Crowdfunding: a capital idea for commercial theatre

Alexis Owen-Hobbs in The Pajama Game, which is seeking funders online for a West End transfer. Photograph: Catherine Ashmore

Alexis Owen-Hobbs in The Pajama Game, which is seeking funders online for a West End transfer. Photograph: Catherine Ashmore

Matt Trueman | theguardian. | 25 February 2014 – Got a tenner to spare? Forget buying a ticket – these days, producers want you to invest in a West End show.
Reckon you can tell a Wicked from a Which Witch? It might be time to put your money where your mouth is. The West End is turning to crowdfunding and it’s looking for a new breed of backer.

“Theatre is normally quite an expensive investment,” says commercial producer John Brant. “It generally starts from £5,000 or £10,000 up, which obviously rules out quite a lot of people.”

Bant and his co-producer Gavin Kalin are seeking to raise £200,000 for The Pajama Game’s West End transfer – about 14% of its total capitalisation costs – through the online crowdfunding platform Seedrs, which allows people to invest as little as £10. They hit £40,000 within 24 hours.

“That’s a very good day,” says Brant, and the campaign has since approached £60,000. While they only benefit if they reach their target, the musical Happy Days, currently touring the UK, successfully raised £250,000 via the same channel last year.

To date, most online public investment in theatre has mostly been on a philanthropic basis. Donations are acknowledged as such with tokens of gratitude: signed programmes, press night tickets and the like. It’s not just hard-up fringe shows, either: American Psycho sourced $150,000 through Kickstarter last year.

When American Pyscho hits the West End and Broadway, its producers and their investors will start seeing returns, but its crowdfunders – including two that put up more than $10,000 apiece – won’t. They’ll have to make do with their Patrick Bateman Business Card USB sticks instead.

The Pajama Game’s online backers, however, will get exactly the same financial terms as their offline counterparts. If the production makes a profit, they’ll get a cut on a pro rata basis. “It completely democratises the investment process,” says Brant. “Anyone can become part of a West End show.”

read more: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/feb/25/crowdfunding-theatre-pajama-game

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