USDJA Industry Education: Adult Entertainment 101
In the United States, there are approximately 70,000 bars and nightclubs, and of those, an estimated 4,000 clubs are classified as "adult" or "exotic" clubs which provide male or female, partial or full nudity.* On average, adult nightclubs make more revenue per night than traditional restaurants or bars* - however, the pay, job security, family concerns, and general drama of working in an adult club may make you think twice about giving up high paying weddings or corporate events on Friday and Saturday nights.
Typical Pay: This isn't a get rich quick job.... $100-$300 per shift is about average, with the club paying you $10-$40/hr and the dancers throwing in about $10-20 each per shift (unless they are new and don't know better or they skip out without tipping you before you leave). Some DJs we interviewed have walked out with less than $50 on a day shift. An occasional $50 or $100 bill from a drunk patron (a/k/a strip club customer) or bachelor party host might make it your way - if the DJ booth is visible and if you can work patron requests into the mix. You'll make more money as an independent subcontractor, but will have to account for your own taxes and insurances. Some states now require DJs in adult clubs to be on the payroll*. Pay will vary based on amount of equipment required, your ability to create a good rapport with patrons and dancers and club management, and experience.
Shift Length: A typical shift is 5-8 hours for a DJ, expect most clubs to be open 7:00pm - 2:00am (depending on local regulations), some clubs have daytime hours but don't expect too many dancers or clients to be there. You might be playing for nothing or a small hourly fee (or tips only) during the day. Accept daytime work at your own risk!
Pay Type/Taxes/Benefits: Some clubs keep "loose" books and pay in cash. It doesn't mean that you are not responsible for claiming the money on your taxes. Reputable clubs will either give you a check or ask you to endorse a check and give you cash that night, but will also treat you as a subcontractor and send you an annual 1099-Misc form. As most clubs will not consider a DJ an employee, they will also not provide you with benefits, leave, worker's compensation, disability, or withhold tax funds from your earnings.
Equipment: Most clubs will have their own sound and light equipment, including turntables or DJ controllers and many will have everything you need in the DJ booth - including computers and a music library with dedicated folders for each girl's (or guy's) favorite song requests. You may feel more comfortable bringing your own controller and laptop - just be sure to do a site visit and ensure you have proper connectors/cables and the club is okay with you bringing your own gear and music library.
Insurance: As stated above, don't necessarily expect to be considered a "W-2" employee of the club (unless required because you do not have your own business or as required for local, state, or union regulations. Therefore, you will want to obtain your own commercial liability insurance and your own medical and property insurance as well to cover unexpected illness or property loss. The risk of your equipment causing injury is low, as the club is usually providing the sound and lights, but your laptop could fall 10 feet onto a patron's head and you could end up with a pricey lawsuit. Better safe than sorry to have some insurance!
How the CLUB Makes Money: Almost all adult clubs charge a "cover charge" or "door fee" to guests of the club. Sometimes this fee is moderate ($5-$10), and in cases of all-nude clubs could be as much as $20-$40 in addition to a "membership fee". Don't worry, there's no hard test to pass the membership exam - just another $20-$30 on average to get you a plastic card granting you the honor of entry. In addition to the fee at the door, the club makes money off the sale of drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic depending on state/local regulations), and sometimes a portion of a dancer's tips or private dances and VIP areas (lap dances, VIP room entry, bottle service, etc.).
How the DANCERS Make Money: First, a helpful hint... always refer to the entertainers as "dancers" no matter if you are on the microphone or just talking to your friends outside the club. Pole or exotic dancing is a skilled art (if you disagree - give it a try), and the staff appreciates respectful commentary on and off the microphone - anger the dancers or owners at a club, and you'll be quickly looking for another gig. Okay, back to the topic. The dancers make money from..... [wait for it] .....dancing. On a pole, exotically, with another dancer, on (or near) a client's lap, sometimes on a client's face, or simply by talking to patrons and providing attention to someone looking for temporary companionship or a glimpse of fine-formed men or women, while celebrating a divorce, birthday, retirement, or bachelor/bachelorette party. Dancers used to be primarily subcontractors, but recent court rulings have indicated that they should be employees entitled to minimum base wages*.
How a DJ Makes Money: Another helpful hint... Club owners and managers are two separate entities in most clubs, so the first advice is to get all agreements in writing (text, email, contract) regarding your pay. You'll want to ensure you get paid nightly and the person paying you (manager, bartender, or even the closing bouncer) may not know what deal you struck with the owner. You're not likely to get a full blown contract like you would with Dan & Sue's wedding next year. Have a simple form ready to fill out for all bars or clubs you entertain at, which has the club's name, manager's/owner's name, and pay rate (hourly or nightly) for the nights you plan to work. You should also indicate in writing if you want more money on holidays or weekends. Have the club representative sign and date it for your records. As your popularity and experience at a club increases, it is fair to ask for small increases in pay every 6-12 months. Be careful though not to price yourself out of the job, as there will always be a less-experienced DJ looking to see a free show and make a few bucks on a weekday night as well. In addition to your flat fee, you can also earn tips from the dancers and occasional "handouts" from the customers. Tips will vary and should not be expected, but if your dancers have a good night, expect that they may share the love with the DJ and bartenders as well. If you are able to draw your own crowd, you should add the value of regular patrons to your pay. If you are getting $250/night, but are bringing 10 guys/girls every night you work, ask for at least an extra $50-$100 for that value to the club.
