For an event, instead of paying staff & performers a base rate plus a percentage of profit; instead of asking everyone to promote the event in their social circles and hoping it translates to ticket sales- staff are given tickets and taught how to sell them directly. The number of tickets is proportional to their fee plus extra for the work selling them.
This article relates to financing and promoting an event, other creative concerns won’t be discussed.
For The Imaginary Cabaret of the Past we invited all our favourite performer friends to come and perform. We told them that we hoped they would get paid but that it would depend on ticket sales. We made posters and put them in all the places that we thought people should normally put posters… well not all the places, I put a few of mine up and I hope the promotions people put theirs up.
We needed to rent toilets, so we asked an investor for some money. The investor was also nice enough to sell the tickets for us, so they provided the door staff etc.
I think the event went well, I didn’t see the final figures though, since the investor took over that. I got paid what I asked, but I think it was a push and I know others didn’t.
Weaknesses of this process (that specifically relate to the strengths of what I am going to write afterwards)
- Peoples promotion efforts were not measurable or encouraged so we don’t know how hard they tried to reach their social circle
- Peoples promotion efforts are not supported, so they might have tried to reach their social circle, but been lousy with it.
- Investors, sales staff and promotion staff draw from the pool profit to be shared
- Organisers energy is diluted between a lot of different people performing different roles, along with the event’s vision.
- There is uncertainty about sales, meaning we spend time stressing and preparing for the worst outcome (in addition to aiming for the best outcome)
Consider another event, The Imaginary Cabaret of the Future: We contacted the same performer friends and asked how much they wanted to be paid to be part of the new show. We also asked a security guard, lighting & sound technician, graphic designer, printer, film maker, venue and portable toilet company (and let’s call them stakeholders).
We added up all our expenses and then divided the total by the capacity of the venue to come up with the ticket price. Then we divided each of the stakeholder quotes we received by the price of a ticket, to see what the equivalent amount of tickets would be.
We then went back to the stakeholders and said (for example):
Hey, we need your help with promoting the show, so would you be happy if we gave you 15 tickets, which you can sell for $15 each? Instead of giving you $225 after the show only if it sells out?
We will give you heaps of photos and text for you to post on your social medias in the lead up, and we will also give you posters for you to stick on your mum’s fridge or whatever. And have a look at what the tickets look like… Nice huh?
We will give you a few calls throughout the process to check it’s going alright, give you advice and put you in touch with the others to see how they are going and see if they have advise.
The only stake holder who didn’t agree to these terms was the toilet people, but when we said that it was ok to give out the tickets to their family, friends and customer, they agreed.
The sound and lighting lady did not feel comfortable with the amount of tickets she had to sell, but ended up being happy to get an offsider and spit the work and spoils.
The benefits of this approach
- Stakeholders are encouraged to promote the show to their social network and rewarded for actually closing the sale then and there.
- No promotions team needs to be paid separately
- Promotions team (stakeholders) have meaningful things to talk about with potential customers which makes the sale easier (and less like a sales pitch)
- Discourages stakeholders who aren’t committed to the success of the show.
- The effect of someone who doesn’t put in effort promoting the show is isolated to themselves.
- There is no external investor taking a big piece of the pie and pushing their agenda.
- People who don’t-get-it or are uncomfortable about the success of the show, or are too concerned with how other people are going to deal with the project will betray their doubt before getting involved with the project.
Possible weaknesses of this approach
- People may have no experience selling things.
- People may be self-conscious about selling themselves.
- There may be unforeseen costs.
- Someone may be left behind due to bad sales technique or life event.
- Someone might have to pull out.
- Majority of stakeholders might decline.
How to maximise the opportunity for success of the Imaginary Cabaret of the Future
To circumvent any doubt the stakeholders have about this technique, the support strategy for stakeholders selling tickets needs to exist at the time that they are being pitched the idea. Then they can assess their odds of success themselves and hopefully be confident of success. The support strategy should involve a support person who monitors the progress of all stake holder’s sales comparatively.
People who are self-conscious could be encouraged to play down their involvement and sell the other performers.
Stakeholders should be given the opportunity to invest capital in the event, which they can make back through ticket sales. This provides a mechanism for keen sellers to address the unforeseen cost issue and tie investment to the success of the event.
A more traditional contract could dictate what happens if a performer has to pull out. Something like: give back your tickets and a percentage of the money you made (since they put some effort into selling the tickets).
If majority of stakeholders decline then it’s a fail for the event, but a useful exercise for the industry, hopefully the creators would report on their experiences and it would be a valuable lesson for anyone else to read.