By Debra Cash
Kylie Minogue has responded to a recent storm of social media outrage — with dancers tweeting out the hashtag #paythedancers and some timely scolding from Paula Abdul, who helped found the Dancers’ Alliance, a union for dancers in Los Angeles with the catchy slogan “the voice behind the movement” — by finally agreeing to pay the Australian dancers who were involved in the making of her latest video and awards show performance.
Originally, the ad placed for the video I Was Gonna Cancel read:
We are looking for talent of all ages between 20-60 years with interesting faces, dancers are preferable but not a must. As our budget is constrained there will be no payment however we are looking to feature as many faces as possible. This will be a great opportunity for exposure.
As we freelancers like to say, you can die from exposure.
Budgets on a commercial project are not comparable to the budget of a working family choosing whether to buy food or medicine. Minogue’s salary for the Australian version of the reality show The Voice has been reported as £600,000, somewhere in the region of £900,000 for the 2015 season.
After the controversy broke, some of the dancers who had made it through the audition were offered $100. I’m not sure if this was just for the video or for the video and the live performance, but apparently the legal minimum in Australia is $200, with the industry standard for that amount of work reported to be $550. (The Dancers Alliance publishes its U.S. rates and working standards here.)
Warner Music Australia, the parent company of this project, is a subsidiary of the Warner Music Group. I wasn’t able to find a break out of the Australian revenues — and the music industry is globalized enough that such numbers would not necessary convey a comprehensive story. However, in February 2014, Warner reported that the revenue in its fiscal first quarter — ending December 31 — was up 6% to US $815 million.
Debra Cash has reported, taught and lectured on dance, performing arts, design and cultural policy for print, broadcast and internet media. She regularly presents pre-concert talks, writes program notes and moderates events sponsored by World Music/CRASHarts and cultural venues throughout New England. A former Boston Globe and WBUR dance critic, she is a two-time winner of the Creative Arts Award for poetry from the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and will return to the 2014 Bates Dance Festival as Scholar in Residence.
C 2014 Debra Cash