Let's Get Real: The Money Talk in Performing Arts

Published on 05/03/2024

In our Q&A session during CloudJoi Connect Episode 2, moderated by Dennis Lee, CEO of CloudJoi, we dived into the abyss of the local performing arts industry joined by esteemed panel comprises experts from diverse categories, each bringing a unique perspective to the table. Join us as we engage in a conversation with June Tan (J) from the theatre scene, Deborah Michael (D) representing the music domain, Chrisy Wu (C) sharing insights from the comedy circuit, and Jinn Lau (JL) offering expertise from the dance community. 

Q: Let me begin by asking each panellist, how do you think the performing arts industry performed in 2023, especially in the category you are most involved in?
J: It felt kinda revengeful, with an abundance of shows making it tough to pick. There were some fresh faces and talents, which was a breath of fresh air, especially with students and new theatre companies stepping up.

D: The lineup was solid, but curating the best acts proved to be a challenge. Everyone's schedules were jam-packed, and even our sound engineer team was fully booked.

C: In our category, the struggle was real. With no venues to test material during MCO, last year became a growth period, and this year was all about soaring to new heights!

JL: Scheduling was a nightmare. We saw emerging multidisciplinary movers and dancers, which caused resources to split up. Getting an audience was tough; we're still figuring out how to promote and attract crowds. Funding and grant issues added to the challenge with limited periods and short deadlines.

Is the funding and grants system helpful?
J: To address this issue, it's crucial to take a holistic approach. We need to consider the perspectives of the audience, performers, funders, and the government such as the Ministry of Finance, Tourism, and the arts sector. The main three pillars – entertainment, finance, and education – should ideally work hand in hand. Unfortunately, there's limited government support for the arts, so it's up to relevant individuals to figure out how to make it work. The CloudJoi Annual Data Report is clear and proves helpful by providing data that serves as a valuable guideline for production groups.

Why is there a demand for comedy now?
C: Well, in our daily lives, there's a multitude of issues that make for great comedic material. People just want to kick back, have a good laugh, and unwind during a show. We're familiar with the comedians, finding them relevant and knowing what to expect when we sign up for a show. Comedians serve as the voice for issues that people typically avoid. Since comedians aren't always active and put up shows only from time to time, it keeps things fresh for the audience, creating a continuous demand.

Is the higher cost of production resulting in increased ticket prices, and how do productions sustain themselves?
C: To tackle this, we create a Profit & Loss statement, estimating the ticket amount to be sold. This helps in budgeting finances and provides clarity for money flow. The theatre involves costs for costumes, props, and lighting, and the Profit & Loss statement serves as a guideline to avoid overspending. It aids in choosing the right venue based on the estimated ticket amount. Making comparisons regarding margins and audience seats helps generate the right ticket price and quantity.

JL: Collaboration with the venue is crucial. Set the venue and rehearsal costs, with money coming from funding. Prioritize dancer and choreographer fees, then work with the remaining balance to secure a venue. Managed to find a non-theatre venue but is concerned about financial aspects while wanting to focus on creating art.

J: Theatre professionals often produce shows that draw crowds, such as Faultline and Jit Murad’s play, creating demand and expectations. However, estimating for theatre can be challenging.

D: Musicians, in general, are facing struggles. Tribute shows have become a trend, with the show title featuring a well-known artist successfully attracting a crowd. Yet, smaller artists' names are often displayed in smaller font on the poster compared to the title.

Is it possible to sell tickets at a higher price?
J: We are a budget-friendly theater that values simplicity in materials, such as chalk. Determining rates can be challenging, and we rely on performers to provide guidance in this regard.

JL: In the dance community, mutual support is crucial. For example, Dancebox by The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) often features student performances, making it challenging to increase ticket prices due to the student status of the performers. Attempts to seek help from schools in terms of promotion have been unsuccessful.

J: Establishing a benchmark is difficult, given the diverse intentions and profit margins of production teams.

C: In the comedy scene, higher-priced tickets tend to attract more people. From the audience's perspective, pricier tickets often guarantee a better show.

D: Selling more expensive tickets is a risk for production, but it allows us to pay performers better while maintaining the standard and quality of the show. People get value from the money they pay, and selling higher-priced tickets allows for fewer tickets to be sold while sustaining the same revenue.

How much money is typically allocated to marketing and publicity?
D: We heavily rely on social media and ads, but that alone isn't sufficient. Being a small venue with numerous active shows, we constantly need diverse promotion strategies. Embracing old-fashioned methods like meeting people, in-person promotion, PR, and word of mouth remains crucial.

C: There's no one-size-fits-all approach. We have to do EVERYTHING! From email blasts and traditional methods like posters to utilising various social media platforms. For comedy, customer retention is key, pushing the audience to buy tickets for future shows. Tools like Brevo aid in email blasts and data collection. CloudJoi provides data as a helpful guideline, and word of mouth continues to be effective.

The session was incredibly productive, combining insights from the CloudJoi Annual Data Report data with valuable input from the panelists. To access the complete version of the CloudJoi Annual Data Report data, feel free to download the report here .

Panellist Profiles


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