Yesterday I put in a call to a vendor I have not worked with before to ask for some rates for their services for a developing musical I’m working on (this one is probably two years away from even announcing here, never mind being seen on a stage).
I expressed a little concern over the amount I was quoted and the salesperson then said, “Well, this is for a commercial production, right? If you’re a non-profit, I could give you our non-profit rate.” (That rate was about 15% less.)
If I was a cartoon, steam would have come out of my ears and my face would have turned as red as a pair of Kinky Boots. (That is what we call in the biz a shameless plug, btw.)
Everyone knows how risky producing on Broadway is, right? Only 25-30% of shows make money, but we get charged more? Just because of our tax status? Non-profits try to make money too, you know, they just put it back into their institution.
Well, guess what most Broadway Producers and Broadway Investors do? Yep, they put it right back in as well. And then some!
Additionally, big non-profits are almost guaranteed to be here for years and years, if not decades. Broadway Producers and their shows are just trying to get through to next week, next month, and if they’re lucky and hit a juggernaut they’re around for a long time. But Phantom of the Opera is still younger than the big NPs in town.
But still “For Profits” get charged more? Yet we don’t get grants or donations and such, not to mention artists working for a lot less than their market rate?
One argument I’ve heard is, “Well non-profit is where the “art” is done – and so many important shows wouldn’t happen if NPs were given some favorable status.” True, sort of. See, plenty of important arts shows from Angels in America to Clybourne Park were given a wider audience because of their commercial production. Don’t they deserve a break for taking that risk? Especially if the vendors are admitting by even having a non-profit rate, that they can survive on those numbers.
Now, I know all you people that work for small struggling non-profits want to punch me right square in the blog because you need those rates to get by, right?
Well, I agree. 101%.
Despite this semi-rant, I’m not proposing we do away with Non Profit rates. I’m proposing that, oh I don’t know, maybe there should be a sliding scale of Non Profit Rates. Or maybe if your NP has only been in existence for 3 years or less, then you get the rate. Or if your budget is less than X dollars, then you get the rate. I’d have no problem with someone charging me more than someone charging a brand new company that’s producing new American plays by unknown playwrights in 99 seat theaters. (In fact, I’ll donate $100 to the first theater company that fits that description that comments on this entry.)
But granting companies blanket Non Profit rates, when lots of us are struggling to make our bottom lines black and are contributing just as much to the art and the economy, just doesn’t make “cents.”
That’s why I refused to use the vendor I called unless they gave me their NP rate. Which they did. :-)
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