Sunday, February 7, 2010

More on Cover Charges

I briefly talked about cover charges in a previous post, but more has been circulating through the listserv it was originally posted to and several people have raised interesting points and considerations. I am not really going to debate the issue as I personally don't like the practice but can see where it could be tempting as a means of offsetting expenses. However, I wanted to offer some considerations to keep in mind if you're considering charging a cover for your event. Think about your responses to these questions to see if it would fit your needs and goals. Also, please feel free to post your own questions if you like or are aware of something I neglected to mention.

Why does the art show/event/reception exist?
To raise awareness?
To foster sales?
To throw a party?
To get your name (artist and/or institution) out there?
To connect with as many people as possible?
To encourage new people to view and possibly buy art?
To offer an exclusive benefit to loyal patrons, members and supporters?

Would charging to get in enhance why you're doing the event (example: an exclusive art auction fundraiser)?
Or would charging a cover go against the purpose of the event (example: if you want to reach out to as many people as possible)?
If the cover doesn't enhance the primary reason for doing the event, can the practice be adapted to suit the show's purpose or are you certain there isn't something else you can do?
What costs can you cut to avoid charging a cover?

Would you yourself pay for what is being offered?
If so, how much?
What would you expect to get from your money?

Is the event unique and unusual enough to draw paying viewers?
How familiar with the exhibiting artists is the viewing public?
Are they local, national or international celebrities?
Is their work known to draw viewers?

In what other ways can you raise money?
Cash bar?
Exhibition/entry fees?
Auction items?
Can these means offset expenses by themselves?
Will seeking funds in another way lessen the impact or value of the show?
Would charging a cover lessen the impact or value of the show?

What perks can you offer for your cover charge if there is one?
Drinks or drink tickets?
Live music?
Raffle prizes?
Silent auction?

What if there was a suggested donation instead?
Would you be willing to admit people who didn't or couldn't contribute the suggested donation? (If not, stop fooling yourself - it is a cover charge, even if it's going to a worthy cause.)

If you do decide to charge a cover to get in, it needs to be very very well- publicized. It needs to be mentioned in the prospectus so artists can factor that into whether or not they want to participate. Viewers need to know to bring cash with them to get in or they're likely to get angry when they're turned away and you'll risk losing potential long-term support. And everyone ought to be treated equally - no picking favorites and letting some people in free while charging others unless there are specific exceptions, like individuals who have donated a lot of money & patronage, members, volunteers, staff, artists, event entertainers... Those individuals shouldn't have to pay but it should be known as to why and they should be given tickets for admission in advance so that it doesn't look to others at the door like it's just blatant favoritism.

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