The Dreaded Pricing Question (MARKETING / BUSINESS)
March 21 2008 at 6:25 PM
from IP address 184.108.40.206
Finding Axtell in a Google search, I got very excited about the idea of putting together a new show for children's parties. I live in a community near Microsoft here in Washington where there are many children and feel it might be something that could go over very well.
I have had many years experience in entertainment, including magic shows, but would like to go all puppets this time around.
But it has been a very long time since I have done something like this. And so I have no idea what the going market is for a show. If I had a well produced children's show that ran 30 to 45 minutes with several different puppets, music and sound effects with a meet-and-greet photo opportunity with a puppet after the show, can you give me some kind of idea what you might charge for something like this?
I realize that pricing is very subjective and depends on many factors including where in the U.S. you are, but any ideas would be much appreciated.
Rainbow Ridge Productions
This message has been edited by axtell from IP address 220.127.116.11 on Mar 23, 2008 8:01 PM
Hopefully we will hear from several people. Pricing is a very difficult area. One reason is that price fixing is not allowed, so we cannot get together in an area and say "Everyone please charge .... for the product" although it seems to work well for airlines and gas stations.
What most marketing books will recommend is that you call some of your competitors and ask them for rates. Personally, I would recommend seeing if there is a local IBM or SAM club (International Brotherhood of Magician's or Society of American Magicians) and pose the question to them. A puppeteer and a magician should earn about the same, with the exception of multiple hour walk around which is difficult with a puppet.
A rule of thumb is to figure out what you would make on a regular job for a day's work. Double it for your better shows, like banquets, schools, etc. and at least match it for your private shows, like birthdays and libraries. The reason you need the double is that you will spend many days marketing and have no income for those days. You also have to come up with your half of social security, your own benefits, props, etc. that you would not have on a regular job.
I LOVE my job and in my 16th year of full-time children's entertaining, but I still ask the question, "How much should I charge?"
One example is that I triple my rate if I have to fly out to do a show. (plus expenses) Why? I would rather do 3 local shows, where I'm home each night, than one long distance show where I am gone for 36-48 hours.
Ax lots of Questions
March 21 2008, 9:17 PM
This is very difficult to discuss because entertainer usually don't want to reveal their rate, but I talk to a lot of people in this business and for what you have described above....if it is well rehearsed and professionally presented...(wow that's another discussion)... I would just say that in the USA the lowest respectable rate would be $250 for a small group and a good average would be $500 for a nice big local group. Traveling expenses extra. $1000-2000 is not out of the question for high income areas where there is a lot of demand for entertainment. However VERY IMPORTANT don't charge until you have it ready to sell. Nothing will hurt you more than doing a poor presentation, or going on and on too long with mediocre dialog without changing thigs fast, with energy and often.
There are many different types of shows you can think about:
what did I miss folks?
March 22 2008, 8:26 AM
what did I miss folks?
Add these to the list:
Boy Scouts Blue and Gold banquets
Awanas (church midweek meetings for kids)
Focus on the ones with the greatest opportunity for spreading the word, at first. Each one has their own unique way of obtaining a program, but the best part about this business (or the worst) is that a newcomer is just as likely to get picked as someone who has been doing it for 16 years. People like to see something new.
If you choose a business name it is easiest if it includes your own name. However, in the yellow pages or small ads you may want to call yourself something like Birthday Puppet Parties, or Puppets of Character (for schools). I know a photography company that has different names for different ads Sports Photographers Unlimited, Wedding Photos, Family Portraits, etc. Because people are more likely to call them when they are specifically pushing that venue. Would you call a Wedding Photographer to come and shoot your kids' soccer team? (Yes, there is an opportunity for a joke in that sentence.)
You will find that Axtell puppets sell themselves very well so as soon as you get one, put it's picture up front. Many places have me back but the kids don't remember me until I bring the bear out. "Oh! I've seen you! Yay!"
