Guest Blog: Olivia Clark, Georgia State University College of Law, J.D. expected 2016
This Christmas, I was received two tickets to “The Book of Mormon” at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. As a former dancer, I found myself wondering how touring actors in musicals are compensated, and how payment structures may have changed over the years.
As I learned, the traditional payment model, now much coveted, is the production contract. These contracts offer a fixed salary for actors. They receive a daily stipend and have no requirement to spend it. However, nowadays this type of contract is available for performers in only the most successful touring productions, such as “The Book of Mormon” or “Wicked.” What are the options for other, smaller productions?
In 2004, the Actors’ Equity Association (“AEA”) addressed the increasing number of touring productions offering non-union contracts to actors by introducing the Short Engagement Touring Agreement (“SETA”). Now, more touring shows are able to employ unionized performers by moving towards the SETA model to pay actors. With this form of payment, actors make a variable amount of money based on how many seats are filled in the theatre. Performers have the potential to make salaries comparable to those available in production contracts if the house is full, although performing for a full theatre every night on tour is highly unlikely. The AEA insists that SETA contracts do not replace production contracts, but only non-union contracts.
Fortunately for audiences, the SETA model does not greatly affect ticket prices. However, there are other issues to consider. Do the more talented actors turn away from productions with SETA contracts? Or are performers with SETA contracts incentivized to work harder with the added pressure to fill seats? Regardless, the AEA claims that the availability of SETA contracts is responsible for increasing the number of touring workweeks, thus providing more financial security for more touring performers.
Are you a touring actor in a production? How are you compensated? Comment below to start a dialogue, and contact The Seay Firm LLC if you have any specific questions.