Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Three rules to run a box office by:
First: The customer is always right. Even when they are wrong, let them know that their concerns are legitimate. Fix it if you can, if you can't then sympathize, but if they are not endangering anyone or causing a scene, do your best to make them want to come back, and hopefully bring friends!
Second: Have a place for everything and everything in its place. Box office is not the place for scatterbrained artistic genious to rule the day. Keep records of everything and have them handy. If you have to hold a curtain for a box office issue,let it be setting up extra chairs to hold overflow, not sorting out the triple sold tickets on the fron row of opening night! Keep plenty of change, extra receipts, pens
and whatever else you might need. Again, you want them to come back.
Third: The show's the thing! Remember why you're here.People come to the theatre to have a good time, not to pick fights with the ticket agent. You are the beginning of a wonderful experience, so try to keep it that way. Who knows, that might be your next big donor or board member!
Want relief from ticketing nightmares? Check out our friends at Ticketstorm.com. This is a local company that is branching out. They provide complete box office support at no cost to you. For providing you with email ticketing, seating chart automation, box office reports, and the ability to accept credit cards with no out of pocket expense, they charge customers who buy direct from them a convenience fee. Box office sales are at no extra charge when processed by you.
Click on the Ticketstorm logo to see for yourself!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bye bye box office!

I mentioned in my last post that I would be sharing another new secret we recently learned. Our beautifully printed posters not only are catching the eye of more potential audience members, but, we got a most interesting call.

Here in Okc there is a locally owned internet ticketing agent that runs a site called Okctickets.com . At no charge to us they have set up a seating chart representing our theatre and will post info about any and all of our productions to there 1000+ weekly visitors!

In addition they also print professional, glossy, barcoded tickets @ 10cents each! (no setup fee, no design fee) All of this at no charge to you!

How do they make this magic happen? They charge a small (in their case $2 per ticket) convenience fee to the purchaser. Also, I can still sell tickets to my own events without the surcharge, for cash or check, by placing the order through my vendor name!

What benefit is there to me? Here are the top ten!

1. I no longer have to keep up with box office seating charts, tickets, client contacts, etc.

2. I can accept credit cards without paying the outrageous fees required by most vendors, and no machine to maintain!

3. I sold tickets to people who otherwise would not have found me!

4. I can make tickets available to ALL of my scheduled performances early!

5. My clients can now buy tickets online or over the phone from home, office or car and I don't even have to take the call!

6. They also have over half a dozen box office locations where people can walk up and buy my tickets!

7. It lends credibility to my business!

8. Free advertising to 1000+ event goers weekly!

9. Saves wear and tear on my printers!

10. I will never have to tear my hair out getting the stupid tickets to print right and checking every last one because I know there are mistakes again!

So, check into your local ticketing agent today, or follow this link for an online solution that might fit your needs. Simplify, simplify!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Be Frugal, Not Cheap!

Doing quality work always pays off. We recently began hiring a printer to make our show bills (posters) with tremendous results. Not only do we get 11x17” full color, glossy photo quality card stock posters from a local vendor (gotta love that supporting the local economy) for less than a buck a piece (kinkwho’s?) But we have found that these beauties are attracting a lot of attention.

Before we did home printed posters and the largest format available was legal size. While our layout and design was above average as flyers go, that is what they were. We had almost no results form them. They were difficult to get rid of (nobody wants your ugly poster in their window) and our people were not excited about finding homes for them.

Now our posters are a valuable asset. They go up in almost any store that can because they are simply beautiful. People are actually walking in our door, hitting our website and calling us because of these posters.

Long story short, they have more than paid for themselves in a very short time. Our old posters were saving us money, we thought, and so we kept on doing what we had always done expecting different results. (which by the way I understand to be the AA definition of insanity) These new posters are not only paying for themselves they are creating a name for our company and attracted attention from another local business man that will make us even more. I’ll share that in my next post.

So, investigate your options, quality very often does not cost that much more, in fact if I factored in my own time and frustration in the old printing process, I probably save money! So take a look at the things you use to promote your work. Without the personal attachment of having done it yourself, are they really getting the job done? Then instead of giving up and continuing on in the same rut, make a few phone calls and see what it takes to fix it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Putting Bums in the Seats!

