On Friday, I learned how the box office creates an estimate of the expenses (such as cleanup, stagehand, etc.) and an information sheet with data such as the venue’s capacity and ticket prices, and sends it to the promoter. The promoter also needs confirmation of everything before tickets go on sale; they want to see what each ticket will say and what it will look like, and they also want to see different levels of tickets and their corresponding prices.
I learned about how tickets sometimes go on presale in order to gain hype for the show. The Stranahan sends out email blasts to those who are on their subscription list. They usually do this two days before ticket sales go on sale to the public. Tickets are the same price, but this just means that these people on the email subscription list are able to buy tickets first.
Later in the day, I sat with Sarah at a meeting for a future commercial. She wanted the commercial to show that the venue has a wide variety of lineups. The only issue was that the commercial was only 30 seconds long (enough for 150 words), meaning that there wouldn’t be enough time to talk about all of the events. She said that they would only have time to talk about five major events. Sitting in on this meeting made me realize that when you publicize for an event, there is very little that you can say in any given amount of time. Although 150 words and 30 seconds may sound pretty large, 30 seconds goes by very quickly and 150 words aren’t enough to convey the scope of all the events at the Stranahan. It made me think that if we have an event, we’ll have to think of ways to convey enough information in a very short amount of time (whether it’s a radio advertisement or a TV commercial).
On Saturday, I went back to the Stranahan Theater to see the Rock and Gem show (which is open again on Sunday and which I highly recommend). I was able to see how things were run during the event. I saw security walking around the area, making sure nobody stole anything. There were booths and displays set up throughout the lobby and the great hall. To an “outsider”, running an event at a venue might seem easy. However, after my internship at The Stranahan, I now know for certain that there is a lot of time and work that goes into every single detail of each and every event in order to make it successful.
Today when I walked into work today, I saw the Rock and Gem Show being set up. I saw workers setting up booths and displays, laying down tablecloth, and assembling lighting. This allowed me to see what goes on before events that aren’t theater productions.
Later in the day I met with Nathan (front of house manager and volunteer organizer) and he told me a bit about merchandise, ushers, and ticket takers. The first thing he does for the event is analyze how many people he will need to for ushers, ticket takers, and volunteers. He then creates a signup sheet (with a limited amount of spots) for the 60 ushers and ticket takers to fill up. They say what shows they’d like to work during, and then they rank the shows in order from preferred to work during to least preferred. Nathan then takes note of how many shows people signed up for. If they sign up for a numerous amount of shows, then they are more likely to be chosen to work during a show that they ranked very high.
Nathan is also in charge of training new volunteers. These training sessions take about an hour and a half to two hours to complete. These volunteers shadow other ushers, and in order for a volunteer to become a fulltime usher, they must shadow at twenty events.
I also learned that when merchandise is sold at a show, there is always a 20%/80% split (except for when there are CDs, DVDs, and vinyl, which would then be 10%/90%) between the venue and the artist. If there’s nobody hired by the artist to sell the merchandise, then Nathan will have one of the ushers or ticket takers sell merchandise instead. He said that the biggest issue that they’ll face is puke, drunks, and illegal photography during a play.
Today made me realize that there’s smaller key factors that I had never though about. I never thought about ticket takers and ushers, but they are very important jobs. They help to keep everything under control, and they monitor the event. I realized that every person involved in an event is highly important, no matter what job they have.
Today I looked at the tech rider for Paw Patrol, a kid’s show, and Switchfoot and learned that these very different events have similar riders. Although one involves puppet and costumes while the other is a concert, they are both (practically) equal when it comes to their amount of technical needs. This made me realize that no matter what the event is, whether it’s a kid’s show or a concert, there’s a lot that has to be fulfilled. You can’t underestimate the number of requests that might be made based solely on the type of show.
I was also able to visit the dressing rooms, greenroom, the lighting box (where lighting is controlled for the stage), and the fly system (the rigging system that uses blocks (pulleys) and counterweights to safely hoist curtains, scenery, and lights). This allowed me to understand what happens during a show rather than before. I had primarily learned about what goes on in preparation for the show, but this made me realize that work doesn’t stop when tickets are sold and everything is paid for; the work continues during the show because you have to make sure that everything is running smoothly. Even if lights and sound equipment are working perfectly during the show, there’s still a chance that something could happen to an audience member or worker. The stagehand (who helps set up stages, lights, and sound), Manny, told me that right before a show started, a man had a heart attack and they had to use the medical equipment available to save his life. This made me realize that if I run an event, I have to be on high alert at all times in order to avoid any issues. If something happens and there’s nobody there to fix the situation, then the event might be ruined. In a way, I’d have to assume the worst in order to be prepared.
