Musical Theatre Diaries Pt. 4

I have been reading a post this evening about putting on a school show and funding. It seems that there are various experiences out there. Some work in schools where they are given budgets for a school shows, others are expected to make money and some are not allowed to make money. A school show is such a wonderful thing to do and I have already blogged about why I think we should put on shows.

But this money thing will always be a big issue. I remember when I put on my first musical and I didn’t cover the costs. It was awful, I felt dreadful. But I decided to go in to the Head and basically say – look at what this week has done for the schools, parents, students and community. The costs incurred then seemed like a worthwhile expenditure I guess – it was a great week for the school.

So I am not going to discuss why to put on a show but I am going to look at how I have approached the financial side of things. What I will say is that these ideas, lessons and processes have been developed over the last 13 years of putting on shows. I have learnt the hard way and I have also been in it for the long haul. Every show is different and I develop new strategies every time.

So how can you make money or at least cover your costs?

Now I am not going to fully give away what I spend on a school show, but I will say that I go big and I now always cover my costs. Over the years I believe the shows have built up a following in the community, and having a big cast means that I get good audiences. The quality is good and the experience is good and so people keep coming back and are happy to pay. So here are some thoughts on money and shows:

  1. Make the experience for the audience as professional and rewarding as possible. This can be everything from the way they are greeted to the cleanliness of the toilets.
  2. Make sure you have a Licensed Bar. A Temporary Event Notice can easily be obtained from the local council – 21 quid for me. This allows you to sell alcohol and lets face it, people are used to paying over the odds at the theatre.
  3. Make sure you have a nice glossy colour programme. This will enhance the audience experience and help them engage more with what you are doing. It also makes it feel even more professional.
  4. Having a programme means you can sell advertising space. This is a great way of bringing in some extra cash. Approach local businesses and ask for sponsorship. I am lucky enough to have an amazing parent who is getting me sponsorship for my next show and they are all getting an advert in the programme.
  5. Sell sweets, popcorn, crisps – whatever you can really. The mark-up is great and people always like an interval snack along with their glass of wine.
  6. Make sure that you organise the bar, the snacks, the programmes etc. You want all of the money going back into the show.
  7. Speak to SLT about the benefits and explain that you need to speculate to accumulate. Get them onboard with the fact that you are wanting to produce a quality piece of theatre that is going to bring in crowds. When you do make money you can then discuss investing in future shows and the benefits of that.
  8. In my opinion if you spend a bit of money you can charge a bit more for a ticket. Now I know context is everything in terms of what people can afford etc. But charing a couple of quid more than last year is often fine and people will be happy to pay. Make sure that you don’t charge too much obviously, but most people understand that if you want something good you have to pay a bit.
  9. Have a raffle on the last night when spirits are high and people have enjoyed show week.
  10. Re-invest money in new equipment so that you don’t have to hire it next time. This is such a good thing to do and I am trying to build up more and more stuff over the years so that I can reduce my hire bills.

These are just some thoughts. I believe that a good quality school show that brings together the school and the wider school community, is a vital part of the calendar. Make it good quality and you might make some money. Then make sure that the leadership team support you by allowing you to re-invest in future shows. It is all about marketing for the show and also an amazing experience for the students – a win win if you sell it right.

So put your business hat on and make sure that you take charge of the show and make it work for you.

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