Since discussing the state of the theatre with Diane Ragsdale in class, and after reading vstalli’s recent post about needing a new business model for the theatre, I’ve been wondering if my company‘s ticket incentive could fit the bill in some way for other small companies. We give each performer their own discount code (i.e. for the current show, CAROLMIKE and CAROLJOHNNY, etc.) and for every 15 tickets that the artist’s code brings in, that person gets 1% of our earnings (after expenses). It doesn’t amount to a TON of extra cash, but we believe that if a person is actively helping us invite new audience to the theatre, then they deserve a piece of company pie.
I wonder how this could translate in a larger institution? I spent three years at the Asolo Repertory Theatre as part of my first grad school experience, so I can only really relate to the way they sold tickets, but I have a feeling that if every actor in the company, and all of the designers, technicians and crew, had a stake in getting the word out about each production, the audience itself would expand exponentially. As it currently works, the marketing department does the bulk of their outreach. The personal connection from each show’s team reaching out into the web of the community could naturally grow their audience. And really, how could a little profit-sharing hurt when it brings in new blood? It certainly isn’t hurting us, at our small level. For the current 19-person show, we have done quite well incentivizing. It doesn’t feel dirty, either–it just feels like, “Hey, if you want to participate, you will be rewarded. If not, no sweat.”
Here’s a little hypothetical math to help push this idea into reality a bit:
Let’s say it’s a small-needs show, with a modest $9000 budget. The tickets are $30. The discount is $5 off. The cast and crew number 12. There are 15 performances.
If all 12 people sell 15 $25 tickets, that’s $4500. Say we had a poor run and sold only another 15 full-price tickets a show, (taking in another $6750). We made a gross of $11,250 and so a profit of $2250. All 12 get a check for $22.50. It’s not much, but it’s a free meal on us on top of their stipend, just for inviting their friends.
Say we had a great run and sold 50 full-price tickets a show, grossing $27,000 with their help, netting $18,000. All 12 get a check for $180. That’s pretty nice. And they’re giving that discount to all of their people, too, so it’s a win-win.
No matter what, they get a little extra, and we are psyched that they cared enough to push and socially market the show.
Again, it’s a new idea we’ve been working with this season; who knows what will come of it. We do know, however, that during our last show, two of four cast members hit the 2% mark, and in the current production we already have 5 people over 15 tix and gunning for 30. I’ll keep you updated, but so far it’s been met with excitement, and a ton of new audience…