Welcome to my first Thriving IPA Conversation. My goal is to uncover some unique and inspiring ways that Independent Performing Artists maintain and manage their careers & lifestyles. I hope to identify some common tools that we should all be using to thrive, but more importantly I hope to uncover new ways to generate income that will allow IPAs the time freedom that most of us desperately need, to do what we do best, which is create.
I will also take this moment to launch The Independent Performing Artist Podcast. This first episode is a few of the best moments during my conversation with Gana. Take a listen. Click here for the podcast.
I have had conversations with some of the hardest working IPAs in the biz. This is just a start. I can’t wait to share more with you. It can only get better from here, so stay tuned.
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Ganayun Ganchimeg Oyunchimeg (A.K.A. Gana)
Independent Performing Artist
22 Years Experience
Percentage Of Income from contortion is 100%
Born In Mongolia
Currently Living In LA, California
Q: Did you always know you would perform contortion for a living?
Q: How did you know that?
Gana: I started training contortion at age 7. Then at age 10 I started performing. Around 17 years old I knew this was it. I just love contortion
Q: What was your first circus that you performed in?
Gana: Mongolian State Circus.
Q: Did you come from a circus family?
Gana: No one
Q: How did you get into contortion?
Gana: My mom saw me doing contortion. Her sister was a comedian. So my mother called her and said my daughter is doing this weird thing. So her sister said bring her to the capital city of Mongolia, so she took me there. That’s how I started and my aunt was really happy because she wanted someone in the family to do the similar job as her
Q: How long did you do the Mongolian State Circus
Gana: 6 or 7 years
Q: how did you make your way to the states?
Gana: A lady made a trio contortion act and took us out of Mongolia State Circus. We performed another 6 years around the world. After that we went our separate ways.
Q: Did you start in LA?
Gana: No I found small circus travelling around the US.
Q: After small circus contracts travelling the US did you finally land somewhere?
Gana: In 2008 I began just doing corporate shows in Vegas.
Q: How did you know to do that?
Gana: Because other Mongolian Contortionist girls were doing that. And they were working. I was living in Vegas and these girls were kind of like my agent. The more you perform the more people see you.
Q: Did people see you and then invite you to do gigs or was it just you sending your video out?
Gana: Contortion is very unique. Not many people can do it or do it at a good level. In Mongolia we have very good teachers and we learn everything very hard way. That’s why it was pretty easy for me to get corporate shows
Q: In 2008 you are in Vegas and you are dong corporate gigs. Has your experience in getting work stayed the same or has it change and evolved over the years?
Gana: I have many agents. And when they have jobs they call me or sometime I get called directly from a company
Q: Do you have to make new videos often?
Gana: No, I’ve had the same video since 2008. Most people know me so they don’t ask for new video.
Q: has your pay increase over the years
Q: Is that from you just asking for more money?
Gana: In the beginning I didn’t know what I was getting into. I was use to working for a small circus. So I wasn’t asking for much. Over time I started to know my level and so I started asking for more and more.
Q: Did you feel fear around asking for more?
Gana: Yes but it can’t go wrong. Either they say no and I can lower it a little bit or just say ok that s it .
Q: Have you ever turned anyone down?
Gana: Yes, it happens all the time
Q: Was there ever a time that you had scarcity of jobs?
Gana: No, I never felt like I couldn’t get gigs. Work is always there
Q: Wow, that’s so interesting. I guess that’s because there is not that much competition?
Gana: That’s the great thing. If I was in Mongolia then it’s a challenge, you know. Lots of contortion schools and many contortion girls. But in America there is almost no competition
Q: What about when you leave and go away for long gigs outside of L.A.. How does that effect your business?
Gana: No I’m not happy with being away, I could lose contacts. It’s risky because people like to hire same people that they trust. Suddenly when they disappear they have to call other people.
Q: Do you feel like there is more you can do with contortion?
Gana: Yes, I started teaching last two years. Teaching is way less money, but it’s full time work
Q:Why don’t you have a website?
Gana: Because there is Youtube. My clips are accessible on there.
Q: Is there any big lessons that you have learned about getting work?
Gana: It’s difficult, but it could be worse.
Q: Is there anything you wish was easier?Are you ok with how you get work? Do you wish you had an agent?
Gana: No I like to book myself?
Gana: I like to know everything that’s going on. I just like it that way. Agents usually just take 10% but I don’t have a problem with that. I just like to know everything that is going on.
Q: Have you ever signed a bad contract?
Gana: Yes, I learned by mistakes
Q: Have you ever had to write up a contract or do employers always have them?
Gana: No I never had to write up a contract
Q: Do you feel comfortable where you are? I mean do you feel that you are living the life style that you want?
