After the mostly unprofitable virtual and distanced recitals of 2020, 2021 is the year to make up for lost revenue with these clever, studio-owner–approved tips.
For many studio owners, just holding a relatively normal recital this year feels like a blessing. After COVID-19 forced recitals—most studios’ biggest money-maker of the year—to go virtual (or outdoors, or majorly scaled-down) last year, this year’s performances could be an opportunity to make up for revenue shortfalls. But with some restrictions still in place and many recitals still looking not quite normal, tried-and-true recital add-ons may need a new approach. Here are six COVID-friendly, relatively-simple-to-implement ideas to boost your recital’s revenue potential.
- Package tickets with merchandise
Who wouldn’t purchase a “fundle”? Rebecca Moore and Dani Rosenberg, co-owners of Rhythm Dance Center in Marietta, Georgia, coined the term to sell their $120 ticket bundle: two tickets to the performance, a digital download of the performance video, a class photo, some studio apparel and more.
Moore and Rosenberg decided to rent a hotel ballroom and construct a performance space in order to accommodate a large audience with social distancing. This meant their costs were higher, so they wanted to bring in more revenue up front rather than try and sell the other items at or after the shows.
“Students can still purchase additional tickets, but by ‘fundling’ the items together, we are guaranteeing more revenue with the first two tickets they buy,” says Moore.
It helps parents, too. “People say it makes it easier for them because they don’t have to remember to buy additional stuff,” says Rosenberg. “It’s all there with their tickets.”
- Offer virtual shout-outs
A tried-and-true way to earn recital revenue has been selling ads of shout-outs in a printed program. The same theory can apply to virtual performances or livestreams—sans the printing cost.
For studios with recitals that have a virtual component, Suzanne Blake Gerety, co-founder of DanceStudioOwner.com, recommends selling space in a digital program that can be displayed on the screen during the event. “Grandparents from out of town watching will want to do something to make the event special,” she says. “Email people who bought virtual tickets and ask them to purchase a digital shout-out.”
- Auction raffle baskets
Lindsay Piper, co-artistic director of Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh, recommends auctioning themed raffle baskets at your recital. Her studio works with school families to procure donations of items such as spa packages, restaurant gift cards, hotel stays, wine and more. She’s done a Basket of Cheer (alcohol and sweets), a Night Out (sports tickets and dinner) and a Nutcracker theme. “We ask every parent to help out with an item and most do,” says Piper. “It’s done very well for us.”
- Charge more at the door and for virtual
There will always be people who wait until the last minute to buy tickets—and it’s OK to charge more at the door, especially this year with limited capacities. Virtual tickets can also be on par with the live-show tickets, as it’s likely more than one person will be watching the stream, such as two grandparents or aunts and uncles.
- Sell (printed) pictures
Don’t underestimate the value of a photo you can touch. While digital downloads of performance photos are great, offering a step-and-repeat to take photos in front of with some swag to pose with is also an easy revenue opportunity. Grab a Polaroid camera that prints photos right away, then sell them for a small fee on the spot.
- Limit up-front costs
It might be tricky to figure out how much merchandise to purchase with in-person capacities so different from other years.
Gerety says that cupcakes, flowers, teddy bears and other merchandise can be sold on site by a local business using a profit-sharing agreement, rather than purchasing quantities in advance that might not be sold. “This way, you’re not risking any money up front,” she says. “Those businesses are struggling as well. They will be happy to get in front of local audiences.”
Moore and Rosenberg are opting for preorders for their flowers this year, rather than taking a guess at how many they might sell and risk over-buying. They also recommend photographers and videographers who don’t charge a fee but instead split the revenue. They say this works because photos and videos sell extremely well—as long as they can be turned around quickly. “No one will buy it three weeks later,” says Rosenberg.
Avichai Scher is a freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times and NBC News.