There are several different kinds of producing relationships. This page focuses specifically on Presenters. You can tell if a project is being presented by checking the program or PR materials.
For example, in their 2019/2020 season, Factory presented a Nightswimming production of Broken Tailbone, as their website credits clearly indicate.
So, what does it mean to have a presenter?
Having a presenter usually means that a company and/or venue has booked you to perform your show in their space (or in a space they provide), and they are paying you a guaranteed fee and/or a split of the box office for that performance. You and your presenter will negotiate the necessary terms to execute the performance successfully. This will include but is not limited to: required production elements, technical considerations, travel requirements, sleeping accommodations, hospitality, marketing, and so forth (more on that below).
Being presented usually means you have less planning to do outside of the actual production. Your presenter is supporting your production for a return on their investment at the box office. Keep in mind when you first contact a presenter, they are likely booking 12 to 24 months ahead into their programming season.
Presenters are likely to book your show because:
- They saw your show and they think it will do well in their venue, or
- They haven't seen your show but they believe it will do well based on what they've seen in your script, pitch, promotional materials, and/or archival video.
Of course, it is ideal if potential presenters can see your show in person. Keep this in mind when you are putting on the initial run of your production. Who are the potential presenters you want to invite to see your show? Send them an invitation and materials well in advance. If you've decided to go on tour after your run is over, then consider doing a remount locally first, even if it is only a one-off performance. This will give presenters another opportunity to see it your show.
Whether they saw it in person or not, make sure you send them a Presenter Package.
A simple and straightforward way to represent your production to prospective presenters is to put together a Presenter Package. This looks similar to a media kit, which you may already have. Make sure the presenter package includes:
- Images of the production;
- Information about the original presentation and its success (keep it brief);
- Press and audience quotations;
- A schedule of all your tour dates (past and upcoming);
- Contact info for booking inquiries; and,
- A link to a promotional video (maximum length 1 to 5 minutes).
Also, have your technical rider ready to share for when it is requested.
A promo rider works similarly to a tech rider, in that it lays out very clearly for the presenter how the show should be promoted, and who should be acknowledged. You can attach promo riders to your contracts. It may be helpful to create the rider before approaching presenters, so it is ready to share when requested, while simultaneously reminding you what promotional supports need to be negotiated.
- Create a document or a website that has an overview of EVERYTHING and EVERYONE you need to acknowledge (e.g. cast, crew, partners, and funders - be sure to include logos).
- Provide high resolution photos, head shots, and logos.
- Provide various lengths of copy (usually 50 words, 100 words, and 250 words).
- Specify age restrictions, access needs, trigger warnings, and so forth.
A pitch to a presenter is an opportunity to make a personal connection with them about your work. Share with them why your piece is exceptional and appealing to their needs. You must be intimately familiar with the production, and prepared to answer questions that are artistic, technical, and/or marketing related.
Pitching opportunities might be formal, as with pitching sessions organized by a conference or festival. Alternately, they may be casual, such as a coffee meeting with a presenter. In both cases it is helpful to incorporate or follow-up with audio/visual support materials that provide a strong sense of the production.
You want to have prepared pitch materials, and you also want to prepare for deeper, impromptu conversations. Write down and rehearse your pitch, but also practice talking about the production in your own words.
Start by looking at the content of your show. If you feel the work aligns with another company or community, do some research, and then start a conversation.
Many presenters also attend festivals in order to take-in multiple works for consideration at the same time. If your work is in a festival, make sure you invite attending presenters, so that your work is on their radar.
There are organized events across the country (and the world) where artists can showcase their work and deliver pitches for the purpose of booking engagements with presenters. These often involve a submission process and a registration fee. Keep this in mind for your planning and budgeting.
Vancouver: PuSh Festival: Push Assembly Industry Series Pitch
Toronto: Summerworks Exchange Pitch
New York: International Society for the Performing Arts
Seattle: Western Arts Alliance
The United States (the location changes annually): Theatre Communications Group National Conference
Although this section deals with fee guarantees, many of the same principles will apply to box office splits as well.
As with all negotiation, when talking with presenters it is important to be clear and consistent, and to understand your expenses and your alternative tour income sources, your subsequent minimum viable fee, and the fees being charged by others artists for similar work. It is also important to understand the factors that will go into the presenter's decision-making process. The more you know, and the more secure you are in your knowledge, the better your result will be.
You should know your minimum possible and maximum likely fee before entering into negotiation. No matter how interesting a performance opportunity may seem, you must be prepared to walk away if you cannot achieve the minimum fee required to present a solid artistic product without putting yourself or your company at unnecessary financial risk.
Unless they have specifically commissioned a new work, in general, a presenter is not expecting to pay production costs as part of your fee. The touring expenses that will go into setting your fee include:
- All remount expenses (rehearsal space, set and costume refurbishment, artist fees, and related expenses); and,
- All expenses for the period of travel (artist fees, travel, accommodation, per diems, freight, and royalties).
There are numerous budgeting templates to assist in determining touring costs. Canada Council for the Arts Arts Across Canada Touring and Arts Abroad Touring budgets tend to be quite comprehensive. It is a good idea to complete one of these templates to the best of your ability at the outset of your research.
Aside from your fee guarantee, typical touring income sources include:
- Grants: There are significant federal and provincial touring grants available that, combined, could cover more than 50% of your total remount and touring costs. Obtaining these grants will significantly affect your minimum viable fee. Note: There is a 4 to 6 month turnaround for notification on these grants. You must apply early enough that there is still a reasonable amount of time for renegotiation or cancellation to take place, should you receive a partial or negative grant result.
