Presenters are likely to book your show because:
- They saw your show and think it would do well in their venue, or
- They haven't seen your show but they believe it will do well based on what they see in your script, pitch, promotional materials, and archival video.
Of course it is ideal if potential presenters can see your show in person. Keep this in mind when you are putting on the initial run of your production, who are potential presenters you want to invite to see your show? Send them materials well in advance. If you've decided to go on tour after your run is already over, consider doing a remount locally first, even if it is a one-off performance. This will give another opportunity for presenters to see it.
Whether they saw it in person or not, make sure to send them a Presenter Package.
A simple and straightforward way to represent your production to prospective presenters is by putting together a Presenter Package. This looks similar to a media kit you may already have. Make sure it includes:
- Image(s) of the production
- Information about the original presentation (keep it brief) and its success
- Press and audience quotes
- Highlight other tour dates (past and upcoming)
- Contact info for booking inquiries
- Link to a promo video (1 to 5 mins max)
Also have your technical rider ready to share when requested.
Start by looking at the content of your show. If you feel the work aligns with another company or community, do your research and then start a conversation.
Many presenters also attend festivals in order to see multiple works for consideration at the same time. If your work is in a festival, make sure to invite attending presenters so that your work is on their radar.
There are organized events across the country (and the world) where artists can showcase their work and deliver pitches for the purpose of booking engagements with presenters. These often involve a submission process and a registration fee, keep this in mind for your planning and budgeting.
BC Touring Council: Pacific Contact
Made in BC - Dance on Tour
Arts Touring Alliance of Alberta: Alberta Showcase
Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils: Showcase
Manitoba Arts Network
RIDEAU: La Bourse RIDEAU
La danse sur les routes du Québec: Parcours Danse
Atlantic Presenters Association
Vancouver: PuSh Festival: Push Assembly Industry Series Pitch
Toronto: Summerworks Exchange Pitch
New York: International Society for the Performing Arts
A pitch to a presenter is an opportunity to make a personal connection about the work. Share why your piece is exceptional and appealing to their needs. You must be very informed about the production, be prepared to answer questions that are artistic, technical, and marketing related.
Pitching opportunities might be formal, as in pitching sessions organized by a conference or festival. Or they may be more casual, such as asking for a coffee meeting with a presenter. In both cases it is helpful to incorporate or follow-up with audio/visual support material that gives a better sense of the actual production.
You want to have prepared pitch materials, and you also want to be prepared to have a deeper conversation. Write down and rehearse your pitch, but also practice talking about the production in your own words.
On Presenters, Pitching, and Getting Your Work Out There - A document by Made in BC-Dance On Tour
It Starts with a Conversation - A guide created by Ice Hot Nordic Dance Platform for working collaboratively in a global platform, with a focus on dance.
Arts Engage Canada - Information, tips and case studies on taking part in Community Engagement. A source by Ontario Presents.
Though this section will deal with fee guarantees, many of the same principles will apply for box office splits.
As with all negotiation, when talking with presenters it is important to be clear and consistent, and to understand your expenses and your alternative tour income sources, your subsequent minimum viable fee, and the fees being charged by similar artists for similar work. It is also important to understand the factors that will go into the presenter's decision-making process. The more you know, and the more sure you are in your knowledge, the better your result will be.
You should know your minimum possible and maximum likely fee before entering into negotiation. No matter how interesting a performance opportunity may seem, you must be prepared to walk away if you can not achieve the minimum fee required to present a solid artistic product, without putting yourself or your company at unnecessary financial risk.
Knowing your costs
Unless they have specifically commissioned a new work, in general a presenter is not expecting to pay production costs as part of your fee. The touring expenses that will go into setting your fee include: all remount expenses (rehearsal space, set and costume refurbishment, artist fees and related expenses) and all expenses for the period of travel (artist fees, travel, accommodation, per diems, freight, royalties).
There are numerous budgeting templates to assist in determining touring costs. Canada Council for the Arts Arts Across Canada Touring and Arts Abroad Touring budgets tend to be quite comprehensive. You will do well to complete one of these templates to the best of your ability at the outset of your research.
Knowing your income sources
Besides your fee guarantee, typical touring income sources include
- Grants: There are significant federal and provincial touring grants available that, combined, could cover more than 50% of your total remount and touring costs. Achieving these grants will significantly affect your minimum viable fee. Note: There is a 4 to 6 month turnaround for notification on these grants. You must apply early enough that there is still a reasonable amount of time for renegotiation or cancellation to take place, should you receive a partial or negative grant result.
