Musings arguments and gig reports from your favourite Goth lesbian transsexual vegan recovering alcoholic and drug addict sceptic rationalist atheist comedian chameleon and caricature.

Friday, 29 April 2011

To events management companies offering an exciting opportunity

At this time of year there's lots of Events Management companies starting up, and lots of Students on Events Management courses who have been given an end of year project of organising an event and it seems like 50% of them think "ooh what would be great is if we get some comedians like that Michael McIntyre's comedy roadshow!"  and they don't know the comedy circuit, they don't know that there are a lot of professional comedians who are earning a lot of money from comedy without ever going anywhere near a television screen.

As a result they think that a stand-up comic is like a band or a DJ or someone else who works during the week and does their entertainment as a hobby.  They don't realise that to get basically proficient at the job that they want you to do takes so much effort that by the time you're ready to do the gig you're getting paid a substantial whack for your work.

Often they'll tell you it's a "fantastic opportunity to get your material seen."  This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how comedy works, and in a larger sense how business works.  What follows is advice to anyone who runs an events management company who's thinking of getting some comedians for free.

It's about incentivisation.  If you want to get people to do things you've got to offer them the right incentive.

For Photographers they can boost their portfolio by doing your event.

For bands it can be good practice, and they're not being asked to bring a load of their own punters, and they can possibly gain a few more fans.

However, for Stand-up comedy what is the comedian gaining?  What is it that you're offering that's better than a paid Friday night of gigs, that they will turn down the opportunity to earn £200-£800 just doing circuit gigs to do what is essentially a corporate which under normal circumstances would pay a lot more?

Comedy's different than music, when people go to see comedy, they don't go to see specific comedians except on tour shows.  Comedy is also different to music in that once you've heard a comedian's signature piece you're not going to laugh as much when you hear it again.  it's a diminishing return.  And doing a gig that's like this, the onus isn't going to be on Comedy so it'll be a difficult gig where the comics will have a tough time and more than likely not come across in the best light.  So they're not only being asked to turn down money on one of their work nights, but to do so for a gig which will more than likely be very tricky to play.

It takes a professional comic to be able to deal with a room like that, but if you're not able to pay professional rates you're only going to be able to get professional comedians, you'll get newer comics who may well do 5 minutes each of rape and paedo gags which aren't going to go down particularly well and will reflect badly on your company.

So for the comic, there's no chance of progression to get better gigs, at a gig that's going to be tough on one of the busiest nights of the week where they'll burn 20 minutes of material in front of a crowd that they'd not be able to play in front of again for a few years, and not get paid.  The Photographer probably makes their money during the day, the band probably work day jobs, the disco DJ probably works as an IT tech in a faceless multinational during the day, this isn't their main source of income, and if it goes well it'll be a new revenue stream, and if it goes badly, well nothing lost.

For most comics this is their livelihood. What you're asking is them to gamble a months mortgage payments on the chance that you may be able to offer them some gigs in the future, and that you won't get to the end of this and go "oh well, comedy doesn't work in this sort of line up.  Never mind."  It's a hell of a gamble.

Plus I'm guessing that even if everyone else is working for free the bar staff are getting paid?

You're not offering an exciting opportunity, what you're doing is asking a favour, and in doing so the balance of power shifts very much to the comedian.

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