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Simple Budgeting for a Profitable Performance

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At most dance studios, annual performances are the biggest—and costliest—events of the year. Expenses add up fast: venue rental, sound and lighting, costumes, recital programs, staff salaries, and hidden surprises. The last thing you want or need is a wild, stressful ride into indebtedness. 

But there’s good news! Before you spend a penny, create a budget—and make your dollars work for you. 

When I started my studio in 2010 I had no idea how to run it, much less how to budget a show. As expected, my first performance was a catastrophic financial failure. But the following 12 years have been filled with learning experiences, and today my performances (even during COVID!) are substantial sources of revenue. The reason? I understand how to budget for each and every performance.

Budgeting is not intimidating if you do it early and reflect on it often. With a sound budget, you keep control of your spending. Budget before you book a venue, look at a single costume, or pick a theme: ideally, six months to one year in advance.

Simply, budgeting works like this: estimate potential event revenue, then set limits on expenses so that expenses don’t exceed revenue. The result? A profitable recital.

To do that effectively, it’s important to pin down expenses and revenues in real figures. (Estimating is not guessing: it’s using thought or calculation to find a value that is close to the right answer.) Let’s begin!

Select one annual performance (spring recital, winter showcase, etc.) and answer the following questions while filling in these charts.

FIRST: How much income did I bring in?

Include recital fees, parent/dancer or opening dance fees, ticket sales, program sales, program ads, and anything else that brought in income.

income from performance calculator

(Download full worksheet at the end of the page to fill in your numbers)

Now: How much did I spend Last year?

Dig deep into costs: costumes, venue, music, staffing, gifts, advertising, ticket fees, and program printing costs, and any other expenses all go into that bottom number.

What unforeseen costs came up?

Did you have to rent flooring last year? Pay for extra hours at the venue? Bring in additional staff? Buy a second costume for a class because the first one was damaged?

In total, what did the show cost?

chart to record spending

(Download full worksheet at the end of the page to fill in your numbers)

Next: Time to Dig Deeper!

What was the average income brought in per student?

Find this number by dividing the performance income by last year’s student count.

Last year’s performance income

Divide

Last year’s student count

Average income per student

 

÷

  

What is this year’s show’s projected income?

Take last year’s average income per student (calculated above) and multiply it by this year’s student count to arrive at projected income for this year’s show.

Last year’s average income per student

Multiply

This year’s student count

Projected income for this year

 

X

  

What is this year’s show’s projected profit or loss?

Subtract this year’s expected expenses (estimate costs for this year using charts on previous page) from projected income (previous chart).

Projected income

Minus

Projected expenses

Projected profit (or loss)

 

  

How much can I spend on my upcoming performance?

If last year’s performance lost money, look at either raising prices or cutting expenses to balance your performance budget. If you broke even or made a profit, it’s still smart to consider ways to raise the bottom line. How can you improve this year’s projection? Always look at cutting costs before raising fees: you’ll please more parents and retain more students.

It pays to put in the work of forecasting your shows’ financial futures!

5 tips to cut recital Costs

  1. To save on venue fees, hold dress rehearsals at the studio.
  2. Nix the expensive backdrop rental: use the venue’s scrim or drops, or revamp props from previous shows.
  3. Cut back on gift costs for teachers.
  4. Research options for alternative, less expensive venues.
  5. When possible, order clearance costumes.

8 tips to raise recital profitability

  1. Offer a parent/dancer recital dance and charge a rehearsal/performance fee.
  2. Sell program ads to outside businesses and student ads or “shout-outs” to families.
  3. Expand ancillary merchandise sales: teddy bears, flowers, recital shirts, backstage gifts. Break this down by age or class level: what do you market to which age groups? Example: teddy bears to baby classes; unicorn-themed candy bouquets to ages 3 to 6; mermaid-sequin pillows to ages 6+.
  4. Bring recital photos in-house by training staff to take photos with the training of companies such as DIY Dance Pix or Diamond Collective Photography that provide training and/or equipment and editing services.
  5. Sell action photos to parents at your event. (Do you have the capability to do this in-house or do you need to bring in an outside vendor?)
  6. Renegotiate your videographer’s contract to gain a percentage from sales or consider bringing this task in-house as well.
  7. Reconsider your performance fee. What is included? Can you charge the same amount and cut back on what you include?
  8. Sell more programs by including group photos of each class. (Parents love buying things that feature their children!) Consider a higher price for program purchases “at the door” vs. pre-orders.

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