Monday, February 11, 2013

How much does it cost to put on a pole show?

...or competition or showcase...

I want to start this post by saying, not much unlike my post about running a pole studio, I don't have the answer.  I just want to start the discussion... 

I recently saw Aerial Amy post on Facebook about her Flight Club showcase.  It sounds like perhaps people are giving her a hard time for potentially profiting from the shows (although it sounds like she has not turned a profit).  First off, there is nothing wrong with making a profit off the shows, considering the amount of hard work that goes into putting one on.  However, just having been on the outskirts of some shows and competitions, I imagine that what most of the people putting on these shows are getting is the satisfaction of knowing they put on an excellent show.  If someone is putting their blood, sweat and tears into putting on an entertainment show, why should they feel bad if they are making a profit?  And how terrible should the haters feel to find out they are usually doing it for the love of their art.

I certainly have grumbled at $100+ tickets to see a pole show (I'm not going to stand the whole show -- sorry).  I try to remember how much work goes into a show.  I saw a lot of the stuff that went down behind the scenes at Pole Show LA in 2012 (which was moved into a different venue for 2013).  I really got an inside look at the end-preparations of the showcase at Pole Expo in Vegas last September.  It was eye-opening.  Money aside, the amount of time and effort was so impressive.  How much do you think it costs to put on a pole show?

First you need a venue.  Even if you think you're going to have a sell-out crowd, someone needs to front a deposit.  And each venue will have different requirements, but all will require some kind of liability insurance.  Some may even require you to hire security (or pay extra for theirs).  Does the vendor offer ticketing options or do you need to set up with a company like Brown Paper Tickets, which will add fees to your ticket prices (although a much lower fee than places like Ticketmaster)?

Then what?  Is this a competition (in which you may have charged your competitors a fee already)?  A show (where you may be paying some of your performers)?  A showcase (where many of your performers may be dancing for free)?  I don't have a lot of experience with this, but I do remember a world famous pole dancer coming to Twirly Girls for workshops.  She charged $250 to do a one-song performance and meet and greet.  I imagine if you are able to schedule some workshops, some of the more famous pole dancers may do your show for free, but paying your more famous dancers may be a cost to consider. 

I imagine the next biggest expense is rigging and poles.  If you aren't being sponsored by a big pole company, you may have to front that cost yourself.  And if you don't want to put your performers on stage poles, you are looking at professional rigging.  Again, I have never had to purchase it myself, but I understand a weekend of rigging can cost $6,000, or more. 

If you are offering more of a convention or event with vendors, perhaps the fees from vendors will off-set some of your costs, but you need to make sure you have a good retail set-up.  Otherwise, it will not encourage them to return the next year.  Putting them in a dark, back corner and not letting your patrons know there is a room for shopping will hurt you and your vendors. 

Advertising and marketing are next.  Sure, Facebook is great, but you have to decide if you want to spend the time and money on paid ads.  Participants should invite friends but I think many feel that the promoter is in charge of filling the seats. 

How about music licensing?  Any public performance of popular music will require a music license. 

Also, if you are going to live-stream the event, who do you use and do you have ANY idea the amount of work that goes into setting up live-stream cameras?  I helped with the set up and tear down at Pole Expo and, holy $hit!  They laid miles of cable for multiple cameras.  It was quite a job. 

Sure, vendors and sponsors may off-set some costs, but I don't know that we are at a point where most of these events are making anyone rich.  Did I miss any obvious costs?  I would really, really love to hear from some people who have put an event on.  You can post anonymously if you'd like.  What advice do you have for those who want to put on a pole show?!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Finding your grease-mate in pole class

How many times have you had to share a pole during a class or workshop?  Luckily, at Twirly Girls, we try to keep classes at a 1 to 1 ratio, but there are certainly times when there are popular classes or workshops that require us to share a pole.  I know there are a lot of studios where pole-sharing is a daily requirement. 

How many times during pole-sharing have you walked up and slid right off because it feels like your pole-mate bathed in butter?

