SOR 004: Theatre For Fun and Profit

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I’m going solo in this episode of the podcast, talking about money. It’s always bothered me that so many theatres and acting companies (often those that put fantastic work up on the stage) do such a bad job of operating as a business. Just like any other business we are creating a product that people pay for, and we should have every expectation of operating at a profit.

I listened to this podcast after recording it, and I have to admit: I ramble a little bit here. Part of that is because I do get genuinely frustrated around this topic when I see organizations that are truly exceptional from an artistic standpoint and no plan for becoming financially stable. I may be the only one who notices it, but I hear the frustration in my voice when I listen to this episode. I’m keeping it, though, because it is authentically how I feel.

I really cover two financial topics in this episode. The first is the subject of making money. Logically most of us get that having more money means we would be able to do even more things with our art, but there seems to be some head trash around the idea that we would have to sacrifice our artistic integrity in order to become profitable. There are more ways to become a profitable organization than to do nothing but Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat all year long. I call shenanigans.

I also touch a little bit on the idea of government funding – and to a lesser extent corporate funding. I think funding can be a very good thing for organizations, but if it isn’t handled responsibly it seems like it can cause more harm than good.

In this episode:

  • What nonprofit really means – it’s just a tax designation, not a philosophy
  • How government funding can be bad for your finances – there are ways to use government (or corporate) funding that can be a boon to your organization, but other ways that can trap you
  • Where funding should go in your budget – the right place to allocate these types of funds to make sure you remain financially stable
  • How profitability gives you more artistic flexibility – more money means more resources for your shows and infrastructure, and if you know how to market a show you can still produce edgier fare

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Discussion

  1. RQ: If my organization increased rev by 10% I would insist they hire me full time, lol. Our theater is only 8 months but if we had let’s say a 10% percent margin gain month over up to month 12 I would and have been insisting finding ways to equip our space with items to increase potential profit margins. Example video cameras, I’m not sure who dose it but there is a few sites out there that will allow you to create live pay per view events. With such a tactic it can help tap into a market that might not otherwise be captured. Example two projector and screen. I have been begging for months for our theatre to invest some capital into a projector system I would really like to start setting up workshops, coachings, lectures, ect that were hosted via live video feed. I think it may be a generally inexpensive way to set up an educational series that could potentially drive profit. Mr Mabbitt one day I may send a request for such a service lol. But for real I might.

    If the ten percent came from “dot gov” I would prob do the same still waiting on our 501. Our little grass roots theater is not intending to constantly consume from uncle Sam. We are still in the build out faze and as that completes our intentions are to become completely self sustainable.

    Thanks for the advice your mission is noble.

    jeff schroeder on Wed, Jun 5th, 2013 at 5:50am
    • Jeff, there’s a lot of good ideas there. I know that licensing agreements are often very specific about whether or not you can broadcast the performance – even as a live streaming event. So check on that, but if you are securing rights from a large publishing house, you might have a hard time. Of course if you work directly with playwrights (usually on new and/or original works) you guys can negotiate whatever arrangement you want. I definitely think there is some great potential there to grow exposure and revenue for both you and the playwright.

      I like your general approach, though: invest the money in things that will make it possible to earn more revenue in ways consistent with you r artistic mission.

      And of course I’d be happy to be involved with training. 🙂

      Clay Mabbitt on Wed, Jun 5th, 2013 at 10:35am

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