Below are images I took today (I apologize for the quality)
I met with Sarah today and we discussed sponsorships while editing the latest version of the sponsorship packet for FunFest in 2017 (the info packet that is used to sway companies into becoming sponsors for the event). We swapped stock photos for pictures taken at the previous FunFest in order to show how well the event went. I learned that it’s also important to include a letter in the packet that states the benefits (for the even and the sponsor) of a sponsorship. For example, the letter said that the sponsorship would build brand loyalty and raise awareness about the sponsor. Their logo would be on most of the advertisements, they would receive a certain amount of tickets, and it would help them reach potential customers. Sarah also said that if she can schedule a meeting with a sponsor later in the week, I could go along with her to the meeting and see how a negotiation is made. It’s also an opportunity for my S-CORP to gain sponsors as well.
I also looked at the budget sheet. I learned that there are items/people that are a lot more expensive than I thought they would be. For example, medical equipment (including medics) costs about $1,500, and security is approximately $5,000.
This info made me begin to brainstorm possible ideas that could happen at an event held by my S-CORP. By looking at the budget sheet from the outdoor concert, I was able to get a better idea of what I would and wouldn’t need for certain events. Based on the costs of what I would need, I started to think about how much money I could try to get from sponsors. Since we are fairly new to the field, Bands4Change isn’t very well-known, meaning that sponsors might be willing to give $250-$1,000, rather than $2,000-$20,000 (seen in images below). This made me realize that in order to have a sufficient amount of money, I’ll have to ask about 10 times as many companies for sponsorships. It’ll be hard work but I’m will to do it.
Below is the budget sheet and different levels of sponsorships and the benefits that the sponsor would receive (stars represent benefits that are gained at each level).
Today I went over the paperwork that Mr. Hyman has given me over the duration of my intensive. I thought it would be smart to review all that I’ve learned and make a mental list of what I must do to put on a good show.
First, I looked over the riders to get a better feel for what the artists and bands would want in their dressing rooms. I looked at what food and drinks (and clothing) might be common so I would get a better feel for what to expect. I also looked at what strange things might be on a rider, just so I would get a good sense of the oddness of some requests.
Second, I looked at what to involve in and effective press release. Mr. Hyman gave me one to look at for inspiration and I noted that I have to be able to pack a lot of info into just a few words (performer, date, time, ticket types and prices, etc.).
Third, I reviewed the costs of some of the concerts that were held at The Stranahan. There were some cheaper expenses (and by cheap, I mean a few hundred dollars) like security, port-a-potties, and cleanup. I thought that maybe with some help, I could find less costly options. Also, there were more expensive expenses ($1,000+) that would be for renting a stage, lighting, and setup (if outdoors), venue rent, and performance costs. I have learned though that depending on whom you talk to, you can lower the costs just a bit if you negotiate effectively.
Although I still have more to learn, I feel more confident about putting on an event because I now know more about the industry.
Today was another slow day. I worked with Ellie (executive assistant -- contracts & administration) and she taught me about how once all contracts are signed and the event is confirmed, you must review the rider immediately. Some requests won’t take long to complete, and some may take a while to find. For example, some people might want Pepsi or access to a washing machine while others want roses and a certain meal that’s hard to find in the area. She said that if you don’t fulfill all of the artist’s/band’s requests, then they will remember you (because you didn’t buy something that they wanted) and they won’t want to work with you. Although it seems like a small detail to everyone else, artist’s and band’s take their requests very seriously. If they’re unhappy, then the venue will have an unpleasant reputation because other artists and bands won’t want to work with you either.
After today, I realized that after our first event, I’d have to uphold my organization’s reputation. Otherwise, people won’t want to work with us.
It was a different kind of day at the Stranahan. First, I met with Rhonda (catering and concessions manager) to talk about riders, which are lists of the artist’s/band’s requests for necessities upon their arrival.
All riders have “interesting” requests such as four pairs of black socks, three pairs of new underwear, and/or a certain room temperature (I promise, these are actual requests, I promise), but sometimes artists/bands will throw in items such as cinderblocks (yes this too is an actual request) in order to make sure that the venue is reading the rider thoroughly and carefully. Although the venue must acquire all these items, the promoter (hired by the talent) of the event pays for these requests. The promoter also pays for the runner, the person who runs out to buy something that the artist has run out or requires (such as more alcohol or Advil).
Later, I sat down with Sarah in a meeting with someone from The Blade to discuss advertisements for future events at The Stranahan. The two discussed ad placement and layout that would show how many singers, bands, and theater productions will be performing at The Stranahan this year. In addition, Sarah and I worked on creating slogans for the advertisement. We wanted to stress how the Stranahan will have a diverse group of events at their classic and timeless theater.
