Thursday, October 08, 2009

If you could test drive League membership, would you?

Alright, the skies are buzzing with thoughts. Here's one for ya? What value does the League of Chicago Theatre's provide its smallest members (the members that need it the most)?

I follow Chicagoplays on twitter, and noticed that on a few occasions, Ben (I think it is Ben who admins that tweet) would post something like this...

Chicagoplays:Hosting an Emerging Theater Roundtable on PR tonight at our offices with Cathy Taylor. Should be a great event.

I wanted to know, if it is such a great event then why are we hearing about it just now? Quite quickly, I received tweets for folks who said that the events are announced on the members only email list serve.

Well, from my POV that doesn't work as a form of recruitment. I'm not paying to find out about the events you have. I might pay to participate in those events, but not to insure getting word of the events.

I'm willing to consider that the league might have lots of interesting stuff for its members other than hottix? But, how does LOCT inform non-members of what they are missing?

Here is something I'd like to see LOCT do in the next year. Offer a test drive to new companies with a budget under $50,000 for six months, with an option to buy. What do think about that Deb? Is it possible? Either that or the next time LOCT courts smaller theatres, I want to hear about something other than hottix.

Talk to me...tell me something


devilvet said...

Sorry for typos. Post send from gphone

Deb said...

Hey Devilvet…I’m listening. Well, what can I say…the fact that you even express interest makes my heart happy. We are starting today to post all of our programs on our blog, thanks for the suggestion. So, you will be able to check it all out there. We are also posting all the announcements, industry nights, etc. there. So, it’s kind of crowded and we would love any suggestions about how to deliver this information in a cleaner manner to the largest audience possible. Excuse the shameless plug but, yeah, we have a lot of great programs, the one you refer to is what we call our Emerging Theatre Roundtables. We have done seven over the past year on a variety of topics of interest to theatres with small budgets. Over the past year we have also done Intern Networking Nights, Marketing Roundtables with media partners, theatre dish events, with topics of interest to all theatres, a conversation with Michael Kaiser, a panel on the Incredible Shrinking Arts Media, a Sundance Lab Panel Discussion, World Theatre Day and much more. Our mentor program, which Rebecca refers to in the comments below is fantastic. The “mentees” come to us and let us know who they would like to be their mentor, we then approach the mentor and ask them if they will mentor so and so. We have never had anyone say no. It has worked out spectacularly well. So, all of that plus the Chicagoplays website, with 50,000 hits per month and consistently growing, the job listings, auditions, the list of programs goes on and gets bigger all the time.

Your other suggestion is interesting, and I gave it some thought, but it’s just not feasible from an administrative standpoint. BUT…you might not know that it’s only $250 a year for theatres with budgets under $50,000. And, you can pay that quarterly.


Devilvet said...

Deb thanks for reply/commercial ;) It is fair to promote yourself.

I was aware of your price point. I guess if what you do is so amazing, I am now at a loss as to what you have to lose by a six month trial? (i.e. I'm not wholly convinced regarding the administrative standpoint)

Unless you are suddenly getting swamped with new members, you might consider that someone like myself who is best defined as skeptical might be convinced after 6 month test drive that it is good and therefore become a loyal and paying member for years.

But at this point, I am politely yet severely questioning the value even of a 250 dollar price tag.

If from an administrative position you couldnt handle/afford six month trial... then (without trying to sound smart) what are you capable of handling other than cashing my checks on a quarter basis (ok that was smart, but sincere as well)? When it comes to supporting the scene, what can you do? Maybe the changes to the blog will answer these questions...

Right now, you need a serious rebuttal to Tony and Don's questions about hottix.

Right now, I need to see one or more of your members show me the numbers. Intimate theatre spaces that seat less than 50 are going to need to know what they get aside from giving the league half their profits on tickets sold through hottix. I need an actual before and after picture.

Please let us know (via twitter and other) when you guys have the blog updated with a laundry list of what I get for $250 other than a sense of belonging.

I am sure you are aware (or at the very least becoming incresingly aware) that among some of the small yet established companies, the League seems suspect.

I'd like to know what your thoughts are on that. Why do you think that is? Are you as an organization ready to grow and address this?


DirectorSector said...

These are most excellent questions, DV. In all my observations of LOCT, I haven't seen anything but Hottix that might benefit small theatres like The Mammals. The only benefit that I can see is the "brand name". It's kind of like whether you buy Dr. Pepper or Dr. Thunder... the only real difference is the name.

And so what? A small theatre with a good show can sell out a 30 seat house every night without that. Why should we pay $$ for no real benefit?

It's a good question -- and it would be great for LOCT to make the benefits of being a League member more transparent and more available to the general public.

Don Hall said...

Deb -

What about the HOT TIX thing?

Is it OK with you that a $20 ticket advertised as half price costs $18.50?

Barry Rowell said...

Obviously, not knowing the LOCT I can't comment on that. I do know that in NYC, the Alliance of Resident Theaters/NY offers a few grants that members can apply for: The Nancy Quinn Fund for companies under $100K, the Bel Geddes Technical grant to help with set/sound/costume expenses, and the Fund for Small Theaters for companies over $100K. In addition, there are specific information seminars on administration matters ranging from grant writing, planning special events, marketing, bookkeeping and other tasks/jobs associated with running a small theater in NYC. There are also roundtable discussions on a variety of topics with groups that have a similar focus and are at a similar level of experience/budget.

My "commercial" ends. Now for the big ol' "but..."

But: I almost always find the roundtables annoying (this is not ART/NY's fault) because there's always someone who wants to dominate the discussion with their opinion/problem whether it's on topic or not. And even when you're fortunate enough to get one that isn't sidetracked like this, they tend to be a lot more kvetching than problem-solving. What has happened most often is that I've met a few people over the years that I might not have otherwise met who have become friends/peers and whose opinions I trust. In a small group (2 or 3 at most), a discussion can be fruitful; any more than that and, in my opinion, it's just complaining.

But: the seminars, as good as they are, are basically crash courses in how bigger organizations work. That approach has merit—just because we're not $1M+ companies doesn't mean that they don't have anything to teach us (the best lesson I learned is that Lincoln Center can't get the admin work done on time with a big ol' staff so I can cut myself some slack when I can't either)—but it doesn't answer questions, per se, it just gives you fodder for finding your own creative solutions to your problems. What has been more useful is the few times we've had individual sessions with a more experienced professional to give us advice. But they require more time (there are over 400 member companies in ART/NY) and so they occur very infrequently.

I will say that I think Peculiar Works has benefitted greatly from being members of ART/NY, beyond the grants we've gotten from them and the grants they've helped us to receive. I don't attend many events there any more because there are more for companies just getting started than there are for mid-career groups and because, as I've said, the roundtables just annoy me, but Catherine and Ralph went to one this week on 990s (the federal tax form for non-profits) which changed this year and Catherine is a board member there, too.

I sort of feel about ART/NY the way that the Europeans feel about their healthcare: it ain't perfect but it gets a lot of stuff right. And don't even think about taking it away from me, you bastards!