I have a friend, yes I do have at least one, who we will call Dr. Huddleston. We will call him that because it is his name. Doctor, makes you kind of a little nervous to have lunch with a guy who is younger than you and already has, not an honorary doctorate, mind you, but, an actual PHD in theatre! But he's a nice guy, and usually quite inspiring.

He told me that during his time at The Royal Shakespeare company the best selling book in their shoppe (bitish spelling, get it?) was a book entitled "Getting Bums in the Seats". For us Americans that should read "butts" not "housing challenged individuals". Anyway, even at the Royal theatre in London audience development is a recognized challenge.

So I thought I would share what I believe is the main issue. Get your pencil, it's going to be good! Ready? Okay, here it is, artists are flaky! There I said it, creative people, present company included, are as flaky as a Betty Crocker pie crust! F-L-A-K-Y we ain't got no alibi, we're flaky, yeah yeah, we're flaky!(that's why theatres don't have cheerleaders, among other reasons)

Admit it, we Artistes are not the most reliable people in the world. So, consistency I believe is the key ingredient to building an audience. So here is a three step plan to increase your chances of selling tickets.

Step one: Brainstorm ideas for reaching your audience. Exhaust free sources first,email out press releases, newspaper calendar of events, websites, email, etc. Then move on to basics like posters, flyers, etc. and if you have the budget move on to radio and tv. List as many ideas as possible, good and bad.

Step two: Formulate the plan. Decide which of the ideas are a good fit for you. Consider your budget, the time needed, etc. Pick four or five good ideas and figure out how to implement them. Write it down! Figure out when they need to happen ie Four weeks out we design posters and print them, three weeks out we call the paper and mail out press releases, etc. WRITE IT DOWN!!!!

Step three: Cary it out! Do it every time, for every event, stick to the same plan for two or three shows, do everything on the plan then do extra if possible. Do it right, no excuses, then if it doesn't work, cry in your milk!

We are in step three right now, yep, I am a flakaholic. I am famous for trying something once, half heartedly, too late, ill planned and carried out in desperation. Then proclaiming that IT WILL NOT WORK! So i have decide to TRY, i mean really try sticking to a schedule and seeing what happens, so far, so good.

Have great ticket sales and now how you got them? Tell us, please PLEASE PLEEEEAASSSE!!! tell us. Send us an email with details to Markrmorris2@sbcglobal.net

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Join the Digital Age and Reap the Profits!

Picture this, a frustrated parent stands at a foam board lined with dozens of beautiful color photos of a musical, dance recital, etc. They are trying to decipher the secret code of numbers and letters to present an accurate order form so that they end up with Susie's solo instead Jim Bob hamming it up, sound familiar? Add to that the fact that the end result will be almost no net gain to anyone, including the photographer.

Once you add up the cost of processing, printing and cataloguing all those prints, forgeddaboutit! The profit margin is so small that any benefit to your theatre will be minuscule!

Now imagine this: parents stop by a desk, plop down their $25 -$30 pick up a CD which has over 200 beautiful images, ready to be printed by the nearest Walmart or Walgreens, (for about 20 cents to a buck a piece depending on size) and you pocket all but about 30 cents of that! That's right, they get Susie and Jim Bob and your theatre funds tuition assistance, buys new lighting, sends a director to a new festival, whatever!

A few months back my wife decided it was time for us to upgrade our digital photo capabilities. Instead of settling for a measly 4 or 5 megapixel snapshot model we purchased a Canon EOS Rebel XT digital SLR. That may be Greek to you, here's what it means: it shoots like an Instamatic film camera (no delay) and captures images at 8.1 megapixels (more than twice what most good consumer cameras are making now) that blow up to billboard size and are so beautiful they will make you cry!

Now add to this the option of making DVDs (even from 1 unmoving camera during dress rehearsal) with a simple title slide and some credits with the blackouts cut out, and you have people paying you to promote your programs!

Kids will show your videos to anyone who will sit still and proud parents and grandparents can afford to give away pictures of your event to the mailman!

The only downside to this way of doing things is that we don't get to spend as much time with the mom who used to come and do our photos. But the camera has already earned its $600 price tag back twice over in just six short months. I was also able to get the local paper to run one of our own photos! Our medium size studio (50-75 students with about six academy shows a year) will make between 5 and $7,000 next year for making the kind of digital archives we needed anyway!