We all have different issues.  Some of us are sweaty, some too dry, some straight up GREAZEH!  That is, in fact, how we got Team Greazeh in my Boys, Girls and Twirls class at Twirly Girls.  My good friends Jimmy and Yolanda like to team up and dance crazy with each other during class.  They've now done two showcases together.  They are a great team and are so much fun to watch.  But their body chemistry is very different.  So when they dance together, they either have to choreograph moves carefully on any pole they are sharing, or we have to send a pole cleaner between moves to clean the pole. 

There are certainly tons of grip aids to help equalize our situations, but when sharing a pole, we probably feel like we spend a lot of time in class wiping the pole down between moves. 

How do you feel about pole-sharing?  Do you share in your class?  Have you found your grease-mate?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How much does it cost to run a pole studio?

Pole studios (and small businesses in general) are failing at an alarmingly high rate.  Probably not too unlike many other small businesses, a lot of pole studios are being opened by eager dancers who would like to make their passion their business, but have little to no experience running a small business.  I've heard so many people say they want to be their own boss so they can set their own hours and only work when they want to...not realizing when they are the boss, they get to work ALL the hours. 

I have not owned my own small business but I have watched a number of close friends try to do it, and I have watched them struggle.  I have also watched a number of pole studios and how they operate, so I wanted to talk about how much it costs to run a studio, for those who may be considering the venture.

First up, you have to find the space.  Rent will probably be one of your largest expenses.  You may have to come up with a deposit, and will probably have to commit to a length of time, often three to five years.  Then you have to make it yours.  Flooring, mirrors, poles, crash mats.  None of that stuff is cheap and most landlords will not be fronting the cost for you.  Also, think about the type of flooring and whether it will be destroyed if you have to drill your poles into the floor.  Then, once you're up and running, there will be maintenance and upkeep costs.  The alcohol to clean the poles.  Toilet paper.  Is garbage, water, gas/electric included in your rent or do you have to pay that separately?  Have you thought about how often you may need to replace your poles?  Who maintains your air conditioning or heater?  Who pays for the plumber if the toilet gets clogged? 

Paying taxes on a small business is no joke.  You pay all of your own taxes.  In the United States, you are paying State and Federal taxes, including a self-employment tax (which was around 8% last time I checked).  This means your effective tax rate can be over 40%.  Sure, you have write-offs, but not everything you buy for your studio can be written off.  The law in the U.S. is pretty strict about clothing and shoes, so you may not be able to write off all of those costumes you bought for parties (definitely talk to a tax professional, since there are exceptions to every rule). 

Obtaining medical insurance as a small business is not easy, and it's very expensive.  At my previous job, my boss was paying over $650 per month just for my medical insurance.  I don't fully understand "Obamacare" in the U.S.  So many people seem to believe it guarantees us all insurance.  I don't believe it does.  Among other things, I believe it removes an insurance company's ability to deny insurance based on prior health issues.  However, you still have to go out and buy a policy yourself, at the fair market rate (and rates typically go up 25% every single year).  I understand those who choose not to purchase their own insurance are then assessed an $800 "fine" when they do their taxes at the end of the year.  I could be completely wrong and welcome an explanation from someone who might understand it better.  As a person with a day job, I have insurance and don't have to worry about this.  However, it's something to think about as a potential small business owner, who may be putting themselves at a higher risk of injuries, and may not want to be without health coverage in the case of an emergency. 

What kind of business entity are you planning to be?  If you want to incorporate, that is additional money to an attorney and a fee to the State.  You can also create a fictitious business name and pay a smaller fee to the county.  You will also most likely need a business license from the city in which your business will be opened.  If you want to copyright your name or any images, that is more money to an attorney and to the government to protect your potential trademark. 

In California, each county can also assess a 1% annual tax for the value of every single thing in the studio.  From the flooring to the clothes and shoes on the racks.  They don't want to miss out on their piece of the American Dream.  I don't know about you, but the American Dream is starting to sound more like the American Government's Dream.  We work so they can play.

