Good Things Come To Those Who Hustle
When I started this blog over a year ago I had grand ideas of how quickly it would grow and how many people I would be reaching, how much impact I would have on performers. The one problem was…
Nobody knew about the blog!
I had no readers, let alone any subscribers, I really needed to start getting the word out. I needed to target somewhere that performers were already hanging out online, but I couldn’t think of any places, until my girlfriend suggested The Hustle!
“The Hustle…” I asked, “what’s that?”
Now you’ll have to forgive me, I had never come across this cave of wonders before. Little did I know that I was about to stumble upon a thriving community of performers whose sole purpose was the promotion and support of its members. Not a money making scheme riding off the back of struggling performers but a pure, honest, member driven community, warts and all!
Currently at over 19,000 members and growing The Hustle Facebook Group is a real treasure trove for performers, they have headshot photographers, flat listings, promotional job offers, and a plethora of experienced members ready to give their advice on everything from contracts to auditions.
But who is the Hustler behind The Hustle, what makes him tick and what other projects does he have his hand in?
Well, lets ask him, shall we!
What is The Hustle, When did you start it and Why?
I created the Hustle over 4 years ago. I had just moved to London from NYC, where there is a strong dance community and all the auditions are posted in a weekly newsletter, available to all. Everything was transparent and we would encourage each other to attend auditions/castings together.
At one of my many cattle calls here in the London, trying to meet new people, I was sharing information on another audition I was going to later that day. People stopped me, and said, “Why are you telling them, it’s more competition?” However naïve, I responded, “I want to book an audition because I’m right for the job, not because I prevented others from auditioning.” I know, so American.
I think I was one of the lucky ones. I worked straight out of school, with amazing people who shared all of their vast knowledge of the business with me. I was a nobody, wet behind the ears and barely talented. I asked, “Why are you guys helping me?” Response, “Because I was helped and he was helped and you’ll help someone when you get old!” I will always remember that.
So, instead of moaning about the business, together with 20 of my best friends, we created The Hustle, a place where we shared ideas, auditions, discounts, current events etc. Creating a Dance Community in the UK. I created this group to spread the LOVE, COMPASSION, SUPPORT and FOOD to the amazing people I’ve met here in London!
What do you feel makes The Hustle special?
On paper, it is a place where you can find a home, a job, auditions, agents, head shots, massage therapists, classes, to name a few. But the Hustle is so much more than that. It is special because it is always evolving. It’s special in it’s imperfections. It’s success is weighed solely by the people that it represents.
It will always be free, and simple. I love seeing strangers helping each other, I love seeing friends suggest each other for castings, I love seeing people debate on issues, agreeing to disagree, it shows passion. I love seeing choreographers and teachers promote their work, and how they’ve grown. I love seeing up and coming photographers and massage therapists build a clientele through our group, growing their businesses.
It has grown organically into an amazing forum, with amazing voluntary contributors, where you can ask questions and get advice. It is the perfect window into the dance industry today and is an incredible resource for dance organisations too.
If you could magically give all The Hustle members one thing, what would that be and why?
I wish all professional dance work lived up to DUUK rates and standards, and all payments were made in full and in a timely manner. But, it’s not so much “magic”, since it is expected practice in all the other fields of work. Why? So we can actually focus on our training, marketing, and auditions.
If you could ask your community members one thing and get an answer from all of them, what would that question be?
What do you think it takes to be a successful dancer?
I would share their answers with all the educational institutions in the country, because the business has changed and so should the curriculum.
Who are some of the top contributors or most active members of The Hustle?
Megan-Louise Preston: Dance-London & Awareness for Dance.
We share the same philosophy to build a community. I am really excited to be collaborating with Dance-London to bring the INSPIRE School Workshops, an industry intensive workshop aimed towards aspiring professional dancers, to universities and colleges all over the UK.
Farouk Bhimji: Talent Cast.
His was the original facebook group. He is so in tune with the dance industry and is always available to offer insight and guidance. Then there’s Talent Cast, no words necessary.
Shannelle Fergus: Dancers United & Zoonation.
Simple. Created a dialogue with Equity to help support dancers and creating the DUUK Minimum Rates: I use these rates when discussing budgets with producers. I may not always be successful, but each call is an opportunity to make a positive change.
Stuart Bishop: Love Rudeye.
He has always offered career advice from an agents point of view. He’s also been leading the way in improving the Commercial Dance Industry gaining some influential allies along the way, there will be exciting times in 2015.
What are some of the hot topics that seem to always be discussed within the group and where do you stand?
It mostly relates to low pay/no pay Jobs. I am very passionate, and somewhat opinionated about this, so I will break it into 2 parts. ‘No Pay’ which I call “VOLUNTEER” and ‘Low Pay’ which I call “NON-UNION”. This is what we use in the US.
