2017 was without a doubt a BOOMING year for the Pomba Girls. We put together immersive experiences for over 20 events in and around London (triple our previous year). This in turn has lead to a company expansion, leading to the launch of Pomba Girls Performer Agency, that will enable us to better to promote our artists to some of London's top event agencies.
However, despite record activities in 2017, the start of 2018 has been frustrating for me as Boss Pomba, owing to financial pot holes within the Pomba bank account.
One especially deep hole hails from a club event that happened over summer, which STILL .....(somehow?!).....HAS NOT BEEN PAID!
This mis-payment did not go ignored by myself. Over the past six months I have repeatedly chased the promoter in question via email, text and calling both his mobile & office number. Excuses ranged from work absence owing to a personal trauma he suffered after a friend overdosed at Secret Garden Party, to the classic - “Soz love- I’ll go to the bank tomorrow” (nothing deposited).
Not receiving this payment has left a gaping hole in the Pomba Girls 2017 cashflow that buggered up our marketing budget for Christmas events, and not to mention put an even bigger hole in my own back pocket from where the Pomba Girl performers were paid from.
Six months since the event I’m feeling impoverished, frustrated and seriously disempowered as a result (not ideal considering I need to smash things on a whole new level to reach my 2018 targets!)
I am tempted to blacken the name of this promoter using the Pomba Girls network, and fire up a rant against the club industry in general- exposing it as a drug fuelled playground that revolves around massaging male egos, wherein women are treated like objects to be seen and not heard or more importantly PAID. In truth, the is no denying that some parts of the club industry are run like this. However, there are also those (an ever growing number) that are not. And it’s for these ones we must fight for, because in my experience as – as a dancer - turned cultural researcher – turned business women- there is nothing more empowering than uniting, transforming and unleashing energy on the dance-floor as a troupe of female performers at a clubnight.
So this article is a CALL TO ARMS for every Pomba Girl to get on board and fight for our rights as performers for club-nights!
Even if they are still predominantly run by the boys, there is no denying female performers can gain a lot from club-nights. It is empowering for us to enhance the party experience for punters who desire to be immersed in a world of beauty, fantasy and escapism. It is inspiring to create performance in collaboration with DJs who boss the bass out the sound system with the casual authority equivocate to an indigenous tribal leader armed with a drum. Nightclubs can also be a safe space for Pomba Girls to explore and unleash aspects of our own sexuality, which is both liberating and empowering. Beyond all of this, the club industry is a place where we can generate MONEY!
No denying it is an industry driven by the consumption of money, wherein girls play a direct role in propelling this consumption and therefore if we play the game right there is opportunity for us to get rich as a result.
The challenge girls, is in selling ourselves into the industry in a way which commands respect from the boys running it. I put clear gender distinctions up here owning to my personal experience - in 2017 100% of the club promoters I cut deals with were male and 100% of the performers I hired for club work as dancers/ immersive performers were female. And trust me negotiating sales with club promoters is not easy.
Part of the problem is that the club scene revolves around an informal relationship between buyers and sellers that requires careful juggling to retain professional standards. Communication is often bounced via social media, meetings happen in bars over cocktails and the relationship played out between promoter and performer is one that is always excessively friendly, at times bordaline flirtatious. Whilst this sales approach may appear a far stretch from the stiff pragmatics of the corporate world (or perhaps not?), it is one that can be very effective. Firstly given that social media is a platform where promoters are always plugged into, communicating via it makes things more immediate. And as it is the nightlife experience we are selling, bouncing ideas around in that environment over a cocktail can be stimulating and productive. Finally, I would dare to say that my own friendly, (uh hum) flirtatious mannerisms do play a role in convincing club promoters that I can provide them with sexy, confident girls who are guaranteed to help their punters have more FUN!
So whilst all of the above should be allowed to continue, there still must come a point wherein we formally lock down what we are committing to and the terms of and conditions we abide by. In laymen’s terms – a contract.
Not once has a club promoter sent me a contract when booking a Pomba Girls activity at an event. This is not because they are trying to flinch me, but I imagine because contacts are a hassle to write and given that so few performers will bother to ask for one, why would they bother to write one?
Therefore girls it is our job to request contracts, or better still write them ourselves. Keep it simple – pinning down exactly what you expect as a performer, be clear on your timings, know your price and payment date – then ping it over and get them to sign it. Ka-CHING!
If signing and sending back to you beforehand is too much hassle for a promotor to juggle amongst those many balls, then at least ensure you have clearly stated in writing (ideally via email) these terms before committing to the job. By holding a promoter accountable to the activity means you will not get a 4am request to dance an extra hour because the headline DJ got pushed back and they need support in keeping the “vibe up” (and no a free shot at the bar - does not substitute an extra hour of work!)
Payment wise - in an ideal world we would request all or at lease 50% of the money in advance of the gig. This is how performer bookings run around the rest of the events industry so it irritates me when clubs refuse to conform here (especially as performers we often need to invest vast amounts in costumes prior to the event). Generally speaking cash is handed out on the night....at the end of the night. Or if you opt to get out of there "early" and go the invoice route then you could not seeing the money deposited for months on end.
- So girls, can we insist on getting our act together here?!
Let's decide together what payment process we are opting for (leave comments below for suggestions) then lets stick to our guns about getting them!
Certainly my 2018 mission will be to push for the rights of the Pomba Girls performers within the club industry, something which I hope will make all of us richer as a result!
My first challenge, will of course be chasing up the money owed to me by the promoter in question. Thankfully I have all the emails & bank statements filed as evidence, so I am armed and ready to fight for every penny I was promised.
And when he does pay up (and believe me he will), I aim to re-invest the cash into Pomba Girls launching our own club-night,. because if we are serious about using the club industry to get rich - we might as well take charge of it ourselves- right?
Text by Emma Symes, founder of Pomba Girls
To apply to become apart of the Pomba Girls Performer Agency email: firstname.lastname@example.org.