Many dream of making money doing what they love. It drives some Bboys and Bgirls to dedicate their lives to the dance. However, like professional sports, only a small fraction of elite enjoy financial prosperity on the competitive circuit. For those that do reach the very top, their time there is limited. They may transition to judging and coaching, but winning jams for an income is not a sustainable career. Even the top professionals rely on endorsements and sponsorships to provide a secure income.
That doesn’t mean there aren't opportunities for other Breakers to make money. In fact, there is an entire industry growing around Breakin. With its inclusion in the 2024 Olympics, this ecosystem will only continue to grow. If you want to build a career in this dance, there has never been a better time to do so. You need to think beyond the glory of winning jams. Competing is an activity we should participate in willingly and is best enjoyed when we are detached from the outcome.
Don’t get it twisted, there is no better way to build your skills than to battle. If you want to have legitimacy in the broader Breakin community it is important to have that experience. This is about making money, which is not the same thing as building your rep. To make money, you need to provide value. Find where you can provide value and you will figure out how to make money doing what you love. Here are five ways we have learned to make money dancing and you can too.
Busking, street hitting, etc. is a time-honored tradition of crews around the world. People love to be entertained. All you need is a speaker or a boombox, a bucket and maybe a piece of linoleum if you don’t want to dance on cement. Find a high foot traffic area and set up a bucket to collect money. It helps to find a location with tourists or people enjoying a walk about. There are always dancers in Times Square in New York City and Venice Boardwalk in LA. If you don’t live in a famous city, consider your town square or some type of promenade with no cars.
Think about your show. You will not make much just playing music and cyphering. Start by making a lot of noise. Project your voice and articulate that you are about to perform. Build your crowd. Keep your performance short enough to stop and collect money before the crowd starts to move on, 10 to 15 minutes max. The crowd is not educated in the art of Breakin. They want to see power moves and blow-ups, not the creative details that you would present to judges at a competition. They want you to spin and balance in incredible positions. Use that. Announce a dollar a hand hop challenge and count as many as you can do. Repeat with other gravity defying moves. Finish with a finale. Some shows ask members of the crowd to come out and sit in a line for one dancer to run and do a flip over. Have a big moment to end on like this.
Now, collect. Immediately show your bucket and ask the crowd to be generous. Have a gimmick like, “if you liked the show please drop a 5 or 10 dollar bill, if you didn’t like the show, please write your comments on a 20 and we’ll get to it next time.” It can also persuade spectators to be more generous if you have some cause you are “fundraising” for. Make sure you have one dancer designated to fulfill the role of speaking to the crowd. It should be someone with charisma and charm. Collect money and take a short break. Then start over and build another crowd.
A good show can make hundreds of dollars in a high traffic area. Do that 4 or 5 times in a day and split the proceeds between your group.
Each One Teach One
Teaching provides huge value and who better to learn from than someone who is passionate about their dance. It is important to note that teaching is itself a skill. Being a dope Bboy or Bgirl doesn’t necessarily make a great teacher. That does not mean anyone can be a good teacher without proficiency in the dance. You cannot teach what you do not know and knowledge comes from studying and experience. If you are considering teaching, you must be confident in your qualifications and be prepared with a skill-set to teach.
What skills are needed to teach? Patience: patience to allow students to explore the dance at their own pace. Preparation: you need to prepare what you are going to teach and how you are going to teach it. Communication: you need to be able to articulate and demonstrate clearly. Motivational: not all students are motived or inspired the same. You need to capable of identifying what motivation your students respond to individually and hold that space for them.
There are many opportunities to teach for money. The first many think of is teaching in a Dance studio. This is great if you can find a studio interested in offering Breakin and in need of an instructor. There are more and more Breakin facilities and if you can join a studio, it will remove the burden of building student clientele off of your shoulders so you can focus on teaching. If that does not exist where you are, you may have to create programs yourself.
Consider renting studio space or find a community center gym to use. You will have to build a student base. Are you going to do a registration program and have students pay for a series of classes or drop in classes and have students pay as they attend? You can start by making small flyers describing your program with class details, contact information and a call to action. Post on social media including group pages on Facebook. Print copies to distribute to community boards at coffee shops, libraries, recreation centers, community centers, school campuses etc. Once students start attending make sure that you always collect contact information to stay connected.
You can use similar marketing to promote 1 on 1 classes, or offer your students private lessons in addition to group classes. You can charge a premium for privates and if you build your clientele, this will be a very lucrative. Imagine 10 students a week paying $50-$100. There is a lot of value for parents in private classes. Their child will build a mentor relationship with an inspiring teacher and provide them with some rest and time away from the unending challenges of being a parent.
Finally, consider looking into local school programs that may be interested in offering Breakin in their after-school programs. Many schools have extra curricular activities for students after the regular school day. They pay outside providers to come in and teach programs that are not offered in the traditional curriculum. Be advised that you will likely have to provide a background check to teach on public school property.
There is a long tradition of "street dance" in theater shows. In the early 1990s Jam On the Groove and later that decade Rome and Jewels took Broadway audiences by storm. Today there are crews in every TV dance competition and groups like the Jabbawokeez have gone on to perform Super Bowl half time shows and have their own show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Breakin' Convention has taken street dance to marquee theaters all around the globe and Battle Of the Year, one of the most important events in Hip Hop history, is essentially a showpiece event.