I once booked about 10 libraries because I sent a photo of the kangaroo by e-mail to them and explained my Australian show, which would fit their theme. At the time I had not yet written it and had not purchased the kangaroo. I wanted the new bookings before I spent the money. I got the shows. Give yourself plenty of time if you do that! Steve gets a lot of orders.
Last, but not least, to convince your wife to let you try it set aside a percentage of your income for the following:
10% New props or signs
5% Charity (or 10% of your final profit after expenses)
10% to retirement.
8% for your share of Social Security
10% for healthcare.
2% for extra gas.
By the time the government takes their 30% (50% for Canadians) then you are left with 15% for actual usable money. THAT is why entertainers must charge extra. Notice that I didn't even put in health care.
You have just convinced me to raise my prices. Thank you for the question!
ALWAYS consider driving time and gas. Go to www.irs.gov to figure mileage but most venues want a total so charge about $1 extra for each mile you go beyond your county. Of course, living where you do near Seattle, most of your work will be within a 30 minute drive, so it isn't as much an issue.
Boy Scouts and Marketing Bullying Programs
March 23 2008, 6:37 PM
Noticed in the messages that we should remember to market to Boy Scouts. I'm thinking about marketing to Boy Scouts as I specialize in bullying prevention. The Boy Scouts have a new emphasis in bullying prevention. The 472-page Boy Scouts Handbook now devotes a half-page to bullies, and scouts are required to discuss the material with a troop leader to reach the beginner rank of Tenderfoot.The handbook also now covers cyber bullying. Aspiring scouts must demonstrate they know how to show restraint when taunted online.
I found out that Boy Scouts have monthly themes. You can check out scouting month themes for 2007-08
April Theme: Abracadabra, Bullying Cub Scouts love to amaze and be amazed! Boys discover secrets of the magician's art this month as they demonstrate magical illusions and learn new tricks with cards, coins and other everyday objects. The Cub Scout Magic Book is a great resource for age-appropriate tricks and puzzles. Visit a magic shop or have a magician come to your den or pack meeting to teach the boys a few tricks of the trade. Prepare to watch in wonder at the pack meeting as your Cub Scouts entertain their audience with skits, stunts and sparklers that they have practiced at den meetings. The Cubmaster uses the magic of ceremonies to pull awards from his hat at the mystifying pack meeting magic show. This would be a good month to hold your pack space derby.
Boy Scouts March’s Cubcast discusses ways to enhance the April theme of Abracadabra with Toni Welch, an experienced Cubmaster trainer. Plus, get some sound advice on how to deal with bullies from Dr. Carol Watkins, who is board certified in child psychiatry. (You can Download the March 2008 Cubcast [MP3 - 10.4 MB] http://www.scouting.org/CubScouts/Cubcast/March2008.aspx
I don't know much about Boy Scouts, but googled them and found out the info above. My question is: At what level do I contact? Council level? District level? Troop leaders? Who would be the appropriate person to contact? Any guidance would be appreciated.
Scouting for work
March 23 2008, 8:42 PM
Keep in mind the age range for boy Scouts begins at 10 and goes to (I think) 18. You'd better have a show that's appropriate for this age range and keep in mind that they are all boys! Do you have appropriate material for middle school boys equiped with rope and sharp objects?
**Cub Scouts regularly hold "Blue & Gold" dinners and will often hire a performer. The boys are younger and probably a more appropriate audience for the typical kid show. However, many seasoned pros have told tales of terror from their Blue & Gold bookings. I've done a few but they are not my regular biz.
Boy Scouts vs Cub Scouts
March 24 2008, 11:14 AM
Thanks Steve for the insight regarding boy scouts vs cub scouts. I do work with middle school age groups, usually class by class or in groups of no more than 60. The presentations with puppets would be geared to cub scouts, but I do have interactive presentations for older kids. As a former high school teacher, I don't know about rope and knives, but that's something to think about. P.S. I love to go to your site and watch your video clips. I'm a fan.
