Bar drags have been paid around $100 for four songs for more than three decades. A ridiculously low fee according to various artists, who invest large sums in their costumes and in the preparation of their numbers.
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Barbada says salaries have barely budged in his 17-year career. “In the beginning, I was paid $25 a song at Cabaret Mado on the weekends. Today it’s $150 for four songs. My salary has gone up, but a drag from there can be up to $125. At the Cocktail, it’s $100. »
Considering herself poorly paid, Aizysse Baga affirms that Quebec drags to invest more than in other places. “In the United States and other parts of Canada, drag queens are highly tipped, which is rare in Quebec. However, much less clothing is changed there than here. »
The popularity of drag shows on television has also raised public expectations. “We want to stand out, but when you put on a $500 suit, it takes a long time to get it back,” reveals Wendy Warhol.
Nobody is forced to invest so much. But since the competition is high, it’s not necessarily $25 looks that will make you stand out.
Fees are far from the standards of the Union des artistes, which requires at least $150 per performance. “That said, the bars have a share of risk, advances RV Metal. Since I have a production box, I understand the problems. They don’t want it to cost them money to produce an evening. »
However, the drag king deplores investing in “volunteering” early in his career. “There is an unwritten law that to be part of the community, you have to participate in a competition that lasts several weeks without payment. »
What do employers say?
“The fees have always been small,” says Michel Dorion, co-owner of the Le Cocktail bar. I’ve been dragging for 34 years and was making $100 for four songs at the time. »
He remembers that his establishment has long been hosting five nights of free shows a week. “We were flush at the end of the year,” he said. For a few years, entrance fees helped him, but only halfway.
must increase a lot [les frais d’entrée] give artists a fee to cover their expenses, but I don’t think bars can maintain the same frequency of performances.
However, Michel Dorion is considering a salary increase as Cabaret Mado increased his rates. “The trawls are not paid enough, argues Mado Lamotte for his part. I raised the wages a bit recently. And we have increased the entrance fee in the past. »
A la carte expenses
If fees are in question, so are expenses. In fact, a drag queen who works five nights a week will be able to monetize her costumes and perform certain numbers more than once, unlike a colleague who works once a month and wants to change her pace each time. “It is more profitable for those who work almost daily”, emphasizes Mado Lamotte.
On the other hand, if a drag invests colossal sums, the return on investment is more uncertain. “When a drag girl spends $2,000 on a costume because she wants to be the prettiest, she ends up paying to come to work,” Mado illustrates.
RV Metal reminds us that time is worth money. “When you create your costume, it costs the materials and it takes hours of work. It’s hard to live with that. It’s not for nothing that most drag performers have another job. »
So why continue?
To find out, tell us about the interviewees. “Drags can be created in an environment on a regular basis,” responds Michel Dorion. Others speak of a business card. “You can’t do bars just for the money,” says Wendy Warhol. It’s more of a way to be seen. It ends up giving us opportunities elsewhere. »
Aizysse Baga agrees. “Working in clubs allows you to stay in the game. I have no choice but to play in bars. This is often where people see me to offer me other contracts. “She takes advantage of mandates outside the clubs so that they pay her decently. “I was taught never to charge less than $100 per number in this context. »
Get out of the bars
There is general agreement that private contracts can pay huge dividends. “That’s why some drag performers who participated in RuPaul’s Drag Race stop performing in bars, Barbada says. We can do a $1,000 contract that will replace 10 club nights. »
Although he hardly touches them anymore, he does not abandon them. “This is where we introduce ourselves. I can’t tell people to come see me at Jean and Luc’s wedding that I’m organizing. »
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