The BIGGEST challenge I hear from young theatre companies is “How can I get more butts in the seats?” They’ve invited all their family and friends but it just takes A LOT of time to build up that momentum they need to fund their theatre.

One example is Utah Repertory Theater Company. In a recent FB post, one of their founding members Johnny Hebda (full disclosure – he also reviews for the UTBA) shared some insider info with their readership:

So how much does it cost to put on a big scale musical, even working on a bare bones budget you wonder?

RENT- estimated costs (between royalties, paying artists $25 per show, costumes, mics, props, sound, venue rental, etc.): 12 performances cost around $26,000. Ticket sales generated about $5800.

As a new independent theater, this is why we need donations and sponsors to make up this gap.

Please become a sponsor of Utah Rep today and keep “live theater alive”.

Every dollar counts. Here is our Indiegogo campaign. Even $10 or $20 will make a difference!

Information like that is TREMENDOUS! In a quick Facebook post he’s shown us just how much of an impact our donations will make! He also conveys the danger of what might happen if they don’t make their goal.

In the world of fundraising and ticket sales I’m a firm believer that MORE information in a clear and concise way is our biggest asset (and sadly the least used one).

Too often we hide behind the truth with claims like “Check out our Tony Award winning production of <insert musical here>” when the Tony Award we’re mentioning was for Costume Design (an element that is doubtful to have transferred from Broadway to our community theatre production).

The Big Question

What is the best way to convey that information to our audiences? How can we get the biggest bang for our buck?

Cue Trumpet Fanfare


Do you doubt me?

Check out the infographic below (but be sure to keep scrolling! There’s more info to follow!)

Marketing is Education. That’s all it is.

Video #1

First, here’s one from the Grassroots Shakespeare Company. Click play and think about answering these three questions:

  1. What are they communicating on purpose?
  2. What are they communicating on accident?
  3. Is this a successful video?

What did you think?

I thought it was funny, light hearted, and to pair it with the blood-red title cards…well, consider me interested. Grassroots’ advertising on this show (Doctor Faustus if you didn’t catch it) has been pretty intense. Their artwork is dark. Of course, that’s what their going for. They’re marketing this as THE SCARIEST thing you could do during the Halloween season. But then, they also want you to know it’s going to be funny and original. So yeah, pairing it with a little music from Heinz Kiessling is perfect. (You might recognize the music from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

Any thoughts on question #2 though?

Video #2

This one is from our good friends at the Salt Lake Film Society. They had a fundraising campaign reaching for a massive $50,000. Click play and again, think on these three questions:

  1. What are they communicating on purpose?
  2. What are they communicating on accident?
  3. Is this a successful video?

Totally different, right? But still, I think they are accomplishing what they want. The Salt Lake Film Society runs two theatres in Salt Lake City (The Tower on 9th and 9th, and The Broadway on, well, Broadway in SLC). SLFS aims to educate, advocate, and inform about and through cinema, fostering film talent and cultivating film appreciation. VERY fitting that they spoof a few film styles cinephiles (in other words, a person who has a passionate interest in cinema. Also known as a cinéaste) would want to flock to.

Does the video resonate with everyone? No.

But it is geared specifically at their audience and they do a great job of (1) educating us WHY their fundraising campaign is important, (2) what impact our donation will have and (3) what will happen if they don’t reach that donation.

In Summary

Make videos. Your audience is proven to remember more of the message you’re sharing. That means more butts in the seats.

Just remember to make them good. 😉