Pay rise agreed for Stage Managers and Performers in the West End

A significant wage agreement has been finalised between the Equity union and the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), as announced by the latter body.

The contract, valid from April 2023 until April 2026, covers performers and stage managers and details the new pay structures in a comprehensive set of figures, which can be examined in full here.

The wages within the musical theatre industry have always been diverse and are often not directly comparable to those found in other sectors due to the unique characteristics of this profession. Income varies dramatically depending on several key factors, which include the venue’s size and locale, the production’s prestige, the role assumed by the performer, and their prior experience and standing within the industry.

Historically speaking, many musical theatre performers, particularly those in the early stages of their careers or those engaged in smaller-scale productions, have found that their income doesn’t measure up to the average earnings in many other fields. The world of performance arts is intensely competitive, with many artists facing periods of unemployment between gigs and often having to rely on supplementary work to bolster their income.

Furthermore, performers are frequently confronted with expenses not usually encountered in many other professions. These can encompass ongoing education and training, travel expenses associated with auditions and performances, and even the cost of maintaining a specific physical appearance.

According to the figures, performers and assistant stage managers in ‘Category A’ venues, defined as those housing 1,100 seats or more, will receive a minimum pay for eight shows of £838.19 in the 2023-24 period, and £880.10 from 2024 to 2025, marking a significant rise from the previous weekly rates of £768.98 in 2022-2023 and £695 in 2018.

Venues falling under ‘Category B’ (housing between 900 and 1,099 seats) will have a weekly minimum rate for eight shows set at £762.46 for 2023-24, a leap from the 2022-23 rate of £699.50, and a notable increase from the 2018 figure of £632. Meanwhile, “Category C” venues, those with up to 799 seats, will see an eight-show minimum pay of £686.06 for 2023-24, an increase from the prior year’s figure of £629.41.

The rates for the 2025 to 2026 period will be determined closer to the time, with increases to be tied to the Consumer Price Index published in February 2025, plus an additional 0.5%.

The agreement also includes provision for supplementary bonuses, including increases for dance captains to £135 in the West End (up from £120), and increased compensation for understudy performances. Depending on the venue’s capacity, actor-musicians will also see an augmented pay scale.

However, on the upper end of the pay scale, top-tier performers in high-profile Broadway or West End productions can command considerable salaries. These can vastly exceed average wages found in many other industries. Yet, achieving this level of financial success in the industry typically necessitates exceptional talent, comprehensive training, considerable experience, and often, a good measure of luck.

This new wage structure, representing an approximate 16 per cent rise over the next two years, follows threats of strike action from Equity if their wage requirements were not met. Negotiations have been in progress throughout the spring season. This newly established structure represents a nine per cent increase to minimum rates in the first year, followed by five per cent in the second year, and at least two per cent in the third year, subject to the rate of CPI inflation. This equates to a minimum 16.7 per cent increase in wage rates over the next 24 months, as stated by Equity.

In sum, making a direct comparison between the wages of musical theatre performers and those in other industries can be fraught with difficulty due to the unique and varying nature of the performing arts profession. Despite the financial challenges, many pursue this profession out of an abiding passion for the art form.

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