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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Helping hands » » That Pesky Pay Issue Again (3 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Profile of alexa
Hey guys,

I am a family (not so much stage, theater/illusion) performer, using an assistant at every gig I do, from birthdays to schools to festivals etc. Sometimes their job is really driving, set-up/tear-down and taking pictures at the event. Other times (after we have been working together for a while) this could include on-stage assistance and packing and setting the stage once they know how to handle the props, etc.

I provide shirts with my logo for them to wear, do not take taxes out of their pay, etc so there are really no expenses on their part.

My expenses, however, can be $50-100 per gig on average (when you take in all considerations, props, advertising, gas, time, continuing education, internet/phone for the biz, etc etc) PLUS the cost of my assistant. And yet, without them there would be no show.

I'm running into some pricing problems. I might do a birthday party with a show for 45 minutes that I charge $200 for, or I might be doing a party with a six foot birthday balloon creation that I bring along with me to the party where I do a 45 minute show for a total of $400. For both packages my assistant is required for the same amount of time, doing the same work, but what I can afford to pay them changes drastically. Also, what about gigs that are further away---you can't really pay by the hour because an hour's worth of work at the show is different than an hour in the car or packing for the show.

I really want to be fair and pay per gig, but I need to be making money too. I feel as though my assistants expect more pay because they look at a one hour event as taking up more than one hour of their time--but that's why they get paid, say, $40 for that hour. And this is at the beginning when we haven't really worked together and they aren't being asked to do a whole lot. At this point their responsibilities are really transportation, set-up/tear-down.

Please give me your thoughts. (NOTE: Please stay on the issue at hand of pricing assistant wages. Weighing in on MY gig pricing or WHY I have an assistant is not helpful at this time. Thank You.)
Dr. Delusion
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Eugene, Oregon.
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Profile of Dr. Delusion
Hi there Alexa.
Yep, that's a tough one on what to pay. I too, have a family style magic show. At the larger shows I have 1 assistant and a sound man. At the Birthday shows, unless they are really large I do myself. At the other shows I will first take out all of my expenses, which most of the time is just gas, then what's left I split equally 3 ways. I know on one hand it seems like I might be paying them too much, but I found in the past, when I did'nt pay as much I was always trying to find new assistants. Since I've been splitting the money this way I keep them around much longer. My currentant assistant has been with me over 3 years, and I've had the same sound man for about 5 years now. One thing I should mention is that I do have a day job, so I don't have to depend on the money from the shows as much as a full time performer would.
Servaas Koomen
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Profile of Servaas Koomen
From an employer point of view, if they feel they are not being treated fair, they will walk away fast.

I would say that a more experienced assistant is well worth the $$. and as you say, there would be no show without him/her.

my dad is a musicplayer and he does it like this: with four people he splits the profit in 5. he takes 2 parts as pay for the equipment he provides and acquisition of the gig + his regular share. and that works very well for him. and the people stick with him
"The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That's what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they'll go through the pain no matter what" A.
Escape Artist
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Profile of Escape Artist
It may be a long shot for you, but worth a try.

Try finding someone that wants to learn magic and make part of the payment a learning experence for them.

That was the way they did it in the "old days" before Donald Trump changed the meaning of the apprentice
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Profile of jugglestruck
I don't think there is an easy answer to that. I think you just have to use your common sense and if the assistant is not happy then you have to look overall to see what you can do to improve the situation for the two of you.
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Profile of griffindance
Servaas seems on the button.

If you use your assistant as free labour you'll get the standard of worker you deserve.
If they are good enough to share the stage with a professional then they are professional.
Doing free gigs (please search for the thread on 'doing gigs for free!') is the same for assistants. We are all performers. Working for free may provide experience, it may provide exposure but it only leads to more experience of the same and the exposure only leads to more free gigs. If this isn't good enough for you then its certainly not good enough for your employees.
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Profile of DavidThomas
What you pay is negotiated. If both parties feel good with the amount then it is a "win win". But you do need to know that anyone you use are "employees" and legally must be paid as such. Also if anyone is hurt on the job you as the employer are responsible. Having a Work Comp policy is something all of us need to have and are legally required to have.
David Thomas
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Profile of jugglestruck
Talking of that pesky pay issue I see that Pepsi were planning a flash dance but using unpaid dancers. It has just been called off because the dancers felt they were being taken advantage of.
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Profile of RobertlewisIR
It needs to be negotiated and agreed upon in advance to avoid trouble. You figure out what you can afford, they figure out what they will accept, and you work until you find a match.

You're right that an hour of driving time is different from an hour of show time, and that can be reflected in pricing--as long as it's specified in advance. It's not uncommon in some professions for contractors who have to do a lot of driving to receive a certain fee per mile in lieu of charging hourly for that time.


Last night, I dreamed I ate the world's largest marshmallow. When I woke up, the pillow was gone.
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Profile of Steve_Mollett
I would pay a percentage.
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
- Albert Camus
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Profile of jkostyal
Although this post has been around for a while, it still gains interest. Here are a few extra things to consider based upon the original post.

If a person is being "hired" to pack an unpack then they are generally a Laborer and should be paid a rate that is appropriate for their time doing those tasks.

If a person is being "hired" as a chauffeur then pay them that rate.

If they are being "hired" to perform on stage then that should be paid as a performer.

All of this also applies if they are being used as an expert technician for sound, lighting, etc.

Things can get a little muddy when one person is being hired to do multiple tasks. Also another thought is that most employees don't get paid to drive to and from their place of employment. If that location is where the show is to be performed, then you can require them to get there on their own, at their own expense. I realize this also presents the risk of them not showing up at all.

I think I've stirred the pot enough for one post. Just some more thoughts to ponder. Smile
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