You also have to pay to license music in your studio.  For just one of the companies that licenses music (there are three big companies that do licensing), this is about $240 per year.  You can read more on that HERE

You also need insurance.  You must, must, must let your insurance broker know you have a pole studio.  You must also let them know if your students are inverting, if they are wearing heels, and if you offer circus acts such as aerial silks.  Yoga or pilates insurance will not cover you!  Please read more on that HERE

Do you have a background in dance and fitness?  Or do you just love pole dance?  If you are not already certified in personal training or fitness, or even if you are, you may want to consider pole certifications.  You are holding people's health and bodies in your hands, so you want to make sure you are well-versed in how to take care of them.  You can read more on pole certifications HERE

Are you going to teach all of the classes or are you going to hire instructors?  What is a fair wage?  Will you require them to be certified?  Will you pay their insurance for them or make them pay?  Many studios trade services with their instructors.  The tax man will want a piece of that action, so be careful in how you work out barters. 

Will you carry shoes, clothing, grip aids or other products for sale?  That will require some money up front.  You may also need a license to pay sales tax to your state. 

How will you advertise your studio?  Marketing is not cheap.  Sure, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can help you with free marketing opportunities.  But, don't overlook simple ideas like creating fliers with discounts for other businesses in your area.  As you build strong relationships with your neighbors, that can bring in business as well. 

Yeah, I know, I'm a buzzkill.  I don't bring all of these up to ruin anyone's dream of owning a pole studio.  Pole studios have been opening and closing at an alarming rate.  At a meeting last year, United Pole Artists reported that there had been almost zero growth in the previous year.  Not because no studios were opening, but because studios were closing at the same rate as they were opening.  Jennifer Michelle Marketing (of PoleSkivvies fame) recently reported she was having trouble getting in touch with studios because they were out of business.  I know a couple of places that lasted just six months.  I know a studio in my area just went out of business.  I recently read on Facebook about two other popular studios closing (one in Southern California and one in New Zealand).  It makes me sad.

My hope in reporting this is so people can be realistic about the requirements to open a business, and so that we can build a strong community of pole studios around the world.  If you are interested in opening a studio, please consult with a strong businessperson who can help you create a viable business plan. 

Did I miss anything?  If you can think of some costs not on this list, please leave a comment.  If you have any experience with opening a studio, please leave some advice for those who may be starting their new adventure soon!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dangerous Curves - West Coast Edition

Last year, I wrote about how Roz the Diva had created a competition for curvy pole dancers.  Dangerous Curves was held on August 25, 2012 at Sacred Studio in Brooklyn, New York.  It was hosted by the hilarious Luenell.  I have not had the pleasure of being able to watch any videos from the competition, but I understand it was an awesome, sell-out performance. 

I spoke on the phone with Roz while I was at Pole Expo in Vegas last September.  We chatted about creating the West Coast edition of the competition.  I don't think there is confirmation of a date or venue yet, but I am hoping that the second edition of this competition will be scheduled in connection with Roz's trip to Las Vegas for the second annual Pole Expo this September.  I am planning to attend that event, and am hoping to schedule some workshops in Northern California for Roz as well (if you are in Las Vegas or California, please let me know if you'd be interested in workshops and I will connect you with Roz). 

Here's the kicker...I may even throw my hat in the ring.  Sure, I have a loooong way to go before I am ready for a competition.  But I feel like, as an advocate for curvy pole dancers, I need to talk the talk AND walk the walk.  Hey, I can't guarantee I'll get in, but I do promise to submit a video for consideration. 

Roz really is one of the most dynamic performers I have ever seen before.  I hope to take a few of her tips to provide an entertaining performance, and I am hoping that having an end goal like this will also keep me on track at the gym.

Now I can start throwing up and sweating.  I don't know why I keep forcing myself to do things that terrify me.  I feel like this is similar to the roller coaster ride I took at Disneyland.  The first two made me almost pee my pants.  But the next four times, I was having a grand ol' time. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Music in the Pole Studio

You see the angry posts on Facebook all the time.  Someone posted a video on YouTube and YouTube yanked it or silenced the audio.  They blame YouTube, but YouTube is only doing what it is legally required to do to save it's own ass from being sued for copyright infringment (if you want more information about copyrights, click HERE).  It is the artists, who (rightfully so) are trying to protect their work product and income (we can get into whether they are overpaid, but the truth is, I can't carry a tune to save my life, so if I am paying to hear someone else sing well, they deserve whatever the market is willing to pay them).  Yes, we provide the beautiful dances, but the music we are using belongs to someone else (although it probably belongs to the music label, not the artist, not that it changes anything). 

