you should have a contract with a bar. I say “yes.” A contract can keep you out of trouble and it can clearly define what you will do and what you won’t do as a drag entertainer. Here are some tips and suggestions on what to include in that contract.
What’s your price? So the first and most important thing is how much you’ll get paid for each booking. How much money will it take to get you on the stage? The pay scale can range based on the entertainer — your background/experience (possibly what pageant title you hold), what type of crowd you’ll draw to the venue, your performance quality, etc. Some typical booking fees for nighttime shows in the Charlotte area range from $50-$125. This can be for performing two to three numbers.
One-Night Stand or Long-Term Relationship: The next thing to figure out is whether this is a one time gig or if you’re going to be on the house cast or get regular bookings at the same bar. If it is a one time gig or just every so often, be sure the expectations do not limit you performing elsewhere. It is always in your best interest to have an agreement that allows you flexibility to get more coins. But if the bar expects you to be on house cast, it is important to understand what that means to them and have a contract to back that up.
The Deal: The contract should outline what is expected of each party — you and the bar. A contract is a set of expectations and an agreement for everyone. The contract agreement should list what is expected of you. What time are you expected to be there? Are you going to be doing two numbers or three numbers? Will you be expected to host on the microphone? Will there be a game, giveaway or something where you have to interact with the crowd? Always understand what the bar wants to achieve as part of the drag show, so you can always be your very best. If you work at the bar regularly, it is sometimes important for the bar to ask the drag queen not to do the same costume repeatedly or the same songs. They expect you to bring something new to the stage. Of course, the contract deal should also address the payment arrangement. How many bookings is the bar willing to give you each month? The biggest problem are girls that don’t know they’re worth in negotiating a contract. There’s nothing wrong with having a contract for single bookings or for regular bookings. Make it work for you.
Exclusivity: Some bars expect you not to work elsewhere (even if you get one booking a month) and if that’s the case, then you for sure need to have a contract, so you get paid what you’re worth. It is likely not a good exclusive contract if they’re only gonna book you once a month for $50 or even $100 because you can probably get two or three bookings at different clubs for more. So always keep that in mind and don’t sell yourself short. Remember: Verbal contracts don’t mean crap. Get it in writing. You want to know all this and have it agreed upon, before you go to the bar to work!
Extra Extra: When you have a contract or booking, be sure to include extra perks. For instance, do you get into the club free when you’re not working? Do you get a free drink every once in a while? How many? When? Do you get a dresser to come with you when you perform and does that person get in free? If you’re from out of town, do you get a hotel or stipend to pay for your travel? Does the bar pay you with check or cash? If you’re just coming to perform for one time, be sure to get this in writing before you arrive. These are all important questions to add into your contract and negotiations. And remember “Never ASSUME.” It makes an “ASS out of “U” and “ME.”
To help you out, there is a sample weblink from LawDepot online at lawdepot.com/contracts/performance-contract/. Please read any contract before you sign and always try to consult somebody who has a legal background to look over the contract. Always make sure you have something in writing and do not accept a verbal contract agreement. Oftentimes a bar will try to hold you accountable to a verbal agreement without having anything signed on paper. Don’t play that game.
A contract is there to help protect you as much as it is to protect the bar that you work with. A good contract will lead to a good relationship that will allow the bar and you to attract customers. It should keep both the bar and you happy.
DRAG TIP: Never tell a show director that you’ll come and work and do a gig and then find out that your contract will not allow you to do it! If you’re going to cancel, at least give a week’s or two week’s notice so the bar knows to book someone else.
SHOUT OUT: If you’re still looking to celebrate pride, don’t forget Cathode Azure has an “After Party” Saturday night featuring Top New York City DJ Luis Perez!
— Buff Faye calls the Queen City her home and performs to shake her boobs (and to raise money for charities). Find her at your favorite bars and hot spots. Plus don’t forget her weekly Saturday night show with Patti O’Furniture, monthly Sunday drag brunch and regular Friday night party bus. Learn more at AllBuff.com. Follow on Twitter @BuffFaye