The Delicate Process of Negotiating Without Getting Fucked or Fucking Anyone

After finding out last month that I owed 7,500 dollars in Japanese taxes, I will now be broke at the end of June.  The Rocker asked me to prepare a budget for him my participation in the show in Taiwan.  I’m uncomfortable discussing money matters with friends, so I erred on the side of business.

Despite my situation, I tried to give fees based on what I would ask of any other organization interested in working with me, except for the performance fees, which kept at the “artistic rate” throughout, and for the workshop rates which I kept lower as well.  I assumed that room, transportation, and per-diem are covered as well.

New show creation and performance

I benchmarked myself to a USD $52,000 annual salary – that gives a weekly rate of USD 1,000 for the bigger jobs.  To come up with an “artistic rate,” for my show fee I chose the lower end of what my friends have told me that they earn on a for-show basis with smaller, more artistic circus companies – about USD 120 per show.


I went with about 5x the US federal minimum wage, or USD 15 per hour.

Including my USD 200 expenses to date, I quoted him a fee of USD 9,300 for my work on the show itself.

Festival management

Festival management and performance

I quoted USD 300 per week for the part-time work from April to October and then added artistic show rates for the shows that I would be MCing and performing in and fees for each master class I would be teaching and each workshop for the general public.

The total there came to another USD 8,200, or, a grand total of about USD 17,500 for 5 months of work.

Judging from The Rocker’s initial estimates and the amount of work we are talking about, this lump sum seems very fair to me.  Of course, I have not counted any of the work that I have done on the side for preproduction of a Japan or US tour; that we can work out once (if?) we know that we have sold the show.

I’m also starting to prepare a budget for the invited acts based on my initial conversation with recent graduates.  My rough-draft schedule for the festival is ground-acrobat- and clown-heavy and lacking a bit on the aerial arts.  Beefing up the cabaret with aerial stuff might be a good tactic, but we need to ensure that there is enough space in the budget for, say, 5 of these artists.  If we run into trouble, we could try the approach of offering what we can to a lot of good people and just seeing who is willing to come for that price.

My friend from Montreal is also preparing his fee estimate to help me with festival organization.  I sent him my logic above and he commented that the organizing fee seems very low and that the Taiwanese producers are already playing with the number of shows they want us to do in order to lower our total fee without reducing our fee-per show.  We may need to tweak our fees a little bit in anticipation of having less shows if they play that game – I was assuming they were going to have us do something every day, but it looks like this may not be the case.

The bigger issue is that the Taiwanese producers are already doing a lot of the prep work that we were supposed to handle.  My lower fees and time estimates are my efforts to hold on to as much of the responsibility as possible without stepping on anyone’s toes.  Essentially, I am trying to be as useful as possible without costing them too much with the understanding that if the outdoor shows work well, we will be in a good position with the contacts we make to organize future events in Taiwan/Asia/Japan.  I would rather do a good job now for little pay and be invited back for more pay in the future than to ask for a lot of pay now and run the risk of being cut out in the future.

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