The combination of the popularity of burlesque, the financial crisis and the growing popularity of variety events means that the competition for burlesque jobs is tougher than ever. Emailing event promoters to ask for work is a popular way to get yourself known as a performer, but it’s also a tricky task to get just right. Being an event promoter myself I receive my fair share of well written, and downright dodgy applications for work.
Here are my top tips for How Not to Apply for a Burlesque Stage Slot.
How You DO Apply for a Burlesque Stage Slot
State how you obtained the promoter’s contact details.
A quick note will let the promoter know how their contact details are being discovered (and which methods of promotion are proving successful). On the other hand, if their email address is being circulated in a manner that they were not aware of, and possibly disapprove of, this will let them know and perhaps even score you some brownie points!
Use a polite and professional tone.
Whilst being chatty can be friendly, it can also carry a variety of other tones and connotations project collaboration tools. Don’t be overly formal – there’s no need to write ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ – but do avoid writing things like ‘errrm’ in your email. After composing your email, read it through and delete any waffle. You want your message to be direct and to the point.
Illustrate that you’re serious and ambitious.
The best way to do this is to attach a couple of low-resolution photographs to your application. I particularly like to see a nice promo shot of a performer modelling in full costume alongside a photograph of the performer on stage. The promo shot demonstrates that you’ve invested time (and possibly money) in getting professional promo shots done, in turn, illustrating ambition. A live shot gives an indication of your onstage character and charisma.
State your experience.
Most importantly the promoter will want to know how long you have been performing and how often you have taken to the stage. There’s no need to list individual event names unless you’ve participated in a particularly well-respected show/festival, or worked for/with a household name (corporate client and/or musicians).
If you have invested in burlesque classes, mention these, but also mention why you feel taking this class has resulted in you being a better performer. For example, you could say ‘I attended a workshop by Mademoiselle Charisma and learned lots of tricks for how to hold and captivate an audience’. Name-dropping teachers is irrelevant to a certain degree – any performer can take a class, but only those with a drive to learn and improve will take something away from it.
Describe your performance style clearly and confidently.
Tell the promoter why you are unique and why you are worth watching. Variety and innovation are the keys to any successful event, so the more you can offer, the better. On the other hand, if you believe you perform the best fan dance in the UK, tell the promoter why. What sets you apart from all the other fan dancing acts?
To illustrate confidence, avoid sentences like ‘I am different from everyone else because I wear tights rather than stockings and have blue hair’. Rephrase with more relevance: ‘My blue hair gives my stage persona a sense of exotic wackiness, which compliments her inelegant attempts to strip out of tights (rather than stockings), sending-up notions of femininity and sexual allure in the process.’
How You DON’T Apply for a Burlesque Stage Slot
Add unecessary sentences.
There’s no need to open your email with ‘I was wondering if you would consider me for an up-coming performance slot’. This should go without saying, unless, that is, you’re being bold enough to make yourself known to a promoter who doesn’t usually book burlesque artists. If applying to work at an established burlesque event, cut straight to the point: ‘My name is X – I am a burlesque artiste – please find my promotional material enclosed.’
Sound desperate for work.
Desperation immediately sounds alarm bells for promoters. Whilst you might like to say ‘I see you have an enchanted forest theme for your next event and I would love to create a bespoke flower-fairy act to début at your show’, don’t say ‘I can provide an act to suit any theme, from 1920s to fetish’. Too much flexibility makes your stage-persona sound wishy-washy, unclear and under-confident.
You should be telling the promoter why you should be booked – if the promoter is booking for a 1920s themed event, the chances are they will book performers who are known to specialise in this field. Define your speciality and use it as a selling point.
Ask for advice.
It’s surprising how many applicants ask me for assistance with creating an act to début at my event. You should have an act finished, polished and ready to go! The promoter is not there to teach. If you need a teacher, take a burlesque class.
Belittle your peers.
Don’t use a negative tone to describe other performers. For example, don’t use phrases like ‘I’m different from the hundreds of corset-clad glove-removals performed to ‘The Stripper”. If these acts are popular, there’s likely to be a reason why. Putting other performers down in order to sell yourself isn’t professional, nor does it sound convincing.
Overwhelm the promoter with information.
Send only 1-2 testimonial quotes, preferably the shortest, snappiest and most accurate. Furthermore, there’s no need to include full act breakdowns. Insert act names with links to videos (if you have them), and that should be sufficient. Your act titles should convey a strong sense of the act to the promoter. I often glance over full act descriptions as the title alone gives me a strong sense of whether an act would fit at my event.
Ask too much.
This tip has two meanings! Firstly, if you have already contacted a promoter and they have said the equivalent of ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’, don’t then send reminder emails. Pestering a promoter for work not only seems desperate, but it can also seem disrespectful of the promoter and her/his job.
It is the promoter’s duty to book acts that her/his audience want to see. If a promoter books you just because you won’t leave them alone, this means you are likely to be performing to an audience that doesn’t really want to see you. You must respect the promoter’s decision as to what works best at her/his event.
Secondly, if you are asked to provide an expenses quote, be flexible and illustrate how you have worked out your costings. If you’d like the promoter to cover tax rate mileage, state this in your quote: ‘I have quoted mileage at tax rate (50 miles at 40p per mile), giving a total of £20’.
If you’d like to ensure that you are not travelling alone in the dark, make sure the promoter knows this ‘My expenses include a taxi fare rather than a bus fare because… Alternatively I am willing to bring a chaperone, but would be grateful if her/his bus fare could be covered too.’
Follow these tips and you will be writing elegant, professional burlesque job applications in no time!
Beatrix Von Bourbon