You do the math 1 good digital camera (which some parent probably owns and might be willing to donate their time to use) + a little computer expertise (again a volunteer) = big profits for you! With our setup we got a 2 gig card that pops right into the computer, less than an hour of editing nets me about 225 pics out of a possible 500+ so even getting the right shot is easy just keep shooting, it's digital and costs you nothing!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Press release how to!

Tired of seeing the same old faces, and not nearly enough of them at all of your events? Try writing a press release to send to local media outlets! It’s not nearly as hard as it sounds and you may be surprised at the response you’ll get! Here are a few good tips to get you started.

1. Write it like a news story. The less rewrite you need the more likely it will get printed! Remember the 5 w’s from 5th grade creative writing? Who, what, when, where and why! Tell your audience who is doing what, when and where they are doing it, and why is it the one event they must not miss? Write it in the third person and include quotes from a director or manager, etc. Quote yourself if you have to but make it sound legit! Read performing arts and theatre stories in your local paper to get ideas.

2. Make it sound like fun! Don’t lie, but get your audience anticipating a great show and be prepared to back it up! Tell them why they don’t want to miss it! Make them want to come! Think of what made you buy your last theatre ticket, was it for a friend’s performance? Was it a play you wanted to see? Tell them what they want to hear!

3. Send pictures with it! Most media (except radio) has at least some visual element to it, so send a great picture of your leading actors in a pose from your upcoming play, or a great picture of your theatre! Digital images are great, you can include them in emails!

4. Compile a list of local media and send it! Search for newspapers, radio stations, Tv stations etc in your area online or in the yellow pages. Try to find the right person to send to and send as many as you can! Don’t worry, they won’t be offended, news is their business and you are providing them with a ready made, positive story, with local interest! I rarely send a press release that doesn’t net at least one story ( I don’t send nearly enough!)

Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect the important part is to try!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Building and maintaining an audience

How do we attract an audience?
Here are four tips to help you find and keep a growing audience.
1. Put on a good show! This may seem like a , well yeah but how’s that help get people in the door thing, but, it isn’t. When you set out to produce a theatrical event the attitude with which you conduct yourself matters. You may think that you can produce junk and have a great promotional campaign and still rake it in at the box office, beware! Everyone attached to your production knows what kind of show it will be, and THEY, not your posters will be selling the tickets. People hear about the quality beforehand, so make it good, get your people excited about how good it is! Give them permission to bring in an audience and watch how ell it works!
2. Design a good promotional campaign. Don’t scrimp, and I don’t mean money, make the best posters you can make. Contact as many news sources as you can contact, write the best press release that’s ever been written. Find tie ins to other local events and go promote yourself there. Make sure that EVERYBODY hears about your show and how great it is going to be, because one thing is certain 100% of the people who do not know you are doing a show will not show up! Guaranteed! So go on make another dozen calls, pass out a hundred more fliers!
3. Give people their money’s worth. Once you’ve papered the town with fliers and posters and invited the mayor and his dog make sure people have a good time! Don’t make walking into your theatre feel like a bad experience. Start by doing this: leave the building, right now! Go ON, do it! Okay now walk in as if you’ve never been there before and you are coming to see a show, don’t know a cast member, read an ad in the paper, coming to see a show. What do you see? Is the first impression a good one? If not, what can you do about it? Would a coat of paint in the lobby make all the difference in the world? Does the “NO EXCHANGES, NO REFUNDS!!!!” sign make you feel like a kid who just broke the rules? Make sure that as a stranger you would feel welcome and be excited to be there. Then carry this process through an examination of every part of what you are doing, is the theatre clean and comfortable. Is there adequate lighting for entering and exiting? Do you play music before the show? Are the restrooms clearly labeled? Make sure that IF that customer chooses not to come back it isn’t because of something that could have been easily helped.
4. Once the show is over keep in touch with your audience. Find a way to update them on what you are doing next. Start a website or blog to inform them of your upcoming projects. Always make sure to say thank you, remember, theatre without an audience is just a room full of people who are probably too full of themselves!