Tag Archives: LA Stage Alliance

The Self Production Series with Anna Nicholas: #13 Ticketing…

#13.  Butts in Seats and Selling the Tickets to Put Them There

by Guest Blogger Anna Nicholas

A playwright friend told me a story about how her first play was a week from opening when she realized they hadn’t accounted for how tickets were going to be sold. That’s TOO LATE! Once you’re in rehearsals (and regardless of how they’re going) you should already be selling them, or at least figuring out how to.

There are lots of ways to sell tickets; too many, really. So, if your budget allows, this is where you might be best served by hiring a box office manager or combo box office manager/ticketing person/”front of house” manager. This person should know how theatre tickets get sold in your town and have the experience to help you choose the best, easiest way to do it. And when I say best and easiest, I mean best and easiest for your potential customers, i.e., your audience; not you. Because believe me, they’re different.

Have you ever showed up to something, expected to buy a ticket and been told they only take cash? Or you’re online and whatever site you’re on doesn’t take a certain credit card? If you don’t want to lose a prospective customer, you want to make it easy for him or her to buy a ticket. If you don’t care about selling tickets or have such a small house, short run and built in audience that it’s not worth setting up multiple ways for people to buy tickets, then forget all this. But that’s not most plays and certainly not most plays that are self-produced.

I recommend some combination of making tickets available online, by phone and at the door. Sounds simple but stay with me. Figuring out what will work for you isn’t hard, it’s just one of those time consuming jobs that needs to be done.

Starting with the online ticketing sites, there are several to consider. Brown Paper Tickets is what we used http://www.brownpapertickets.com/createevent.html. You decide your ticket price and how many tickets will be available through this outlet. It allows your ticket purchasers to enter discount codes (that you disseminate via any number of ways) and keeps track of it all. At any time before online sales close before a given performance, you can see how many tickets have been sold and who bought them using which codes. Then there’s Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.com which is similar in functionality but seems to be used for more “one off” types of events. And there are others popping up all the time. Each of these sites takes a percentage of ticket sales and will deposit net proceeds into a bank account or via other means such as a PayPal account that you choose at the set-up stage.

In LA, we have a more full-service site called Plays-411 https://www.plays411.net/newsite/ticketagency/ticketagency.asp It offers ticketing as well as other services to producers, including email blasts about your show that go out to their lists and “hosting’ your show’s informational page, which can serve as your website if you choose not to get a dedicated URL for your show as we did with villathrilla.com. On that page you can provide reviews, cast member info, pictures and the like. Publicists like it because they can go into the site and directly book Press tickets. We didn’t use Plays-411 though a lot of producers do. But I recommend due diligence. Not only do they take an up front fee plus a percentage of sales, several producers I talked to say Plays-411 can take longer to pay producers for tickets sold. Brown Paper Tickets paid within a few days of a performance. The amount of lag time can be critical if you are hoping to use ticket sales to pay actors and other expenses in the later weeks of your show.

You’ll also want to register with Goldstar http://www.goldstar.com/company/suppliers, which has become the go-to place to search for discount tickets. If your graphics and logline grab people here, you can even pull in people to your show that might never have learned about it otherwise.

Something else a producer must consider in Los Angeles apropos ticketing is the Ovation Awards, managed by the LA Stage Alliance. http://lastagealliance.com/tix/) To be considered for an Ovation, you need to be a member (or affiliated with a member theatre as we were) and your show needs to run for at least 6 weeks. You also need to make it available to Ovation voters for free. They will then use this outlet to reserve their tickets. Additional discounted tickets can be made available here too, though we didn’t pull in anyone other than voters from this site.

All of these outlets will get your show in front of prospective ticket buyers and give them an opportunity to buy. But I’m sure you can see the downside to having multiple outlets: Checking in with each of them to determine how many tickets have been sold for a given performance. This can be a headache and even a nightmare if you have a hit show, though granted a good nightmare to have. You have to decide how many tickets you will give each outlet to sell at what price, sometimes changing that number if one site is running low. Invariably mistakes get made and you and your various outlets have created a situation where more tickets have been sold than you have seats. The whole thing requires monitoring and that takes time.

Then there are phone and “at the door” sales, and believe me, there is a large, generally older segment of the population that still prefers one of these two means. They just feel better talking to a real person. We didn’t want to pay for a new phone number or use our own. So we got a free phone number through Google, which allowed us to both set up an informational outgoing message and allowed callers an opportunity to leave a message. We’d then pick up the messages and call people back to take a credit card number for their ticket purchase.

As for sales at the door, we accepted cash, check and credit cards through our Square account. There are a lot of different mobile credit card applications now so again, choose the one best for you and your customers. Percentages vary but I don’t think you don’t need to sign up for more than one of these.

