BY LOGAN CULWELL-BLOCK
If you’ve ever wondered how much your favorite Broadway artists earn for the work they do, you’re in luck. Thanks to public standard union contracts, we know what the base salary is for Broadway performers, stage managers, and musicians.
These minimum rates are only for professionals on Broadway and are calculated by the week since, unlike other vocations who report annual salaries, artists will not necessarily be employed by their Broadway show for a full year.
Data for actors and stage managers comes from Actors’ Equity. These figures are valid as of October 2, 2017, and are scheduled to remain through September 29, 2018, after which most of these rates will increase slightly. Musician pay rates comes from Local 802. Their rates are valid as of March 2018 and are scheduled to remain through March 3, 2019.
The current minimum salary for an Equity performer on Broadway is $2,034 a week. But that figure can increase depending on the particular demands of any given track. For instance, a chorus role or specialty adds $20 to that weekly minimum, which is more or less standard across the board for Broadway ensembles these days. Performers can also get a $20 weekly extra if the union determines an “extraordinary risk” in what is being asked of the actor, and $8 more if a performer is asked to move set pieces.
Understudying roles also comes with additional pay. Swings, who understudy multiple ensemble tracks, earn $101.70 over the performer minimum, or $15 if a performer is only a partial swing. Understudying principal roles can add $54.50 to the weekly salary, while understudying chorus roles adds $15.
Musicals will also designate performers as dance captains, who are tasked with knowing all of the show’s choreography and ensuring it continues to be performed as it was originally set. Serving as a dance captain adds $406.80 to the weekly salary, while assistant dance captains add $203.40. If a production calls for a fight captain to maintain fight choreography, that performer adds $75 to their weekly salary.
Another interesting way an actor’s base salary can increase is by agreeing to a one-year rider, essentially saying that the performer will remain with a production for an entire year. For the first six months of that agreement, the performer earns an extra $80 weekly, which becomes $40 for the second six months. At the end of the year, assuming the performer has indeed remained with the production, they get a $2,600 bonus.
The base weekly salary for a stage manager working on a Broadway musical is $3,342 a week, or $2,872 for a play.
Assistant stage managers make a minimum of $2,649 weekly for a musical and $2,347 for a play. Some musicals also have a second assistant stage manager, who gets a minimum weekly salary of $2,272.
Due to the nature of being a professional musician, instrumentalists on Broadway have found it works well to have a creatively flexible work environment that allows them to sometimes play other gigs in addition to playing in the pit of their Broadway show; a skilled substitute musician, who is trained on the show’s score and approved by the conductor, plays in their place when the chair-holder is out. Because of this, a musician’s pay can vary dramatically week to week.
Focusing on the contractual weekly base pay for a musician, which assumes all shows are played by the same musician, the weekly wage for a Broadway musician is $1,885.77. If a musician performs (or “doubles”) on multiple instruments, each additional instrument increases their base salary. The first addition earns the player $235.72extra a week, with $117.86 more for each additional instrument played.
The base weekly salary for a conductor on Broadway is $3,300. Their associate conductor makes a minimum of $2,451.50.
There are also some other situations in which musicians may be required to assume additional responsibilities or make an additional time commitment, which can result in an increase in the base pay. If the orchestra is required to be onstage, they get an additional $91.67 a week. If they’re in costume or have to perform any choreography, that’s an additional $61.13 for each. If they’re required to wear body paint, that increases the weekly salary by $88.62. The first chair trumpet player also gets an extra $100 a week.
Logan Culwell-Block is a musical theatre historian, Playbill’s manager of research, and curator of Playbill Vault. @loganculwell
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