CriticalDance Forum

Choreographers' fees
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Author:  Andre Yew [ Wed Jul 20, 2005 11:07 am ]
Post subject:  Choreographers' fees

I'd like to know more about how much choreographers get paid. What's the ballpark range and structure of their compensation? I imagine that a new work has different costs than licensing and setting an existing piece. How do the various tiers of choreographers compare? Just for discussion's sake, three tiers might be:

1. Well-known, critically acclaimed people like Christopher Wheeldon and William Forsythe.

2. Less-known, perhaps more regional but still relatively successful choreographers. I'm not sure who to name here, but it may perhaps include choreographers who are breaking out and getting good press reviews, like Julie Adam or Yuri Possokhov, but there may be a big uneven gap between this and 1.

3. Complete unknowns.


Author:  osiris661 [ Thu Jul 21, 2005 10:56 am ]
Post subject: 

As an agent I have some, certainly not ALL, knowledge on choreographic contract structures and fees. Here is what I know and have experienced with regards to choreo contracts and keep in mind that this is ALL case specific. Contracts vary from company to company and choreographer to choreographer. Also, when a piece of choreo is commissioned via a grant that was received specifically for commissioning a new piece there are all sorts of requirements that must be adhered to with regards to ownership and the copyrights that take effect. I will write some examples of choreo fees and structure that are NOT based on grant style requirements.

Most of the time there are two separate contractual payments, rehearsal period (the accumulative time to create the piece), and a final release (a company's right to advertise, sell tickets and perform the piece for a specified duration). Additionally, there is sometimes the issue of exclusivity, most companies cannot afford the kind of money to own the choreography outright and enjoy unlimited exclusive rights to it. Unless of course, the choreographer agrees to that but I personally would never suggest that a choreographer does this without a hefty release payment and then continued royalties whenever the piece is performed.

On the very low-end of the pay scale, with choreographers who are basically unknown, the final release fees can be as low as $150.00 per finished minute; i.e. a piece that is 20 minutes when completed = $3000.00. Then you have the creation/rehearsal period fee. Most of the time these arrangements are based on a weekly salary amount, i.e. 500- or 1000- per week for however long is specified for the creation period. If a choreographer is coming in from out of town then the airfare, hotel, and per diem is also something that needs to be added into the contract. If the choreographer is from the ranks of the company that will be performing the piece then most of the time their own salary takes the place of this. I personally don't like it when a dancer's salary remains the same if they create a piece for the company where they work, but hey, if it is a chance to choreograph and get experience then it is what it is. So, for example, if we have a commission that allows for 2 weeks of rehearsal/creation and 1 or 2 weeks of performances the structure is broken down like this;
2 weeks of rehearsal salary + travel/accommodation costs and a final release payment for the duration of the performances. This SHOULD be exactly the same arrangement for every time that piece is mounted and performed with a company but is not always the case.

When you get into the realm of more "regionally known" choreographers the contract structure can change dramatically :wink:. When I say "Regionally Known" I mean choreographers who may be very popular in their surrounding region or country but when you goto another continent or country nobody really knows who they are. For many regionally known choreographers, time is of the essence and very few of them have too much free time to spend mounting their existing choreography for a few weeks prior to it being performed. This brings into play the choreographer's repetituer or assistant or whatever you want to call these people. Lets say for instance you have a small company and want to present a full-length ballet or piece of contemporary repertoire from a known choreographer that you are certain will help market and sell tickets. Only possible problem is, the choreographer you want to hire is an acting artistic director, resident choreographer, dancer somewhere or just really really busy working. Most known choreographers will suggest hiring and bringing in their repetituer/assistant who can teach and mount the choreo to your dancers for the rehearsal period. Then, when the production is in tech/dress rehearsal stages the actual choreographer can come and oversee or put final touches on things. In this scenario the rehearsal fee payment(s) are usually made directly to the repetituer/assistant and the final release payment is made to the choreographer directly. More times than often when commissioning an existing piece from a regionally known choreographer this is the way the contract is structured. If it is an outright commission and the piece is being created on the company from scratch, then the choreographer would of course have to be available from day one in the creation/rehearsal process. That doesn't mean that they won't bring an assistant with them though. Lots of times a choreographer will insist on a company hiring their assistant as well as themselves to help with separate and additional rehearsals. This helps by reducing the over-all time required to get a piece up and running on the stage. Again, this is all case specific and depends on the choreographer, the piece being commissioned and of course the most important factor of all, BUDGET :shock: . With regards to "regionally known" choreographic final release fees, they can vary between 10,000 and 15,000 dollars per production and are not usually based on finished minute durations. This is not including the rehearsal/creation time fees which vary from project to project.
Now, with regard to "World-Class Name Recognized Choreographers" it is sooo case specific that there is no way to sum up all of the possibilities of those kinds of contracts. It has everything to do with the choreographer's agent/manager and what requirements they put on the company's PR/Marketing departments, company talent requirements<--BIG FACTOR HERE, availability of the choreographer, and of course the rights and duration that a company can perform the choreography and at what venue.

One factor that many many choreographers overlook when getting involved with a contract that is worth over say $8,000.00 in total salary is bonding. I can't tell you how many times I have heard of a situation where an internationally known company (I wish I could name names :cry: ) defaults on contracted payments to a choreographer. Every time it happens the same old bleeding heart cry comes out, we didn't get the money we were promised, or, this has been a bad year for fundraising, blah blah blah etc. I know this sounds insensitive but the bottom line is that choreographers need to pay their bills like everyone else. When a contract falls through or all contracted fees are only partially paid where the choreographer could have worked elsewhere during that time, things start to get VERY UGLY, same goes for dancers too. One way around this which can help assure a more smooth contract process is by bonding the contract through an ESCROW account or related service. What this means is that all or the majority of the contract value is placed into a holding account with a third party as the officer or agent who releases the money based on standards set forth by the employer and employee (company and choreographer). If this is taken care of prior to the contract start date then all parties involved can rest much easier. However, most dance company’s contract choreographers as well as dancers and other staff based on promises of contributions from their board, trustees, grants, etc. This is a fundamental flaw :evil: in the operation of most not for profits that breeds many many problems with honoring employee contracts. The argument most people bring up is "well, do you want to take a chance and get to do the work and gain the experience/credit, or, do you want to make certain the money is there and potentially not do the work and get the experience/credit?" I personally am from the old school way of thought which is "If you do not have the money in the bank then don't spend it because liveleyhoods are at stake" Not everyone agrees with that and that is cool, different strokes for different folks, but when you operate as a manager/agent for artists, reputation is EVERYTHING. If one of your clients does not get paid what they are contractually promised then your reputation as an agent/manager in the industry will suffer.

OK, WAY too much typing this morning, I hope that gives some contractual insights.
Later :D

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Jul 21, 2005 12:02 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks a bunch, Osiris. I learned a lot from your description of the process.

One area that gives concern in the UK concerns musicals and similar productions, where the choreogrpher tends to receive a flat fee without ongoing royalties as the song-writer and director would receive.

Author:  Andre Yew [ Thu Jul 21, 2005 1:16 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks Osiris! That was much more info than I expected, but I appreciate it all, and it's very useful.


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