Gana: Of course I wish there were more corporate shows happening. But I’m happy with what I have. it’s nice to have more jobs but I enjoy my free time
Q: Do you have any investments or own any real estate property?
Q: Do you want to?
Gana: I do have my thing in Mongolia
Q: I just wonder sometimes if most artist think about investing their money or growing there income in other ways. I’m very curious about our mentally in that way.
Gana: I have goats in Mongolia
Gana: No goats!
Both: Ha ha ha haa!
Q: You invested in goats in Mongolia!? How many goats do you have?
Gana: I bought 20 goats 2 years ago. I think I now have 50 or 60.
Q: What do you do with the goats?
Gana: Its cashmere!
Q: For the wool?
Gana: yes and meats.
Q: Do you generate income from that?
Gana: It’s just for fun, nothing serious. I’ve already tripled my money on this. Not much, but I do it just for fun. Don’t put this part in the blog!
Q: This is interesting to me because it is investment! You’ve tripled your money in this and I think that’s awesome.
Gana: It’s kind of fun for the brain.
Q: Who takes care of them?
Gana: My Aunt
Q: You invested in goats! That is amazing! Where did you get this idea?
Gana: I was in Mongolia and I told my Mom I would love to have my own goats and sheep and she said yes you can do that. And I just did it.
Q: But it’s something that generates cash?
Gana: Yes it does. Actually my family ate a couple of my goats
Q: Your family is eating your investment!!
Q: How long will you be able to do contortion?
Gana: I think I have 10 more years. But I think no one wants to see old woman bending. After that I will have my contortion studio somewhere.
Gana: For now it’s LA
Q: Is there a demand for contortion teachers in LA?
Gana: Yes because yoga is taking over and the next step is bending so it will get bigger.
Q: Are you gonna get a website?
Q: Cool, so between your teaching and your goats your future is secure you should be living well.
Q: Do you love the contract negotiation part of your work?
Gana: Yes, I love negotiating.
Q: Some artist are afraid of it.
Gana: I want to tell those people don’t sell your self short always ask for more.
Q: Good advice.
Gana: Even if they give you an amazing price still ask for more!
Q: You told me that you were interested in writing a book?
Q: Great idea. This could be another stream of income. What will your book be about?
Gana: Yes, I’ve been thinking about this idea for awhile because I get so many questions from people on Facebook about how to do contortion and how to start. I would also like to write about the Mongolian contortion history because Mongolia is really famous now with contortion. Most of Cirque’s contortion acts are Mongolian
Q: Do you know many of the other Contortion Acts in the US?
Q: Do you talk about how to negotiate with them and do you learn from each other.
Gana: Not really. We hide our price.
Q: Do you think that that’s a good idea?
Gana: Both ways. It’s good to know someone’s price so that you know where you are, but it’s also bad because I’d rather not know the price.
Q: I always thought that if we knew what we all made we could all get more. It sucks when you are getting 100 bucks and some one else doing the same job is getting 200
Gana: Yes, this is true.
Tip: As long as you negotiate a price that makes you happy, it doesn’t matter what anyone else makes.
Gana: I also love to make contortion tables from wood.
Q: So the contortion table is what you perform on top of?
Gana: Yes different shapes. I’ve done one already. I like doing different shapes and ones with a hole in the middle, so that you can show more skills. But it’s just a little side thing.
Q: Yes but it’s like your goats ,it’s another stream of income. I think if we have enough of these little things that we love to do, that pertain to our art ,we can generate income and we can have thriving lifestyles.
Q: Do you love LA or do you want to be somewhere else?
Gana: I love LA. We will see how the world turns out. Most of my work is outside of LA
Q: How long is your average gig?
Gana: 1 day.
Q: So they fly you out for the gig and in one day they fly you home?
Q: How many gigs do you want per month?
Gana: Well I’d love to have 5-7 gigs. Sometimes I make one gig and sometimes I work the whole week and I get the same price. Just depends. It’s a fun life.
Q: Do you see yourself as a business
Gana: Yes. there is a business side of what I do. But I see myself as a performer
Q: But you are managing your own career.
Gana: I just think there are things that I have to go through to get good gigs. Doing my own contracts it comes together.
Q: What are the things you have to do to get the good contracts
Gana: I don’t see all the things I have to do as a job I think of it as part of my performance. It’s what I have to do
Q: Excellent! Hi five. Not everybody sees it that way. It’s exactly how we have to think as Independent Performing Artists.
Gana: I think it’s good to do your own thing. When you negotiate a contract you are selling yourself high. Once a company sees you and sees your level that’s it. When I book myself I ask for the high price and then when I train it motivates me to be the best. Freelancing is a hard job, but just enjoy it.
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