OPINION: What value do you place on creativity?

Friday, March 02, 2012

DRTCC prides itself on pitching ticket prices at an affordable price to bring in the audiences to fill the seats. The art of negotiation comes with having 30 years experience in the industry! But there are two ways in the end process that ticket prices come into being. For the shows that DRTCC lures to Dubbo, we set the ticket prices based on how much the show costs to include in our Season. Other shows that are added during the year come after a show’s promoter contacts Theatre management. The promoter then sets the ticket price based on what they believe they can reasonably charge, which as you may well know, can be anything up to $70.00 and beyond. Some of you may still be scratching your scalp thinking “what the?” Well, here is an insight into the ticketing framework.

There is a guy who many believe has a great job some would say "the best job in the world". He works very hard doing what he does, but where you and I get paid based on the number of hours we work, his income is dependent on the success his creative work achieves. In the beginning, he was working 14 hour days and not getting paid anything. The body of work he was creating was more like an investment. He could create this work, or "investment", now and if he found success the investment would pay off later. He couldn't afford the luxuries that you and I can at the end of our working day, so he also needed a paying job, in addition to the 14 hours a day he was already working.

As he worked harder and harder at his "investment" he started finding that others liked what he did and began offering him money so that they could also enjoy his work. He was getting paid, but still not enough to earn a decent living, so on top of him presenting his work for others, he also needed to maintain his 14 hour a day "investment" to increase the possibility that more people would like his work.

When you go to see a performance, I imagine that many of you have never given much thought to exactly how much work goes into getting that performance from being an idea in someone's head to being a live experience on-stage. Entertainment seems to have become something that many people take for granted. Because we feel a need to be entertained we assume that it is something that we have a right to enjoy on demand. The term ‘dance monkey, dance’ comes to mind.

But the point of view changes when you consider that the actors, producers, technical staff, writers and the countless others it takes to create a body of work are simply performing duties from their day job. The same as you do when you go to the office every morning. They must earn a living just like anybody else. Just like you, they live in a house, eat food, drink water, use electricity, watch television and drive cars. They have children, wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, dogs, cats, fish and birds. They enjoy reading, taking photos, watching movies and hanging out with friends. They shop for groceries and new jeans. And just like you do, they need to pay for it all. That’s why they have a job.

It’s common knowledge that in the twenty-first century, artists no longer earn their income by recording CDs or releasing videos. Their income is generated from touring. So those countless 14 hour days are not worth anything unless they are performing their work on stage.  It has taken many current professional performers ten years or more to become an ‘overnight’ success.

But even for a one person show, there is a creative process that could involve, at a minimum, 50 other people - just to get one guy and a microphone onstage. And in addition to the performer, all those people also need to be paid and paid enough to afford what they need to survive.

Every live touring performance has a price tag based on the amount of time it has taken to create that performance, in the same way that a car has a price tag. The better quality a car is, the more expensive it is to create and therefore the more expensive it is to buy.

If you would like to buy a Ferrari but can't afford it, is it worth complaining that it is too expensive? Or do you purchase something that is closer to what you can afford? Keep in mind that Ferrari doesn't care that you are on a pension. Their workers have mouths to feed and houses to keep - just like you do. When a live performance is purchased, the cost is obviously passed on to those who would like to enjoy that performance - those who buy the tickets.

If a ticket to the Theatre costs $70.00 it means that in the time it has taken to get the performance to you, on stage in the Theatre, $70.00 is how much it has cost to create. With a little added on so that everyone who worked on that performance can feed themselves.

Keep this all in mind the next time you query a high ticket price. Just ask yourself, “Would I invest so much of my time, talent and effort for no immediate payment?” Creative people can’t offer to do it for ‘love’.

Even a $70 ticket doesn't sound so expensive now, does it?

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