March 24 2008, 1:32 PM
Ooooops. I didn't mean that YOU should incorporate the rope and sharp objects but that your audience of Boy Scouts might be proficient in their use. However, there are classic magic and juggling routines that do incorporate these items.
I think your experience as a teacher gives you an edge in developing an appropriate program for multiple age groups. Doing what others shy away from is sometimes the only way to find your niche.
March 29 2008, 11:10 AM
Just wanted to thank everyone for the great ideas and information. I actually didn't expect to see any replied because of the nature of the topic! So thanks so much. You were all very helpful.
March 29 2008, 11:48 AM
I reread the messages and found that there weren't too many specifics. I will tell you that in Sacramento and much of Northern California you are likely to hear the following rates:
Birthdays: 45- 60 minutes (I do 45) $125 -$200. $200 may include an extra perk like balloons.
Libraries: $150 to $300. Most average $225-250. I give a $50 discount per library if they can book two shows at nearby libraries in one day. Libraries usually work by county so that happens quite a bit.
Schools: $175 (very low end) to $550 for one assembly. $250 to $900 for two. Often based on number of people performing. They do call around so the price can make or break you.
Churches: You may want to start by going on an honorarium PLUS expenses. If you don't figure the expenses separately you might end up paying your own hotel or flight and that's no good. After a few churches you'll know whether they are being realistic or not on the honorarium and you can charge them about what you would a school.
Daycares: If you have several topics then charge less and do many shows. But if you don't yet then charge more and do their summertime show. $125-$175. Or try to book 4 shows in one year for $400. Word might spread.
Tony's right - specifically
March 29 2008, 3:43 PM
The fees for library shows where I work in NY. $350-550
School shows seem are a lot closer to what Tony quoted for his area but there is still quite a range depending on the type of program offered.
Here's a link to my registered info on the Nassau Boces website. A certain percentage of my school work is funded by BOCES and here are specific prices and other details. If you use the search fields on the upper right you can see what almost any artist charges for any program in this area and even read the evaluations of their past performances.
Of course if your show doesn't deliver to both the audience and the people that hired you - game over. Always better to under-promise and over-deliver! I've seen so many artists promise clients (especially schools) the sky and deliver dissappointing shows. Then they dissappear into the sunset.
Make sure you're worth at least what you charge.
March 31 2008, 6:55 AM
I love the idea of comparing a show price to an average day’s work. I’ve never heard that before, but it makes sense.
Here’s something that helps me. I offer lots of choices.
For example, when I’m going to do a fair or festival, I offer them a show rate and a daily rate. My daily rate is up to six hours of stage shows and strolling for the amount of money I normally make on a Saturday. Typically, I spend a lot of my Saturdays driving to several shows. This way I can just stay in one spot.
I always do about a five minute routine with a toy that I get at a novelty store. Fairs and festivals let me sell these toys after the show. If you do this, make sure it’s a really funny routine and it fits your personality. I also wrote a book and I sell that too.
My birthday party price is fairly low, but I have lots of add-ons. I charge for a forty five minute show, then I charge extra for a balloon twisting class or a magic class after the show. I always give the birthday child a copy of my book and a party favor, but I charge extra for party favors for everyone else. Most people ask for all the add-ons. I’ve thought about having a “standard” birthday party and a “deluxe” birthday party with more things in it, but add-ons seem to be working for now.
Here’s a question. There was some talk about scout shows. I get a lot of scout shows just through word of mouth. I love doing them. These kids get my goofy humor. But, does anyone know a good way to market scout shows???
March 31 2008, 8:58 AM
I googled your name and enjoyed browsing your website. Great costumes! I love the idea you had for Scrooge. I have wanted to do a one person Christmas Carol play with puppets and coin magic for years, but haven't tackled writing it yet. I would want to modernize several lines, but keep the memorable ones.