Today I shadowed Sarah again and I learned a lot about negotiations with sponsors and advertising. She taught me how to trade with sponsors and radio stations. Depending on how much money a sponsor gives, they receive a certain number of tickets to the event. For example, the biggest sponsor of the event usually receives 10 of the best -- and most expensive -- tickets available, and they also have their logo on all advertising material as well as on the event website.. A smaller donor, for example, receives 2 of the lowest priced tickets to the event, as well as their logo on the event website. Some of the reasons that sponsors should help put on events is because it will change/reinforce the company's image, drive sales, showcase community responsibility, and display brand attributes.
For advertising, The Stranahan assemble a "Street Team" to go out and hang up flyers and posters. If the team wants to hang up posters in a Starbucks or Panera, for example, they will give the manager two tickets to the event in exchange for hanging up the poster for customers to see. In addition to hanging up posters, radio stations will advertise the event for a certain amount of time depending on how much you pay them. Approximately $2,500 can buy fifty-seven 30 second ads, or $500 and 10 tickets will buy 24 live on-air mentions (4x per day for 6 days). I also learned that for some companies, such as Great Lakes Sound, Inc., the fee will decrease if you are a nonprofit company.
I feel as though I'm learning a lot more than I thought I would during this intensive. The more I learn, the more confident I feel about putting on an event. I think that I understand the industry enough that I would be able to put on a small, successful show. I understand how to get sponsors, I understand how to advertise, and I understand how to price tickets.
I met with Sarah again in the morning and she told me all about how venues have to negotiate with sponsors, donors, radio stations, and newspapers by exchanging tickets for advertising and/or donations. These tickets give the theater a bit of leverage when it comes to future events; Sarah said that if she gave a radio station (for example) tickets to see Seinfeld, then she could utilize the fact that she gave the station tickets as a way of getting the station to advertise the next event more frequently.
After meeting with Sarah, I then spent the rest of the day shadowing Dave, the assistant box office manager and multi media manager. I learned about how each event has facility fees that are paid with each ticket (approx. $3) that are put towards benefitting the venue (ex. helping repair theater seats after much wear-and-tear). I also learned that it’s more expensive to order tickets online and by phone due to convenience costs. Convenience costs enable The Stranahan to receive approximately $4.00 - $7.00 extra (depending on the event) for every ticket sold through phone calls or online, and Etix receives about $0.65 per ticket sold online. I was told that by using Etix rather than Ticketmaster, The Stranahan is able to save money because Ticketmaster charges a much larger amount per ticket sold. Unfortunately, because Etix is not as well-known as Ticketmaster, The Stranahan must make it very clear in their advertisements what where tickets will be sold.
A lot of research goes into ticket pricing as well; theaters must research how popular the artist/band/comedian is and estimate how many people they think will attend the event. Then, they divide the available seats into different sections, each with a different price.
I learned that this entire industry is based on strategy; you have to be strategic when developing relationships with others, and you have to be strategic in order to make a profit.
My mentor, Steve Hyman (executive director: theater bookings & administration), and I decided that each day I would shadow somebody different (ex. box office, stagehand, etc.). That way I could learn more about each aspect of event management. Today, I shadowed the sales manager (advertising & marketing, corporate & ALL-ACCESS Seating), Sarah, to learn more about what she does. She started off by telling me about how the Stranahan and other theaters (such as the Valentine) are working together to "popularize" Toledo by promoting each other's events. These theaters want to make Toledo a city that's as popular as Detroit and Cleveland and Columbus.
Sarah then told me about how she publicizes events at the Stranahan. Once an event or show is booked, she plans the publicity based on the specific type of audience that would attend these shows and events. After doing much research, she narrows down specific times for commercials to air and what radio stations will advertise the event (based on certain programs that the attending audience watches and certain stations that the audience might listen to). In addition, she tries to help the event gain more interest from a wider audience by helping to brainstorm more things to see and do at the event. And when they notice that they have some gaps to fill in their schedule, they reach out to Live Nation to see if they have any acts that have some days to fill between concerts.
Later in the day, Sarah told me about the Ohio Spring Fest that they hosted earlier this year. She told me about how they booked bands (such as Sponge), carnival rides, and even monster truck rides. After telling her about my organization, Bands4Change, she told me that next year I might be able talk to the bands managers about booking shows to raise money for charity. By doing so, I would further my organization and be able to make it more well-known.
I didn't know that there were so many different factors involved in putting together an event, making it run smoothly, and generating a profit for the venue. I am really interested in learning more about these other factors over the next few weeks.