- Fundraising campaigns: Some companies for whom touring plays a central role in their mandate rely on annual fundraising campaigns to pay for a portion of their touring activities. If this is part of your plan, fundraising activities should take place well in advance of your tour, so that results are known in good time.
There will be colleagues who are touring reasonably similar work in similar markets. Presenters will be comparing your price point to the price point of these similar works. The easiest way to discover what work is available, and the cost of that work is to:
- Research the current and recent past programming of the presenters you are targeting (do a simple Google search);
- Directly ask the companies or their agents, or ask your colleagues, what the price point of those touring productions will be.
Points of comparison should include: genre, cast size, production value, and the relative cachet or name recognition of the artists involved. You should look at companies with a similar artistic product and a comparative audience draw.
Outside of your fee, presenters may be able to cover all or a portion of the following:
- Travel (all or a portion of the flights, and/or transportation to and from the airport to your hotel);
- Accommodation (all or a portion of the hotel costs or alternate accommodations, such as rented or provided accommodations, or billets)
- Royalties (Ask, what are the requirements of your team? Do you need playwright royalties paid out by the presenter? Do you have touring/royalty agreements in place with all the creative team members who worked on the production? Does your fee include any designer royalties that you need to pay out? Be sure to negotiate for these.) Learn more about Intellectual Property.
If the presenter is able to offer these in part or in full, you will find that this allows for significant room in your touring budget.
Outside of your fee, the presenter is responsible for all marketing, box office, house and front of house costs. Their income will be determined by a combination of granting, fundraising, sponsorship and ticket sales. Larger organizations will have greater flexibility on fees within their season and within their budgets (e.g. some can afford to lose money on certain shows), but not every presentation organization has this luxury.
Certain presenters have access to funds based on the type of artist they are booking (e.g. special funds for Ontario presenters to book Ontario-based artists, or the need of all Canadian Heritage funded presenters to feature at least one work from outside their home province). It can be most constructive to do a little research into the grants available to the presenters in the region you are targeting.
The main show-specific factor in presenter budgeting is prospective ticket sales. In general, they will budget based on the following formula (size of house x ticket price x reasonably assumed percentage of house sold).
So, for a house with 400 seats and an average ticket price of $25, the maximum ticket income is (400 x $25) $10,000 per night.
For contemporary dance or theatre, a reasonably conservative presenter might budget the same house between 25% to 50% of the maximum capacity, resulting in anticipated ticket sales of $2500 to $5000.
Assuming house, possible house rental, tech, marketing, and admin costs of up to $2000, the presenter may be looking at taking a loss for any fee higher than $500. Again, they may have grant funding to allow for such a loss. And a sell-out will mean a net gain. So, it may well come down to other considerations, such as:
- How badly does the presenter want this work?
- How dedicated is the presenter to supporting this artist or this work at this time?
- Does this work fill a specific need in their community / help them achieve their mandate in a way that other work cannot?
- How well-known is the artist? How well can the artist help in driving ticket sales (e.g. by providing social media support and bringing in a known fan base) and preventing a financial loss?
Equipped with the above knowledge, you are ready to begin negotiations with a presenter.
- Generally, negotiations will begin with a presenter requesting fee information.
- Points such as travel and accommodation will be discussed and considered.
- A tech rider will be requested by the presenter, and they will internally cost-out the requirements put forth (do they have access to the resources required, or will they have to be rented?).
- Negotiations over technical requirements may ensue, if costing on certain items becomes prohibitive.
- Set-up and strike time will be discussed and considered. The longer the load-in and tech time required, the higher the cost to the presenter (space rental and tech time cost, as the venue cannot be used for other revenue-generating purposes).
- Additional community engagement activities (workshops, masterclasses or other, more involved engagements) may be discussed as added-value to the presenter and their community within the fee.
- Day of week may be discussed, as presenters will prefer days and times most likely to draw high audience numbers in their community. If you are on the road for multiple stops, you will want to avoid unnecessary down-time between showings. The more performances you present in a week, the better your company income.
Once all of these items are agreed upon, you will be ready to create and sign a contract. You should keep a reliable contract template on hand. Either your contract or the presenter's may be used, but your contract will provide a baseline checklist for the information and clauses you feel are necessary to achieve a satisfactory agreement.
For more information about artist negotiations with presenters, see the CanDance Network's Guide to Negotiation
On Presenters, Pitching, and Getting Your Work Out There - prepared by Made in BC - Dance On Tour. (If the resource doesn't automatically download, try right-clicking the link and opening it in a new tab.) Preview below:
A How-To Email Guide for Pitching your Solo Show - by Haley McGee. (If the resource doesn't automatically download, try right-clicking the link and opening it in a new tab.) Preview below:
Click to Read:
Ontario Presents' Guiding Principles for Presenting Indigenous Work along with their resource page for Indigenous Relationships.
It Starts with a Conversation - created by the Ice Hot Nordic Dance Platform for working collaboratively with a global platform and a focus on dance.
Arts Engage Canada - prepared by Ontario Presents with information, tips, and case studies about taking part in community engagement.
Booking and Touring as an Independent Artist - presented by Fresh Kils, this resource contains great advice about communicating with promoters and the art of Digital Communication (preview below).