As dancers, gaining experience, footage and working with amazing choreographers, we have all volunteered, and I will probably continue to do so. As a freelance dancer, building your career, you also must create your own rules and regulations for yourself, that includes what projects you’d submit to or volunteer for. Personally, I always follow the money. For example, if I want to VOLUNTEER for a choreographer, I make sure they will make no money on the project. If the project is aired on TV, I would NEVER VOLUNTEER, no matter what exposure I might get, because I will be replacing a PAID position. That is bad for business and the Industry itself. Again, each individual must create their own rules and regulations.
Here’s the “Big Picture”, if you VOLUNTEER to shoot a music video for a well-known artist, that specific record company, who will shoot 100’s of videos each year, will think they don’t need to pay dancers. RESULT: We’ve lost the market in Music Videos.
Non Union work will always exist in the dance industry all over the world. I’m talking about the £10+ an hour jobs, AKA £80-£150 per shoot day. But, as you can see, there is such a huge range of options, that don’t reach the DUUK, £250 per shoot rate. If we can get together and create a standardised NON-UNION Rate, there will be less confusion, sending a message to the community that this is what is to be expected to hire Professional Dancers in our industry, no ifs, and’s or buts!
It would be amazing if all the Dance Organisations could get together and create a monitoring system, to enforce these standards.
For someone brand new to The Hustle how do they get the most out of it?
At this point, all you need to do is follow the feed. We have so many contributors now, creating a mutually beneficial relationship. There is a search option, once you’re in the private group, which is highly underutilised. Just type a subject, a Hustler, or a key word, and you’ll automatically see the most recent posts first.
Hopefully, in time, you’ll want to contribute as well, for the benefit of our Community & our Industry.
How has the work you do (outside of The Hustle) helped you grow the community? How has The Hustle helped you with the work you do outside the group?
The Hustle has been a great tool for all of us, including myself. It has helped me find dance work, gain contacts in the Industry, and also gave me the opportunity to be asked to manage Dancers Pro.
With Dancers Pro I’ve been given the platform, resources, and support to really make an impact. I speak with producers and casting directors every day. I meet with Dance Organisations and Industry Leaders. I support emerging and established dancers, choreographers and teachers. I am humbled by the kind words from the performers on the Hustle and I realise the responsibility I now have with Dancers Pro, to all dancers, regardless of Membership.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing performers in the UK? What would your advice be?
The biggest challenge facing performers in the UK is the decreasing amount of good paid work in the industry. This could be the only industry where the average pay rates are lower than 10 years ago. The reality is that we are all to blame, collectively.
With the popularity of Dance Reality TV, more and more Dance training institutions have popped up all over the country. Combined with established institutions accepting more applicants, due to growth and/or updated facilities, the amount of graduating “Professional” dancers is growing considerably larger with each passing year.
Then there are the Agents, and the “Exclusivity” question. You have all known Agents monopolizing on projects, but this is foreign to us from the US. Basically, taking the power away from Agents and into the hands of the Producers, whose main goal is to get the most, for the least. Outcome: bidding war between Agents and everyone loses. Solution: Bring back “Exclusivity” to the Commercial Dance Industry forcing Agents to retake control, relinquish their monopoly and represent the Dancer. No more out bidding and the fee is agreed by all Agents. I have to give credit to Farouk for this idea.
Finally, us! We have a responsibility to individually do our part to make a change. All of you who are privileged to be working on a DUUK Minimum Rates project have the obligation to conduct yourself with utmost professionalism. Producers are confused and can’t see the difference between paying £150 vs. £250 for a shoot in regards to the Dancers. (This is the feedback I get from speaking to producers everyday to increase their daily rates.) Represent the reason, why they should continue maintaining this budget, and hopefully increasing it for next year. This does not mean you act the fool on “low pay” projects though!
Collectively, education, representation and performance, is the only way we can make a difference
What is your biggest frustration about the business of being a performer?
It would be amazing if we didn’t have to fight so much. Competition is healthy and should be respected, especially throughout our training, as it is the nature of the business. I’m actually talking about after you’ve booked the gig.
Either they’ve had budgetary obstacles and your rate has now been reduced or you’re still waiting….3-6 months, then begins the fight to get paid. Unanswered calls and no emails; who has enough time to take class, attend auditions, part time work, dance work, and now, collections agency too? I wish we never had these moments of helplessness in an industry that we devote most our lives to. I wish the public knew what we all had to give up pursuing our dreams. Then again, maybe that’s why most people… don’t.
On brighter note, I have absolutely no regrets. But, maybe I’m one of the lucky ones.
What are some of the best resources you know of to help performers with the business?
The best resources are the “seasoned” dancers in the business. It would be amazing if there was more of a dialogue between them and recent graduates.
There are great online resources on Talent Cast, Dancers Pro & The Hustle for performers. DanceUK have great resources for Choreographers. The IDTA/RAD/ISTD all have great resources for Dance Teachers. In a perfect world we could all collaborate, share information, and provide a better service to the Dance Community. Actually, that’s a great idea…