We had a master list for each performance compiled that afternoon from all the different outlets we were using so we knew who to expect. As people arrived, we gave them programs for entry. This is what most theatres in LA do these days. With most people buying tickets online and having the ability to print a receipt, there’s really no need to print up tickets. But if you want to, there are plenty of services that will take your money.

In closing, whatever means you choose to offer tickets to the public, may you sell out your houses and make your nut back!

Theatre Ticket

 

 

 

 

Next up: We are winding down but there are still lots of topics to cover. Is there any aspect of Self-Production you’d particularly like to hear about?

LA Stage Day was Fun

By Jen Huszcza 

Hello everyone, I’m delighted to be back blogging on the LAFPI website. I want to begin my blog week by talking about a theatre event I attended back in May, so I’m setting the blogging time machine back (wayyyy back) to May 18th and LA Stage Day.

LA Stage Day was a one day event put on by the LA Stage Alliance and dedicated to theatre in LA. It was held on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles on a bright and sunny Saturday.

To summarize: I went and I had fun.

I found out the event needed volunteers, and the volunteers could get in free if they volunteered three hours of their time. Sweet. I thought. Sign me up.

The volunteer email said that I would have to pay $6 for on campus parking, but some clicking on LA’s Metro website showed me that I could take the Expo line from West Los Angeles and connect with the Silver Line in downtown LA all for just $5 for a day pass. It turned out that the Silver Line was a bus that had its own special bus lane next to a freeway. Yes!  

After being greeted and given a black T-shirt (theatre people definitely came up with the color scheme), I sat with other volunteers and explained twitter to folks. It’s cool really, it is.

As volunteers, we had to set up the rooms for two workshops. We could stay for whatever workshop we were at or go to something else once everyone was settled.

The first workshop that I helped set up was called Learning to Love the Arts, and it was conducted by Abe and Charley from Arts for LA, a nonprofit which advocates for all arts (not just theatre) in LA. By the way, Charley is a poet. Along with playwriting, poetry is one of the writing forms most likely to get the reaction, you do what?

Just as I was helping Abe and Charley set up in the lobby of the theatre, a playwriting workshop showed up to be in the theatre space. For most of the Arts Advocacy workshop, I had to quietly herd the playwrights into the theatre. Playwrights are so needy when they’re confused—like lambs off to slaughter.

The Arts Advocacy workshop was about changing the narrative of how arts is talked about and how all art is vital not only culturally but economically as well. What do you say to someone who says artists should get real jobs? How do you turn that conversation into something positive?

After their workshop was over, I congratulated Abe and Charley on a job well done and was able to snag some handouts from the playwriting workshop. Jon Dorf and Dan Berkowitz (of ALAP fame) had done the playwriting workshop. I had seen them talk before, and they usually had excellent handouts.

The second workshop was going to be on social media and the rehearsal process. The three guys moderating were two guys from SDC and Michael Michetti of Boston Court. The two guys from SDC were east coast based, and you could tell they were loving on the Cali sunshine.

I helped them arrange the chairs into a circle because they wanted to do a discussion, and slowly folks trickled in and started to talk. Apparently, Actors Equity recently loosened its restrictions on videotaping, and this has left other guilds scrambling to come up with some way of drawing a line about taping.

Additionally, theatre companies tape rehearsals and parts of productions to promote their shows online, and there was a discussion about how intrusive that was in the rehearsal space.

Meanwhile, as we were discussing whether taping was intrusive, a girl with a video camera came by to tape us discussing, and the workshop took on a post-post modern vibe.

What I also really liked about the discussion was that there were lots of different people in the room. There were actors, directors, stage managers, producers, playwrights. We all could sit down and discuss something from our different points of view and find common ground. I think this is how politics use to work.

After that session, I went over to take a melodrama acting workshop with Debbie McMahon of the Grand Guignolers. The blurb in the program said that non-actors were invited to come and participate. After herding playwrights and sitting and thinking, I was anxious to get up and move around.

True to its name, the workshop was MELODRAMA!!! (apologies for the caps and explanation points, I’m going for feel). Yes, there was highly dramatic music (think silent films). Yes, we were allowed to make big gestures in extreme situations. Yes, I crossed the pit of molten lava on a rickety bridge, and let me tell you, it was terrifying.

I was physically exhausted when I left the workshop, so I caught a bus back.

Basically, I went to three sessions, but there plenty more at LA Stage Day. There was a courtyard filled with information tables and plenty of socializing events.

I liked the idea of folks volunteering and getting in for free. I thought it opened up the range of people who were there. Besides, as a volunteer, I got a really cool t-shirt and some cookies. Yes, I will volunteer for cookies.

I hope the LA Stage Alliance puts on another LA Stage Day. LA is a giant sprawl, and the theatre community is very spread out, so it was nice to experience the LA theatre community all in one place even if it was just for one day.