- Fundraising campaigns: Some companies for whom touring plays a central role in their mandate rely on annual fundraising campaigns to pay for a portion of their touring activities. If this is part of your plan, fundraising activities should take place well in advance of your tour, so that results are known in good time
There will be colleagues who are touring reasonably similar work in similar markets. Presenters will be comparing your price point to the price point of these similar works. The easiest way to discover what work is available, and the cost of that work is to:
- research the current and recent past programming of the presenters you are targeting (simple google search)
- directly ask the companies or their agents, or ask your colleagues, what the price point of those touring productions will be.
Points of comparison will be: genre, size of cast, production value, and relative cachet or name recognition of the artist. You are looking at companies with a similar artistic product, who hold a similar audience draw to your own work.
Other points of negotiation
Outside of your fee, presenters may be able to cover all or a portion of the following
- Travel (all or portion of flights, and / or of transportation to and from the airport to your hotel)
- Accommodation (all or portion of hotel costs, or alternate accommodations (other rented or provided accommodations, or billets)
If the presenter is able to offer these in part or in full, you will find that this provides significant room in your touring budget.
Outside of your fee, the presenter is responsible for all marketing, box office, house and front of house costs. Their income will be determined by a combination of granting, fundraising, sponsorship and ticket sales. Larger organizations will have greater flexibility on fees within their season, and within their budgets. ie they will be able to afford to lose money on certain shows. Not every presentation organization has this luxury.
Certain presenters have access to funds based on the type of artist they are booking (ie special funds for Ontario presenters to book Ontario-based artists, or the need of all Canadian Heritage funded presenters to present at least one work from outside their home province. It can be very instructive to do a little bit of research into the grants available to the presenters in the region you are targeting.
The main show-specific factor in presenter budgeting is prospective ticket sales. In general, they will budget based on the following formula (size of house x ticket price x reasonable assumed percentage of house sold). So, for a house with 400 seats and an average ticket price of $25, the maximum ticket income is (400 x $25) $10,000 per night. For contemporary dance or theatre, a reasonably conservative presenter might budget the same house at between 25% to 50% of maximum, meaning anticipated ticket sales of $2500 to $5000.
Assuming house, possible house rental, tech marketing and admin costs of up to $2000, they may be looking at taking a loss for any fee higher than $500. Again, they may have grant funding to allow such a loss. And a sell out will mean a net gain. So it may well come down to other considerations:
- how badly does the presenter want this work?
- how dedicated is the presenter to supporting this artist or this work at this time?
- does this work fill a specific need in their community / help them achieve their mandate in a way that other work cannot?
- how well known is the artist / how well can the artist help in driving ticket sales (ie through providing social media support and bringing in a known fan base) and preventing a financial loss?
Equipped with the knowledge above, you are ready to begin negotiations with a presenter.
Negotiation will generally begin with a presenter requesting fee information.
- Points such as travel and accommodation will be discussed and considered.
- A tech rider will be requested by the presenter, and they will internally cost out the requirements put forth. (do they have access to the resource required, or will they have to be rented?)
- Negotiation over technical requirements may ensue, if costing on certain items becomes prohibitive.
- Set up and strike time will be discussed and considered. The longer the load-in and tech time required, the higher the cost to the presenter - in space rental, tech time, and opportunity cost as the hall cannot be used for other revenue-generating purposes.
- Additional community engagement activities (workshops, masterclasses or other, more involved engagements) may be discussed as added-value to the presenter and their community within the fee
- Day of week may be discussed, as presenters will prefer days and times most likely to achieve high audience in their community. If you are on the road for multiple stops, you will want to avoid unnecessary down-time between showings. The more performances you achieve within a week, the better your company income.
Once all of these items are agreed, you will be ready to create and sign a contract. You should keep a reliable contract template on hand. Either your contract or the presenter's may be used, but your contract will provide a baseline checklist for the information and clauses you feel are necessary to achieve a satisfactory agreement.
For more information on artist negotiation with presenters, see the CanDance Network's guide to Negotiation: https://www.candance.ca/uploads/2/5/4/4/25448048/presenternegotiationtoolsfinaleng.pdf