For those of us with a day job, we show up for our eight hours (more or less), and go home with a paycheck. Imagine if you were suddenly working the same hours for half the pay. You'd be pissed. Granted, when you're already making millions of dollars, some might find it hard to be sympathetic, but hopefully you can kind of understand what I'm saying.

It's not just your videos being posted to YouTube, Facebook or Vimeo.  If you are playing music in your pole studio, you owe someone, somewhere money.  We are not allowed to just play music in "public" situations without licensing that music. 

How can you license music to play in your studio

One way to avoid the fee is to search for royalty free music.  However, that will not include the Top 40 hits that most of your students are excited to dance to.  Another way, which is what one studio owner in Canada is doing, is to ask a local, unsigned band to provide original music for your studio.  You will need to sign some paperwork to make sure everyone understands the deal, but there are certainly some amazing bands out there that might be willing to trade their music for some free plugs.

You can also obtain a blanket license through ASCAP -- The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.  They claim to have the world's largest musical repertory.  Although they license millions of songs, you only have the legal right to play the songs on their list.  BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) also offers licences.  Between the two companies, there are a reported 4 million+ songs.  SESAC is another licensing service.  They claim that, "[u]nlike ASCAP and BMI, SESAC utilizes a selective process when affiliating songwriters and publishers, resulting in a roster of affiliates who have personal relationships with the SESAC staff.  In short, SESAC’s creative staff provides affiliated songwriters and publishers with a level of service and attention unparalleled in the industry."  If certain artists have tired of the same ol', same ol' that may be haunting companies like ASCAP or BMI, you may see some jump ship and join SESAC.  And, keep in mind that the fees paid to these companies must be paid every year.  This is not a one-time payment. 

[Did you know that the Happy Birthday song is still copyrighted? Read the saga of that song HERE.]

By the way, licensing the music to play in your studio does not then buy you the rights to post videos with that song on YouTube.  I wish it worked that way but it doesn't.  The internet was a fabulous invention and has made the world a much smaller place.  But it has also presented a huge problem for a lot of artists, whose work can be shared for free on a much larger scale.

I know it's frustrating.  You opened your studio because you love pole dancing, and you are being nickel and dime'd at every turn.  But please make sure you are paying the correct fees to the correct place.  Getting fined after the fact is no joke and will cost you a lot more. 

Do you have any experience with licensing music?  Please feel free to leave tips for those just starting their journey to pole studio ownership!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

January posts for The Pole Dancing Shop

Pole Sport Organization Competitions

As the pole community continues to grow, so do your options if you'd like to compete. A short time ago, in the United States, your competition options were essentially limited to USPDF and APFC. The Midwest competition popped up two years ago and, in 2012, the Pacific Pole Championship was born in California. The brainchild of Amy Guion and Bayleigh Pettigrew, this family of competitions has grown into much more. Known as the Pole Sport Organization, they now host competitions around the United States.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

For the LOVE of Pole

This month, for the blog hop, we are talking about love.  That can mean a lot of things to a lot of people.  I struggle with the concept of love.  I didn't grow up with a super lovey huggy family, so I am not super affectionate and loving.  It's something I struggle with.  Don't get me wrong, I can love me the shit outta some cake, but I have a harder time connecting with people.  I have my public persona and my private persona.  And even in close relationships, I have a hard time letting that private persona out. 

So today, in order to avoid some of my issues, I'll be talking about the love of pole.  I have been struggling in my relationship with the pole.  I am not the strongest in tricks, nor am I experienced as a dancer.  So, I feel like I don't have as much to offer when I perform.  I have worked really hard on my flow and being aware of my arms and legs, so that they look "pretty" when I move them.  But most of my performances are all smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that the most advance pole move I usually do is a back hook spin. When performing in front of non-polers, I can still fairly impress people. 

This weekend was a big one for me in my pole life.

Saturday, Sean Michael took over the Triple Tease (Tricks, Twirls and Transitions) class on Saturday mornings.  I had a really great class.  He is so patient and was able to talk me into moves that I haven't been able to do before.  I also learned some new spins.  And he gave me some exercises to help with strength.  I have a list a mile long of pole goals, but I am starting with basics.  I need a strong climb and a strong sit.  I am really excited to get back into a regular class.  Since starting my job in San Francisco, I haven't been able to go to the Wednesday night class.  I want to feel like I am continuing to learn so that I can teach my Monday night class, Boys, Girls and Twirls, some new moves. 