Marketing to New Clients: Sound good so far? Let's get some work... Decent clubs can keep the same DJ for years, so don't expect a good job to just jump out at you. Just like broadcast radio, you'll need to work your way up the "strip club ladder" - which might not be for everyone. The best way to market is to "pound the pavement" and jump into a club either at a time when you know they won't have a DJ playing, or just pop in to provide the manager with your business card and a flyer or folder with some fair salary/fee expectations. You can also find work (or solicit work from) industry message boards, Craigslist, or local newspapers. Use extreme care in how much information (your name, company name, phone number, email) you plaster for all of eternity on the Internet or in newspapers.
7 Things YOU NEED to Know...
1. The Dancers & Club Staff Are Your Clients: You are there to introduce dancers to their stage (see tip #3), promote the club's specials, and provide good music. That's it! You are entertaining the dancers and keeping an upbeat atmosphere, the dancers are entertaining the patrons - check your ego at the door. If you truly want to entertain patrons - get a job at a traditional nightclub or host a house party. As with most jobs, refrain from dating or even "hooking up" with any employee or dancer, as the club management will usually side with the people making them money and not those that are charging them money, if a relationship turns ugly.
2. You're Not Superman: Fights and elevated tension between patrons, dancers, and staff are common when you introduce nudity, alcohol/drugs, lots of cash, ego, testosterone, and current or ex-boyfriends or girlfriends (imagine the Jerry Springer Show). Know what to do if something goes bad - discuss an evacuation plan or how to handle certain situations with the head bouncer or lead security officer. Typically, you should notify the staff if you see something about to get out of hand, but do not get involved! You could end up injured, sued, or even dead if you put yourself in the middle of the action. There's plenty of paid security staff at the club for a reason - watch their back and they'll watch yours! In an emergency (fire, shooting, large brawl, etc.) turn off the music and direct people out of the venue immediately. Do your best to communicate the emergency, but also make sure to get out yourself! Don't try to be a hero!
3. Get To Know The Staff & Dancers: If you are new to the club, make sure to arrive at the same time as the dancers for the shift (day or night) that you'll be working. Introduce yourself, get a list of names and their favorite songs. Be sure to get a copy of the "schedule" or "line-up" so you know who is dancing on each stage. Be sure to know what stages and areas of the club are open (see next tip).
4. The Club Flow: Most clubs are set up with a few stages. A dancers usually starts a set on the "Main Stage" and after her (or his) song, moves to a side stage. There may be two or more side stages depending on how big or how busy the club is on any given day. Your job is primarily to announce what dancer will be moving to each stage. "Coming up on the Main Stage is the lovely Barbie and the beautiful Cindy will move to the side stage!"... "Jackie is off of the side stage guys and ready to dance for you!" This job is part radio announcer, and part air-traffic controller. Keep a pencil handy, because you'll lose dancers to the VIP room and private dances, and then have to start calling "audibles" and/or skipping dancers from the stages (ask the manager or dancers the proper protocol for skipping a dancer - some clubs will say missing dancers lose their turn, some will allow them to jump back into the rotation).
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strip_club for a decent education in a club's operation. Or just stop by sometime if you are a virgin of strip clubs. Pay attention to the announcements and staff's various duties. Your "training" visit may be tax deductible - ask your CPA.
5. Get Ready For Drama: Everyone we spoke to first mentions the DRAMA! Cat fights, rumors, trash talking/stalking, dancers and patrons high as a kite, etc... This isn't a great place to work if you have a jealous significant other - even if they say they are not bothered, assume they have some level of jealousy or negative feelings towards your job. You'll see fights, drug use, drunk people galore, illegal sex acts (tricks), solicitation, drug/prostitution busts, and that might just be your first night! This is not the place for people with addictions, self-esteem issues, or anyone who can't keep their mind focused on the task at hand (playing requests and making announcements). If you have morality issues with the industry, you probably didn't even make it this far down the page - but there is that issue as well.
6. What Happens in the Club, Stays in the Club: Put away your phone - no photos/videos/selfies, tweets, live feeds, or other forms of communication that could expose too much of a dancer or patron. Most clubs will confiscate any phones in sight, this applies to you too. Don't assume you are the first to try to use your laptop as a video recorder - you're not. There is probably a hidden (or exposed) video camera in the DJ booth - so keep it professional. What happens here stays here! Don't mention seeing any celebrities, friends or family members to anyone you might know - not everyone wants their attendance to be publicized. That said, don't expect that you won't be called out or looked down upon by those that have morality concerns with adult clubs generally. Your mother-in-law, minister, or third grade teacher might not need to see your club marketing on your Facebook or Instagram page, so make sure you target your communications and never tag anyone who has not given your specific permission to do so on social media.
7. Have Fun!: You are getting paid to work in a strip club - every 18 or 21-year-old boy's dream job. Be professional and tactful on the microphone, but have fun and get to know the staff and patrons. Just remember that dancers' requests come before the patron requests, and everything else is a piece of cake. As with traditional bars and clubs - a happy club owner with happy patrons will equal a happy DJ.
*Report sources: Information known to authors, dancer/employee/dj interviews & videos (in-person & YouTube.com), BLS.gov, NICAA.com, Wikipedia.org, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-dancer-pay-lawsuits-20161110-story.html