Why The DG Compensation Study Is Important: Change is Needed
We are thrilled to be launching the inaugural Dramatists Guild Compensation Study! As the Guild's first ever wide-ranging study examining the overall experience of a professional theatre writer, we hope to gain better insight into how theatre writers are compensated for their work and the various factors that are either impacted by or may impact the current industry practices.
Over a year in the making, the Dramatists Guild Compensation Study was collectively built by a nine person working group made up of playwrights, lyricists, librettists, and composers across a variety of perspectives and overseen by the Dramatists Guild’s Director of Business Affairs, Jessica Lit, and an outside data analyst. Having such a broad range of voices in the room was instrumental in creating a Compensation Study that addresses as many of the issues facing the professional theatre writer as possible. Some of the things we focused on are:
- The amounts that playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists receive in commissions, royalties, and per diems across various theatre markets;
- Where and how theatre writers are able to supplement their income;
- How to define “career levels” for professional theatre writers;
- The range of percentages of subsidiary rights that theatre companies and producers may request when producing a theatrical work and for how long they request such subsidiary rights participation;
- Whether all levels of the industry are respecting the Dramatists Guild’s Bill of Rights;
- How an individual’s living situation may be impacted by or impacts their career as a theatre writer;
- Whether theatre writers have access to basic needs such as health care, dental care, and mental health services;
- Disparities in treatment and pay amongst theatre writers across a wide scope of demographics; and
- The perception of the Guild’s role in the industry as an advocate for theatre writers.
Armed with this knowledge, the Guild will be able to bolster our advocacy efforts as we work to standardize recommended guidelines for equitable and better treatment for theatre writers industry-wide. In addition, we also hope to use this information to:
- Demystify the conversations about money in our industry;
- Better tailor our resources to serve particular markets and career levels;
- Provide more accurate guidance to our members through our Business Affairs Career HelpDesk on standard compensation;
- Bring awareness to and address disparities in treatment and compensation amongst writers who identify with underrepresented and/or marginalized groups; and
- Dispel preconceived notions on the definition of “success” as a theatre writer.
Most importantly, through this study, we want to give writers like you an opportunity to share your story, voice your concerns about compensation, and tell us what you need to feel more supported in the theatre industry.
We also want to acknowledge that much of the information we are seeking is sensitive and sometimes difficult to discuss, which is why we are offering you a safe space in which to tell your story. Neither the Guild staff nor anyone involved with the analysis of this study will be able to link your email to your responses. We will know whether or not you've participated in the study, so that we can send reminders, but we won't know your specific answers. The only person who will have complete access to the original data is our outside data consultant, who will be bound to strict data privacy and will ensure that we will not receive data that allows us to identify any particular individual.
It’s time to give the theatre industry a wake-up call and rewrite the narrative on what it means to be a successful theatre writer in the United States. We encourage you to take this opportunity to make your voice heard.
The Guild also wants to acknowledge the work that has been done in the field to initiate these conversations, particularly the book Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play, written by Todd London with Ben Pesner and Zannie Giraud Voss and published by Theatre Development Fund.
Should you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.