Saturday night, we set the x-stage up for Robert's fundraiser.  I performed in front of a non-Twirly Girl audience!  I performed in front of family and friends!  It was really cool.  I will write more about that later.  It was a really exciting night, though, and it further solidified my love of pole.

On Sunday, I took a choreography workshop with Amber Richard.  I love that Amber is tall like me, and has really strong and beautiful legs.  In LA, she teaches a class called Rock Hard Bodies.  And she has one.  But she's also still very feminine.  You can tell that she's strong and in amazing shape.  But her muscles aren't so ridiculously pronounced that she looks like a man.  Anyway, we worked on a little routine.  Even though I have a lot of strength to build before I can make my moves look like hers (if I ever do...she has a background in ballet and is way more flexible than I am), I was able to struggle into each of the moves she taught, even if only for a few seconds.

I realize I come on here every six months or so talking about how I've found my motivation, but this time I really do need to stick to a fitness routine, which will help me get stronger for pole.  I did join the 24 Hour Fitness near my house and am going to start hitting up some cycle classes to help get this big ol' legs in shape.  I do love pole dancing.  Even though I have been tired and grumpy lately, I love coming to class and smiling and laughing.  So, for the love of pole, I will stick to my routine so I can meet my goals.  Finally!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Twirling on a Bone Spur

When I started this new job in San Francisco, I started walking a lot more.  I walk to BART (our subway/train system).  I walk to work.  I walk around work more than I did at my old job.  I walk to lunch.  I walk back to BART.  I walk home.  A few months before I started this new job, I hyper-extended my knee in a yoga class.  It was a little bit painful but I just kind of limped around and ignored it for awhile, then went to see Keith (you can read about how I connected the dots HERE).  Keith gave me some exercises and my knee pain went away but the foot pain was becoming increasingly worse.  After a partciularly painful weekend, which included a numb heel, I made an appointment with a podiatrist.

A lot of the advice he gave me was the same or similar to Keith's.  I had already picked up the shoe inserts (although he suggested a different brand than the ones I bought).  Stretches.  Rock tape for the arches of my feet.  The Strassberg sock (right, and all of this stuff costs money, you know, because I'm rolling in it these days).  Rolling my foot on a frozen water bottle.  But here's the barefoot dancing.  What?!  THAT is how I dance!  This doctor basically said that I should have inserts in my freaking house slippers so that I have arch support from the minute I wake up.  I don't wear slippers!  I love to be barefoot! 

Also, I don't just have plantar fasciitis.  I have a bone spur in my heel.  It's pretty pointy and gnarly-looking on the x-ray.  I wish I had taken a picture.  He said he would actually call what I have plantar "fasciosis," because the plantar fascia essentially thickened around that bone spur.  He said the spur is probably something I've had for years and years. 

So, he tells me that getting back to the gym is good but no impact sports.  No running, no stairmaster, no squats or lunges, nothing that requires me to push weight through my heels.  Oh, well that leaves a lot for me to do.  I can do spin/cycling classes and yoga.  I can do water aerobics.  I can still do Twirly Girls (with a taped foot), but I have to be careful about stomping my foot down.  That probably means that Afro-Haitian dance, which is a lot of stomping, is out of the question for awhile.  But my dream of doing Half Dome again (hahah...not really, that hike almost killed me) is dead.  For now at least. 

I did go to Disneyland over the weekend and we walked A LOT.  I taped up my foot really well, put the inserts into my shoes and wore my good aerobic shoes.  I was in a lot less pain than I expected to be.  So, I am hoping with just a little bit of work, I can keep the pain under control.

I joined a brand new 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport that opened near my house.  I had hoped to get back into the swing of the early morning workouts but they changed the schedule and now their cycle classes start too late for me.  So, my plan is to get in there on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for cycle then yoga.  It will make for a long night, but I guess the alternative is sitting in front of the TV eating food.  It also means that I now have things to do after work Monday through Thursday.  I'm tired just thinking of this schedule but I need to make some changes soon or my weight isn't going to change and my pain isn't going to get any better.

Wish me luck!