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Will Spotlight's price rise see UK working class actors quit the industry?

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By Jonny Walfisz
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Theatrical talent database Spotlight has reportedly increased its annual fees to €255 (£216) for actors using the site as an online portfolio.


With over 70,000 UK-based actors and performers signed up, Spotlight is the biggest online database for agents, producers, and casting directors to find talent in Britain. Founded in 1927 as a directory, it transitioned to digital in 1995 with a CD version before going online.

In principle, a fantastic resource for the actors, presenters, dancers, and stunt performers listed in its registry. Actors can sign up to Spotlight and create an online profile similar to one on social media jobsite LinkedIn that is tailored to the demands of creative work.

Profiles list actor’s performances, if they’ve been involved in other kinds of productions roles, as well as crucial details for casting directors: including height, ethnicity, hair colour, ability to do different accents, and other skills such as horse-riding or playing an instrument.

Casting directors, producers, agents and companies can also set up profiles so that they can find the right actors for their project. Often, when a theatre company puts out a notice that they’re looking for a new cast on social media, you’ll see a litany of comments with actors posting a link to their Spotlight profiles.

Yet since the acquisition of Spotlight by American casting company Talent Systems, actors have often complained that the cost of keeping a profile on the website was too high. Now, as fees rise to £216 from £183.60, some actors are saying this is a step too far.

“Wow! Spotlight now £216 a year! How many actors have not made that much from acting, I wonder! I know a few!” Matt Butcher wrote on X.

“Come on @SpotlightUK you really are taking the biscuit - actors now have to pay £216 per year?! Why not spread the cost between agents and casting directors who arguably earn more money than the majority of performers? Or better yet, stop being so bloody greedy!” Amy Drake posted.

It’s not the first time in recent years that Spotlight has come under fire for its pricing. Last year, it dropped plans of creating a new Premiere tier for actors looking for work at the higher annual rate of £294 (€271).

Actors claimed the proposed option – with its additional wellbeing support and help to find roles – would have created a two-tier system stacked against working class actors. Spotlight reneged on its plan after a petition gained over 4,000 signatures.

With the cost-of-living crisis still causing many to penny pinch, it’s possible that the increase in Spotlight membership will drive actors at an earlier point in their career away from the site – potentially harming their ability to find work.

Actors holding up scripts
Actors holding up scriptsCanva

All for one

In response to the growing concerns, Equity, the UK trade union for professional performers and other creative workers, described the price hike as unreasonable.

Equity says it has grave concerns about Spotlight's price rise

A recent report found that the number of working class people in the UK working in film and TV is at the lowest level in over a decade, with just one in 12 creatives coming from less financially secure backgrounds.

This is just the latest chapter in a longstanding trend driving people without extra means – via family financial backing or nepotism – from the industry.

Spotlight are yet to respond to a request for comment.

Spotlight isn’t the only company in the British sector, with other online databases including Mandy and Backstage, however it is by far the most ubiquitous.

Mandy does provide a free limited version of its service, although the company has also come under fire recently for changes in its data policy, giving them unrestricted use of any material performers submitted to the site.

Equity – the performing arts trade union in the UK – has provided advice on its site on how to remove your data from Mandy, and has also posted an update that the company has reversed on its data policy changes – likely due to pressure from the trade union.

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