How to Put on a Musical
Plan a Realistic Budget
by John Kenrick
The thought of planning a production budget may make you uneasy. Well, being a "word person," I know how you feel. It may help if you think of a budget as a way of explaining what you want to do using numbers instead of words. The budget for an amateur musical does not have to be long or complicated, just realistic.
What does realistic mean? Simple do not underestimate your expenses, or overestimate the amount of money you have in hand. If you run out of money in mid-production, you will either have to scramble for additional funds or shut down at a total loss headache or heartache. The way to avoid this is to plan a production budget and stick to it.
Here is a line-up of items that appear in many school & amateur production budgets.
|Publicity||Posters, all other forms of advertising|
|Performance Rights||Rights to Broadway musicals can run into the thousands. The licensing co. agent can give you this figure in advance of actual commitment|
|Equipment Rental||Lighting, sound, special effects -this will vary depending on what your facility already comes equipped with|
|Costumes & accessories||Construction, materials, and/or rentals|
|Sets & props||Construction, materials (lumber, paint, duct tape), any rented items (tools, furniture)|
|Facility rental & deposit||For rehearsal & performance space|
|Printing||For programs, posters & other materials|
|Shipping Costs||For scripts, costumes, equipment|
|Makeup||For entire cast|
|Music stand & light rental||For the orchestra|
|Concessions||Sodas & candy to sell at intermission (local businesses my be willing to donate some or all of these)|
|Insurance||(If not already covered by the school or facility)|
Not all that complicated, was it? Now comes the fun part listing every possible source of income.
|Starting Funds||Whatever funds you have in hand|
|Gifts/Fundraising||The mount you need to make up any shortfall|
|Probable Program Ad Sales||Design your program to be profitable|
|Refreshment sales||A small but useful plus -- especially if the supplies are donated or provided at a discount|
|Probable Ticket Sales||Aim to sell about 75% of your seats. If you manage to sell beyond that amount, more power to you!|
Total Income minus Total Expenses = Projected Profit. If your financial figure winds up a negative number, get ready to reassess your plans.
Example: Here is the budget for Higgins High's musical. Notice that it only includes those items relevant to their production. The school's print shop is doing the programs and posters in house, saving a bundle. The salaries represent consultant fees of $1,000 each to the choreographer and sound/lighting designer.
|Higgins High School Production Expenses|
|Projected Total Expenses||$12,500|
Any salaries or fees should be spelled out in formal letters of agreement. Be sure these letters mention everything expected from both parties (participation in tech & dress rehearsals, dates of payment, etc.). You can find model letters in various books an attorney or your organization's business manager can help you with the wording.
Notice in the next section that Mr. Pickering and Ms. Doolittle have planned enough pre-ticket sale income to cover all production expenses these are two smart cookies! If their fundraising falls a little short of the mark, they will probably be able to make up the difference with ticket sales. In figuring out probable ticket sales, they have projected 375 paid attendees (75% of 500 seats) for each of six performances, at $10 per ticket.
|Higgins HS Production Income - Pre-Production|
|Starting Funds (from school budget)||6,000|
|Projected Program ad sales||3,500|
|Projected Ticket Sales||37,500|
|Projected Total Income||49,000|
|Income minus Expenses = Projected Profit||$37,300|
If the show sells out profits could be higher, but this figure will help keep everyone's expectations gentler. With no previous productions to judge by, there is no guarantee they can sell three thousand tickets.
Have I offered a relatively rosy picture here? Of course -- I'm not looking to scare you, but to offer encouragement. Just be as realistic as possible. You don't want visions of profit to turn into bitter disappointment after a mountain of effort.