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Careers In Culture

Live Performing Arts - What You Need to Know

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Entertain Canada and the World

Canada has a small population, and our artists and performance companies have to develop international audiences to survive financially. Canadian theatre, opera and dance companies, musical groups and circuses market themselves around the globe. Do you love traveling? Do you enjoy talking to people from other cultures? If you're in a live performing arts career, you could find yourself jetting to other countries or working the telephones with your peers around the world.

Technology + Talent = A Great Mix!

Computerization is changing the way many people in live performing arts careers do their work. Specialized software is now commonplace in all aspects of a production. When a company goes on tour, set or lighting designers can email their plans to the venue well in advance of arrival, so that lighting, set and sound plans are in place. A small theatre or dance company can develop their own publicity and marketing materials.

The Internet is creating new performance markets. If you dream of working in the live performing arts, make sure that you keep your computer skills up to date. These may be key to the career of your choice.

It’s a Performance Spectacular!

Dance performances with singing ensembles, circuses with acting, and operas with multimedia – many companies are finding that shows with great talent and a variety of elements are having sell-out performances and creating spin-off touring companies. As these types of performances increase, your career path in the live performing arts could take unexpected routes.

You could be part of a creative team developing a production concept. You may find yourself traveling extensively as a performer or technician. Or you could be a logistics person handling complex touring details. Whatever your role, this trend in live performance means many opportunities for people who want on stage and off stage careers.

The all-round performer

If you’re a performer, you will usually spend years in training to perfect your art. Building your knowledge as a professional by auditioning, researching opportunities and keeping at the top of your form requires a great deal of energy. You may find yourself so immersed in your field of performance that you lose sight of the rest of the world. However, while hard work and discipline must be part of your life, great performances usually come from people who remain curious and connected to other people. By seeking life experiences outside your immediate circle of performance-related friends, you grow as an artist and your art has more depth and content.

Remember to continue exploring your other interests and widening your social circle beyond your work peers. This strategy is vital for all performers, but it is especially important for artists such as dancers as well as for some circus artists whose careers may be limited because of physical demands. Keep connected with the world, and it will provide you with many different opportunities in your field and outside of it.

Needed: arts administrators / managers

Many creative people don't think they'd like business, while many commerce types don't think of culture as a business even though they enjoy the arts. The result? Arts organizations are looking for creative, business-oriented people who love the world of live performing arts. Use the following checklist to determine whether arts administration or management could be the career path for you.

Curiosity Checklist

Do you...

I'm detail-oriented and organized.
I'm good at math and computers.
I'm a persuasive person.
I have great listening, verbal and writing skills.
I meet deadlines.
I like to be in charge and manage others.


Build your skills

Your talent and creativity are what make you a “natural” for a career in live performing arts. But your skills – the knowledge you get from training and experience – are key to finding and getting work in this demanding environment.

Be a Multi-Skilled Worker

Being multi-skilled means that you're versatile and competent in many different work settings. For example, you could be a performer who can act, sing and dance. Or, a choreographer who managers his or her own company. Perhaps you could be a stage manager who can also build sets, coordinate props and write promotional copy. Be multi-skilled and you'll be in demand!

Use Your Transferable Skills

Do you have good communication skills? Are you disciplined? How about your teamwork skills? These types of skills are in demand in every career path. Build these transferable skills and you'll find opportunities open to you no matter what you decide to do!

Copyright: protecting yours and honouring others

If you create a musical, opera or play, then you must learn to protect your copyright. If you perform any work created by others, then you must seek copyright clearance. If your company wants to stage a production of, for example, West Side Story, it must secure “grand” rights: rights to the script, song lyrics and the musical score. If a production is filmed, then it is copyright protected as “mechanical” rights. If your music is recorded, then it can be protected through neighbouring rights agreements. As a creator or live performing arts worker, it is important that you understand copyright issues.

For help learning how to protect or respect copyright, check out these websites:

(ACTRA’s Performers Rights Society)
Administers neighbouring rights and private copying rights for sound recordings.

Formed by Union des artistes, it is a management collective that protects performer member’s rights and royalties.

Canadian Actors' Equity Association

Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights

Creators Rights Alliance
(Especially for international rights)

(International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians and Allied Craftspeople of the United States, Its Territories and Canada)
Union for technical, artisan and craft people in live performing arts, movies and television.

Industry Canada’s information on intellectual property

Administers rights of artists and makers of sound recordings.

(Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada)

(Society for the Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada)

Société de gestion collective des droits des producteurs de phonogrammes et de vidéogrammes du Québec)
Administers rights for Québec owners of master audio and music video recordings.