Happy Birthday Performance in the Pub.

mic and hello sign

image by Natalie Walter, logo by Alex Kelly

So, in a couple of weeks, Performance in the Pub (the DIY performance night I’ve been running in Leicester) will be a year old.

I wish I had time for a big, reflective blog post on every little thing I’ve learnt from it, and every little thing that might be useful for others to learn from, if they want, but I don’t at the moment. However I do have something up my sleeve for sometime in the near future… Bear with me while I do try and find the time for that.

In the meantime, here’s what I’m going to do, just out of interest for anyone thinking about running this kind of thing on a very simply monetary basis – you can download all of my expenditure and income from over the first year (7 events – at the bottom of the post). One of the most-asked questions I receive is about how Pay-What-You-Can ticketing works. Well, so far as I can see, it works on a margin that the majority of subsidised theatre work. I’d love subsidised traditionally-ticketed venues to let me know if their events strike a better break-even point than mine.

It’s also worth noting, that since I started, the lovely Cookie Jar/Crumblin’ Cookie venue have stopped charging me a deposit, and have fed me and my artists – as well as occasionally writing off a bar tab. That kind of support money can’t buy. Likewise, both me and my artists all work for free. That’s just a thing. If I did pay ITC minimum, I’d have to go for ACE funding, and then, frankly, I think it would be a vastly different show. Not least because of the generosity that all those artists offering something for the audience in that context represents, but also because of the deal I strike up as a testing ground for work-in-progress stuff – I have to make sure I’m offering something if I can’t offer money. Also it would be a big FU to all of the underground DIY music scene folk putting on gigs that would never be able to approach the arts council to do similar. If I had time to raise local sponsorship, I definitely would. But solidarity with an art form that is half of my life, and that I properly love, is important too.

I’ve learnt an awful, awful lot, but the things that stand out the most in terms of money that I’ve learnt as I went: you will always need more flyers and fewer posters than you think. Flyers and posters are important – make it easy to share online, but remember that online on twitter is not half so good as on facebook – twitter is full of brilliant people not near you, whereas facebook allows word of mouth to spread (ideally) between locals. Good design is worth investing in – and good design for your target audience, too – I’ve mostly used band poster designers. Local radio and press exposure is priceless (well, results in roughly 4x the pre-sales), and, most importantly for me, you have to have a conversation about pay what you can. I post the same figures you can download here on the door at every show. I explain what the break even figure is (£5, usually [though at capacity, which I haven’t hit yet] and I’ve yet to have a show where I’ve received less than that, average), I talk about worth, and try and chat to everyone on the door, remember names, say hello. I also play with reward systems which borrow a little from the merch world of music; all donators get a sticker featuring a bit of the poster art, and there’s usually something extra for people who donate over £5 – mince pies, cookies, pin badges, that kind of thing.

I can’t remember especially setting out any particular aims for the event when I started it – beyond ‘there’s none of the kind of small scale DIY performance I love happening here, so how about I stop complaining and do something about it’. I did, though, come up with the idea of aiming it at all the people in Leicester/the East Midlands who go to its thriving gig scene (well, semi-thriving, it’s been a tough couple of years) but would never and have never think of going into Curve. There are several people who have taken the time to talk to me and tell me they hadn’t seen theatre since school, and they didn’t know it could be like this. That it could talk to you. That it could be there with you, like good music is.

So in those terms, for a loss of ~£900, over 7 events? I’m glad I paid that.

As a little ‘anniversary’ thing at the event last Thursday I played a little game at the beginning, and did the whole ‘stand up’ and then ‘sit down if’ thing to find out who had been to the most events. About 7 people had been to all but one, so as a tie breaker I asked who could show me the most stickers. A guy called Andy showed me all 6 of his stuck to the back of his phone. I bought him a drink as his prize. Before Performance in the Pub he had been to the theatre once since school and the odd musical.

And this is a quote from a couple of tweets around about event 5, from a regular gig go-er who I sometimes saw at post-rock shows:

“I’m not a theatre goer *at all* and it’d normally be something I find intimidating, but @performancepub proved…that there’s more to theatre than stuffy pantomime and shakespeare and it can be all kinds of entertaining & provocative =)” – @frivolousshrig

*cough greatartforeveryone cough*

Anyway, here’s that money stuff:

download (pdf)
download (excel)

right click save as, or click to view in-browser (pdf)

Thanks to the audiences for coming, for donating, and for telling people about it. Thanks to Dave and Natalie who have taken pictures. Tinny and all at the Cookie. Thanks to brilliant illustrators and designers Cameron Stewart, Tom Humberstone, and Lee Keith Innes for working way under what they were worth. Thanks to my mum, for buying me food and slipping me the odd £100 when money gets really dire, also for the small loan which I could run the first event with (paid her back and everything). And thanks to all the following acts for coming along and giving me their time. It would have been nothing without any of them.

Thank you, Tassos Stevens, Ira Brand, Daniel Bye, Laura Mugridge (with Tom Adams), Jodean Sumner, Alex Kelly (Third Angel), Chris Thorpe, Hannah Jane Walker, Sam Halmarack, Sylvia Rimat, Kieran Hurley (with Julia Taudevin), Victoria Melody, Ross Sutherland and Fergus Evans (with Jennifer Gaskell).

See you at the next one?

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One Response to “Happy Birthday Performance in the Pub.”

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