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Archive for January, 2011

Are touring orchestras getting larger?

When a Producer is putting together a musical for a commercial tour she likely takes into consideration the potential expenses that will be associated with each engagement of that tour, and logic would also dictate that she would aim to build the show in such a way as to keep these engagement costs in line with the size and scope of the show. For instance, the Producer of a tour that has been out there a couple of years, and which doesn’t have the same level of momentum it did when it first began, will likely consider re-building and scaling down the production’s size so that it does not require the same number of Stagehands, Musicians and set pieces as, say, a new tour of a recent Broadway hit, or a longtime blockbuster.

Stagehands are often the single most expensive cost for an engagement. Loading a show in and out of a venue is usually the bulk of it, and then that can sometimes get even more expensive, prohibitively so, if there’s overtime involved, which can happen when a show is in the midst of it’s first few jumps and hasn’t established a yellow card yet. It can also happen when the show is delayed getting to it’s next market due to weather, or other travel issues, and so the load-in in those cases will inevitably go into OT so that the first scheduled performance can take place.

After Stagehands, probably the next most consistently expensive touring engagement cost for a musical is Musicians. When a tour is on the road, especially a new show, or a blockbuster, the Musicians expense will inevitably be a cost that will either be a shared cost between Producer and Presenter, (Guarantee deal, certain kinds of Terms deals) or fully paid for by the Presenter (certain kinds of Terms deals.) If the show has been out there for a long time, or is a Non-Equity tour, the Musicians costs will usually be “self-contained,” meaning that the show travels with all their own Musicians and this expense will not be a shared expense between Producer and Presenter. Presumably, the cost of Musicians in a self-contained show is part of the Guarantee that the Presenter pays to the Producer for licensing that show.

Is your head completely spinning now? Sorry. The main point I’m getting to here is that labor is expensive and both the Producer and Presenter are constantly doing what they can, often through negotiation, to each keep their engagement expenses down. At the same time, when the Producer is initially building a show to tour, while she wants to keep the costs down she also still wants the show to look good and sound good, which brings me back to the Musicians. It seems that even with the desire of both Producer and Presenter to keep tour costs down, the orchestras for some shows currently on The Road are rather large, which I first began discussing in my post “Mu$ic To The Road’$ Ear$?”

Presenters are generally skeptical about the need for large orchestras in touring shows, even though they appreciate them from an artistic standpoint, because in order to mitigate their risk they will often need to look to increasing ticket prices, which could potentially alienate the subscriber base they’ve taken so long to cultivate.

Here’s a recent article from The Washington Post that talks a bit about the larger orchestras out on The Road:

A HIGH POINT IN THE PIT

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