How to Attempt a Ticketed Show
Ticketing a show can be challenging. Not only because our industry hasn’t quite got used to this pattern yet, but because if you’re not a large, registered company, you are pretty much alone in this. However, assuming you want to take on the challenges associated with ticketing (as I believe you should), here’s some pointers, based on my experiences, on doing so.
I ticketed my first show in February 2015, when GST didn’t exist and things were, effectively, much more complicated. While figuring out ticketing scenes post GST for Neelachal in July 2017, we found ourselves overwhelmed with contradictory advice and complicated legal terms. I think we managed to figure the basics out, so here they are as I understand them.
GST exhumes all taxes except income tax. This means that you don’t pay Entertainment Tax anymore, and are freed from the hassles of registering your event at the ETO, getting tickets stamped and running to and from their office.
Across disciplines, there is a cap of 20 lakhs annual income, below which any activity is exempt the payment of GST. Do remember, however, that if you voluntarily register for GST (which is often necessary for things like the use of online ticketing portals), under the current regime, you forgo your 20 lakh exemption. We were told, however, that this system snag is likely to get fixed in the coming months.
If your annual income exceeds 20 lakhs, there is still a minimum amount an individual show has to make from ticket sales, only above which, you need to pay GST. This amount, as well as the percentage of GST you are liable to pay, varies from state to state.
Remember to ALWAYS have a lawyer and a CA take a look at any contract you sign with a venue or a vendor and make sure you are completely clear about what the law is and what you are agreeing to.
ON TICKET SALES
First, get a seating chart of your venue. Some venues, like the one I used, didn’t have a seating chart that was of any use at all. If you need that one, write to me. If not, try to create it yourself and colour code it according to the denominations you decide on.
Design a ticket and make sure there are two parts, separated by a perforation - a smaller part that stays with you and a larger one that you give to the attendee. This will allow you to keep track of how many tickets you sell and what your revenue should be. Both parts should have a serial number (the seat number, if seats are numbered or just a regular numbers otherwise), the name, venue and date of the event.
Maintain a record (I use excel) of all tickets sold, reserved and given away for free. Ticketing portals do make mistakes, so it’s good to have your own record of it as well. Keep a small percentage of tickets in each denomination with you. There will be invitees, and those who cannot access online bookings, so it’s good to have some seats in hand for people who approach you directly.
Find a good ticketing partner. As a dancer, I have found the Explara works much better for me than BookMyShow. While BMS has a greater reach, they will pay much less attention to you and your show. They also charge both you AND your customer a commission that’s higher than it needs to be, and insist on a GST registration. I had none of those issues with Explara. They will leave the choice to you to decide who pays their commission. You can cover it yourself, split it with your customer or leave it entirely on your customer. I also found that their interface gave me the freedom to set up, edit, control and close my event without having to ask them to do it. I also got my money within 3 days of the show ending, which is great.
ON THE AWKWARDNESS OF MONEY
Just my two cents: Don’t feel guilty. Tickets to these shows don’t cost much. It’s okay to ask your audience to buy tickets to experience your work. If they like it, you have created a sustainable way to continue creating work. If they hate it, they choose not to come back and you have a way to assess the level at which your work works, and how to do better.
We need to find ways to make our industry sustainable, and I believe this is one, important way.
I hope this may help someone, in some way. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any specific questions, and if I can, I would really love to help!
Good luck! :)