How to Put on a Musical
Plan a Realistic Budget
by John Kenrick

(Copyright 2003)

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, other advertising
Performance Rights The licensing co. agent can give you this figure in advance of actual commitment
Equipment Rental   Lighting, sound, special effects
Facility Rental  (If any) For rehearsal & performance space
Facility Repair Be prepared for a few unexpected mishaps
Costumes & Accessories Construction, materials, and/or rentals
Sets & Props Construction, materials (lumber, paint, duct tape), any rented items (tools, furniture)
Printing Programs and tickets
Salaries (if any)
Shipping Costs For costumes, equipment
Refreshments Sodas & candy to sell at intermission
Makeup As needed
Music stand & light rental For the orchestra
Postage (If any)
Insurance (If not already covered)

Not all that complicated, was it? Now comes the fun part – listing every possible source of income.


Starting Funds What you have in hand
Gifts/Fundraising The realistic figure you expect to raise
Probable Program Ad Sales Make sure your program turns a profit
Refreshment sales A small but useful figure – especially if the sodas and snacks are donated!
Probable Ticket Sales Aim for selling about 75% of your seats. If you manage to sell beyond that goal, 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 HS Expenses



Performance Rights


Equipment Rental


Facility Rental/Repair






Printing Programs




Projected Total Expenses


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 Income - Pre-Production

Opening Funds (from school)




Projected Ad Sales

Subtotal 12,500.00

Production Income

Projected Ticket Sales


Projected Total Income


Income minus Expenses = Projected Profit

$49,000 - $12,500 =  $37,300 Projected Profit

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.


On to: The Production Team