How much do West End performers earn compared with Broadway?
We've crunched the data available
Almost five years ago, we hopped into an analysis of West End and Broadway pay to see whether any disparity lay between London and New York. As might be expected, there was something of a gap between the two locations.
But half a decade (and a few lockdowns) later, how have things changed? While average pay may well sit above union-agreed minimums, it's worth using agreed rates as a straightforward means of comparison. Given the newly-launched Equity campaign about pay, it's useful to provide a bit of context...
Now, it goes without saying that these are two very different economies – the cost of living in New York is radically different to London, while ground rents can often be considerably higher in Manhattan. As such, a pound-for-pound comparison between locations comes with some pretty major caveats.
Recent data has also said that the average ticket price on Broadway in 2022 is $113.29 (£91.11, according to Statista), while the average West End ticket price in 2019 was £52, though that figure may have risen slightly since then.
Here we go!
Actors' Equity Association on Broadway locked in a new contract in December, setting the minimum weekly salary for actors on Broadway at $2,323 (£1,871 at today's exchange rate), with that figure set to increase to $2,638 by 2024.
Those in the West End are, as has been reported, about to embark on a new set of pay negotiations so lagging behind by a few months. Even so, we've gone by the current standings (set to remain until April 2023). In the West End, pay bands are broken into three categories, based on capacity and whether performers are doing an eight- or 12-show minima week.
"Category A" venues (featuring 1,100 or more seats) have an eight-show minima pay of £768.98 weekly rate (up from £695 in 2018), with that figure rising to £900.36 for a 12-show minima.
"Category B" venues (with between 900 and 1099 seats) have an eight-show minima weekly rate of £699.50 (up from £632 in 2018), with a 12-show minima of £818.49.
"Category C" venues (up to 799 seats) have an eight-show minima of £629.41 with a 12-show minima of £736.65.
There are also additional bonuses for dance captains (£120 in the West End) and for understudy appearances (£22 for a "supporting" role, £35 for leading/principal roles). Actor-musicians also have an increased rate of pay, ranging from £867 to £937 depending on venue capacity.
The disparity between the West End and Broadway feels pretty stark.
In the West End, head of department stage managers see a minimum weekly pay for an eight-show minima of between £759.41 (Category C venues) and £898.98 (Category A venues). However, the vast majority of those working in the West End are largely classed as sitting in the assistant stage manager band – who have an equal rate to the performer ones listed above.
Trying to find new data for Broadway has been tricky –in 2018 the figure was a minimum weekly salary of $3,342 (£2,349) a week for a musical, or $2,872 (£2,018) for a play. So, if we factor in some rises since then, the gap is still particularly wide.
The Musicians' Union pay rates are currently set until October 2023, and can vary depending on how many instruments an individual is utisiling (this is known as doubling, trebling or quadrupling). Pay rates begin at £1,104 per week for once-nightly performances, whereas weekly quadrupling can raise as high as £1,922 for twice-nightly performances.
Again, getting the Broadway League data is a bit trickier, but if we take the 2018 figures and increase them at a 3.5% YOY average (a percentage increase agreed during the 2019 pay negotiations), the figure is around $2091 per week. Again, there are additional bonuses for doubling or trebling. So here the disparity is not as great, but still notable.