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Often, when I’m in discussions with potential performing arts program book clients to take over their program book or playbill publishing, I often find that important parts of the program book publishing process are overlooked.

I will hear “well our program book advertising sales are $X and our print bill is $Y, so we’re making a little bit of profit.”

What isn’t realized, however, are what I call the hidden costs of publishing your own program books or playbills.

And if these are not captured, they will certainly turn a positive number into a negative number very quickly!

The following five hidden costs of publishing your own program books or playbills are what I find are the most overlooked costs when trying to figure out if your program book is profitable or not.

The 5 Hidden Costs

1. Sales Time

We are huge proponents of tracking our productivity. And no matter which way we slice and dice our sales time for selling program book advertising for any one project, we consistently find that we’re looking at 485 man-hours on average for selling time. This number may sound staggering, and it is. But to get the most out of any market and to service all your current advertisers, as well as potential advertisers, this is what you’re looking at. Multiply this number by an hourly rate for your sales person(s) and add this into your program book costs.

2. Layout & Design

Just as we track our sales time, we find that on average, it takes 148 man-hours to layout and design an average program book size for the season. Multiply this number by an hourly rate of your graphic design person(s) and add this into your program book costs.

3. Proofing

Somebody is going to have to proof the work of the graphic designer. This necessary task takes on average 32 man-hours throughout the program book season. Multiply this number by an hourly rate of the person(s) that is going to be doing this task and add this into your program book costs.

4. Customer Ad Design

We are big proponents of offering customer ad design at no charge to the advertiser. This will open up many more program book sales opportunities for your organization. Saying this, this adds another hidden cost, but is well worth it. If you do offer this service, we find on average, this will take 51.75 man-hours to get these ads built and proofed out to the customer. Multiply this number by an hourly rate of your graphic design person(s) and add this into your program book costs.

5. Billing & Collections

Finally, someone must bill and collect for the program book or playbill advertising sold. On average, this will take 18 hours throughout the program book season. Multiply this number by an hourly rate of your accounts receivable person(s) and add this into your program book costs.

So, the next time you try to figure out whether your program books or playbills are making money or losing money, it is important to capture all your costs and not just the advertising sales and print costs.

By taking into consideration these five hidden costs, you will have a truer picture of your program books. Good selling!

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