I'm guessing that Scout leaders in your area have training sessions. If not, perhaps you could offer a rope magic training session specifically for scout leaders, or a session on the games that you have on your website. (Outstanding.) You could call it Rainy Day Games and show them what to do indoors when needed. The same could be offered for teacher workshops, although it is not considered educational.
In describing your birthday parties you fail to mention the puppets. Do you do puppets at the birthday party? Also, what is the best way you have found to advertise for birthdays? I currently use only the yellow pages and average only 3 birthdays each month.
Birthdays and Scouts
March 31 2008, 10:14 AM
Thanks a lot for the compliments!
There is always a "child" magazine around to advertise in. I use Fort Worth Child and Dallas Child, but there’s bound to be something like it on your area. Bookstores usually have these magazines for free. That’s where I get most of my birthday and daycare shows. An ad might cost the same amount as you charge for a show, but it’s worth it.
I definitely use puppets in all my shows, and most of them are Axtell! Educational shows usually have more puppets than just-for-fun shows, because they help me teach lessons. But, one of my favorite just-for-fun routines is where an Axtell bird finds a card while blindfolded. A rubber mouth can grip a card easily!
Thanks for the scout tip. I'll look into that!
library rates in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex
March 31 2008, 3:54 PM
Every November our regional library system holds a "Performers Showcase" where performers can set up tables and do brief versions of their acts. At the last one I attended, most acts (including puppets) fell in the $200-250 range for a 45 minute show. You might want to talk to some of your local children's librarians and see if there is something similar to that in your area.
Most of the performers that I have hired for our Summer Reading Club events fell solidly within that range (it would have to be something really unique and popular for me to stray above $250). Our summer audiences range from 100-300 audience members in general.
Many school districts in Texas (I can't speak for other states) require that there be an educational component to an act that ties directly into some concept from the state education tests the kids have to take. I don't know about their pricing limits. You can often get a number of school bookings by doing that, but it will take a bit of extra work to learn about the types of things they need and work them into your show.
If you are going to approach libraries, some of the tips below might be useful. Most librarians I know would probably agree with the majority of them.
As someone who hires children's performers every year, I get a lot of pitches and advertising material from potential acts. I tend to pay the most attention to those who give me a lot of relevant information up front. For example, a great performer website would include:
1) Numerous high-quality photos mid-to-large-sized photos of the puppets that we can use for advertising flyers, plasma screen displays, cable channel slides, etc.
2) Audio files and/or videos (on the website) of a live performance are a real bonus.
3) A detailed description of the performer's style, components of a typical show, age range the show is targeted to, amount of audience interactivity in the show, etc.
4) Coloring sheets of the puppets that can be downloaded, printed, and passed out to the kids weeks before the show (to get them even more interested).
5) Current rates, driving charges, etc.
6) FULL contact information - email, phone, mailing address, etc.
In general, I prefer to receive "pitches" from performers via email (preferably) or mail, rather than in-person or telephone cold-calls (I'm far too busy for those). I do check out every single pitch I receive, though, because you never know where your next "shining star performer" will come from.
How fortuitous that you just posted, Brett - your website is a great example of the type that will immediately get someone's attention! Great pictures, videos, descriptions of types of shows, a zone map, etc. I need to hire you for my Summmer Reading Club program sometime...oh, wait, I already did!
Having once been a full time children's pastor (15 years)
my puppetry has always been a charitable effort, i.e.: MDA, Children's Miracle Network, Make a Wish, and children's ministry in general. Now that I'm retired from full time ministry and looking to move up to the next level of actually getting paid for my talents as a family entertainer, I'm not really sure where to begin. Puppeteers of America sells a neat little book on How to Make Money Doing School Assemblies but I feel the information is out of date. Escpecially when schools are strapped for money just like everybody else, or do I decieve myself? Getting the word out with an extremely tight budget is making it hard to create a quality advertising scheme. I welcome any and all suggestions.
Jay "Fishbucket" Phillips
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