This question was asked recently by one of our performing arts clients. The question is relatively easy to answer with the correct data, and since we track the time on each one of our program book projects, we have the data. I looked at one of our mid-sized performing arts groups. Here is what it takes to produce a cost effective program book for a complete season in hours:


The project that I looked at has a typical season running from September to May of the following year. So when looking at time spent on this project from a sales window we typically begin the sales campaign in January. So from January through late July is the main sales campaign. The total number of man-hours that were dedicated to this particular sales campaign was 485 man-hours. These 485 hours yielded 41 sold ads, or approximately 11 hours per advertiser. This may seem surprising to a lot of people that it takes that long to cultivate advertisers, but ask any professional sales representative, and they will agree. As a matter of fact, I would bet the majority of them would wish it took only 11 hours!


Layout & Design of the program book: 148 man-hours

Proofing: 32 man-hours

Customer ad design, layout & proofing: 51.75 man-hours

 (Note: with a customer supplied ad it will typically take 15 minutes on average to check the ad to make sure it fits your printing specifications. If building an ad from scratch it will typically take an average of 3 hours. In this particular example there were 41 total advertisers. Of these, 25 were customer supplied and 16 were designed by us.)

In Summary:

Sales Campaign Total Hours: 485

Production Process Total Hours: 231.75

Grand Total Hours to Produce a Program Book: 716.75

There it is—716.75 hours to produce a program book. This time does not include print press time nor does it include sales time after the first book is published for the season. What I mean by this is that we continually sell our inventory throughout the season for single performance advertising buys. So this needs to be accounted for as well when forecasting your season program book schedule. Good selling!

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