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Thursday, August 6, 2015

What the Opera House Taught Me

Hi there,

I recently co-produced and performed in a show 'Ladies Sing the Blues: a Tribute to 100 Years of Billie Holiday' at The Sydney Opera House, and, well, it was a sold out event! Forgive me for being boastful - but it's a big deal to me. And I really want to remember the important things I learnt from being part of this experience, so I'm writing it down:

1. Get the Best out of being in a Theatre: A theatre is a very different beast to your standard rock venue. About 50% of ticket sales are made through a theatre's own channels so their marketing is vital. However, access to their marketing channels isn't automatic. You need to be on their e-marketing mailouts, 'what's on' brochures as well as have printed and digital posters in their foyers and car parks. Asking for these opportunities once will probably not be enough. Keep asking, politely. Don't forget you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

2. It's a Theatre so be Theatrical: Consider multimedia. We used rare audio bites of interviews with Billie Holiday between each live set, creating atmosphere and visibly moving our audience. 

Co-Producers Amanda Easton & Lady Cool
3. Maximise the Space: Most rock venues (in Australia anyway) offer you a fairly set template for your show eg, two x one hour sets starting at 8:30pm, with a 20 minute interval. As producers in a hired theatrical space, you can make up these guidelines yourself, within reason. Next time I would consider adding a Matinee alongside a night time show to get value out of the venue and crew costs.

4. Understand the Box Office: One of a producer's first jobs is 'building the Box Office'. Know what you can charge for tickets ie how many seats do you need to sell to break even and what kind of ticket prices will the market sustain/expect? Consider all your direct ticketing expenses including taxes, ticket printing charges, 'Inside Charges' (the theatre's cut) credit card costs and third party agency (eg Ticketek) fees. Consider how student and pensioner discounts, media and promotional comps will affect your bottom line. Insist on daily Sales Reports so you can see what marketing is working. We were almost at capacity a week before out event so we knew, for example, that a newspaper ad then would be a waste of money.

5. Have a great professional business team: Ours included co-producers, a patron/executive producer, commercial printer, a photographer and a publicist with great contacts in Metropolitan Media. TV and Radio give vital exposure as well as add legitimacy and prestige to an event. Social media marketing is important but not enough. You need good Marketing Collaterals, including a promo video, cast photo, press release, media backgrounder and eye-catching graphic art and strap lines.

6. Don't forget you're an Artist too: It is very easy to get caught up in the all-consuming business of putting on a show and forgetting that you are part of the show as a performer too. Having a Stage Manager helps separate your responsibilities as producer and performer on the night.

7. Don't be Scared to be Scared: The feeling (akin to dread or perhaps indigestion) I get in the pit of my stomach when I feel like I'm taking on more than I can chew - that's a good sign. They don't call them 'growing pains' for nothing.