As Breakin grows, the opportunities to create Art in theaters will grow as well. There is so much value in theater. We can bring needed diversity into aging art institutions. Even as movies and sports dominate our entertainment industry, theater is still considered by many to be the highest form of entertainment. Crowds will spend large amounts of money for tickets to a show.
Theater auditions can be very competitive. However, once selected you will have the opportunity to enjoy dancing in front of art loving crowds rather than Breakin judges and mean mugging Bboys and Bgirls. To find work in theater shows you will need to find auditions. That may require some time attending dance festivals, submitting pieces to dance showcases, etc. You may have to move to a city with a theater community or you may need to hire a manager.
The other option is to self-produce. This will require project management skills. You will need to rent a theater, host auditions, hire staff, create promotional materials, market and promote, run numbers on costs vs potential ticket sales, etc. On top of all of that you will have to be the creative director, choreographer and pull off an incredible show. It is a large task, but it is doable. Find a theater space you can afford and start small. If you find a theater with 300 seats and you sell out one night, you will have had a huge success. Imagine selling those tickets for $50 a piece. That’s $15,000 before taxes. If you were able to produce the show for $10,000 you just made $5000. Now that might not be a lot for months of hard work, but if you can scale that up...?
What is the commercial industry? It is large brands and major entertainment production companies who use artists, entertainers, athletes, musicians, dancers, actors, and models to produce entertainment and advertise products. The commercial industry knows the value of Breakin. It is "urban" and modern. It is raw and edgy. It is hip. Large brands are always looking for ways to market their products to a demographic of young consumers, because no one spends more money than parents spend on their children.
The “industry” is hard to break into. You need to find auditions and you will have the best chance of success if you are represented by a reputable talent agency or manager. You will likely have to move to a city with a large production/entertainment agency, like New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas etc. An agent will work to get you auditions for varying opportunities like commercials, print advertisements, TV shows, movies, and perhaps theater as mentioned before.
We have seen huge commercial success, particularly with movies like the Step Up series, Bboy the Playstation game, America’s Best Dance Crew, Red Bull and so much more. Clothing brands use Breakers as models regularly. Often department stores have mannequins positioned in freezes or poses. With Breakin going to the Olympics we can see the value to the commercial industry and this will only continue to grow.
Performance is an obvious way to make money dancing. However, performance opportunities are not limited to the theater, street shows and Industry entertainment. There are endless private events that hire entertainment. You can be paid to dance at corporate events, birthday parties, clubs, bar mitzvahs, social mixers, holiday parties, grand openings, etc. These are usually extremely easy and can pay very well.
Let’s start with birthday parties. As mentioned above, parents spend huge amounts of money on their kids. You can easily ask a $200-300 for a 10 minute freestyle show. With 3 dancers, that’s a $100 each for cyphering for 10 minutes. Or offer a small class and have the kids finish with a cypher. You might ask $300 for this option and will not need any other dancers. Teach for 30 minutes. Play a couple games, like freeze dance, or crab tag (tag in a crab footwork position). Finish with a cypher and you are out the door in an hour or less.
Another great opportunity is to find a club or event promoter with an entertainment budget. Some clubs will entice dancers to perform for a guest list and some VIP service. Do not be fooled. The entertainment you provide is valuable and they would not ask you to come dance if they did not see that. Set your professional rates. Give a higher rate than what you actually would accept to give room for negotiation. You never know, they might have more budget than you think, especially if they are selling large volumes of alcohol.
Corporate events often include live entertainment as well and they generally have a substantial budget for events like annual meetings and holiday parties. If any large business is looking for dancers you should not hesitate to give your highest rate. Know your worth! Anytime a business wants to hire you or contract you, it is important to respond as though you are also a business.
Go Make Some Money
You might feel dance is best left as hobby to enjoy rather than making it into a side hustle. There is great merit in keeping your dance for yourself. It is so valuable to have a release from everything else we may have little power to control in our lives. If you have thought about trying to make some money from Breakin, then you have probably already considered these methods. They are not new. Hopefully, this gives you a sense of how to pursue these opportunities with a sense of professionalism if you so choose.
The key to any of these ideas is to recognize the value you provide with your dance. You can use that to be compensated. If you do pursue any of these paths please remember you are representing a culture. Please be professional. Be respectful of peoples’ time and money. Provide honest value for honest reward. Be polite and personable with anyone paying you for your service.
Know that these 5 ways to make money often overlap. They will promote each other the more you are able to do any of them. If you want to perform at birthday parties, it helps to have a large group of children as students. A parent may be at a party who is helping organize a corporate event and ask for your contact. Always have flyers promoting your classes or other events. The same goes for street performing. Consider branding, social media and your online presence. Treat each opportunity as a potential to snowball into bigger and bigger opportunities.
Of course, there are more ways to make money beyond these 5. These are easier ways to get your foot in the door of the industry with your dance moves. If you truly want to build a profession in Breakin, consider other skills you can use to create value. Content creation is a big one in today's society. Develop you photography, videography, editing and design skills. Event coordinators and producers are needed to continue providing quality events to our community. Perhaps the most important growing opportunity is consulting. As large brands seek to use Breakin in the commercial industry, it is important that there are strong consultants who represent the voice of our culture and preserve the standards of our dance.
Most of us are not champion level competitors. You also don’t have to be a stereotype “Broke Bboy.” Let’s change that narrative. We can all be a part of a larger ecosystem. When you make money Breakin you help bring currency into our community and we are worthy. We are valuable.