In the fifteen years that I’ve been working with festivals, the number one issue for our clients has been managing their cash flow in the lead-up to their event. Countless hours are spent finding ways to realise the income from ticket sales to cover performer’s deposits, staff wages, equipment hire, and marketing and PR funding… Help with budgets is pretty much the first question I’m asked when a prospective client approaches us. I understand your pain.
Let’s Not Recreate the Wheel
There are plenty of great financial systems around – Sage and QuickBooks are the main products we encounter – so the approach of a festival system shouldn’t be to replicate what they offer. It should add to your toolkit, not try to replace everything that’s already there. However there are other things that a good festival system can do to help.
Don’t Let the Programming Team Overspend
A decent festival software product should include a comprehensive scheduling system. We’d recommend including a small budgeting module, embedded within the scheduler, that provides your programming team with a running total of their spending. In our experience performance fees are a key area for overspending, so keeping this central and in BIG NUMBERS is essential. Including a breakdown of where the money is being spent, by both day and stage, ensures that maintaining spending targets for different parts of your event is much easier.
Stay In Control of Your Artist Budget
Each performance record should include financial information: total fee, deposits, and whether the fee is liable to taxes and, if so, at what rate. An artist should be able to have multiple performances with either a single fee, or individual amounts for each show. They might require a single deposit, or a number spread over several months. All this needs to be easily managed, tracked and highlighted when due. Identification of those performers who have not had a fee set; automatic checks when you alter fees to see whether contracts and/or deal memos need to be resent; reminder emails to relevant staff as deposits are payable; and auto-emails to performers or their management when you make a payment – just some of the ways a system can try to keep financials on track.
Make Sure Everything is At Your Fingertips
There can be a lot of different people who need to be kept “in the loop” where financial information is concerned – senior management, programming and accounts – however there also has to be watertight controls so that these details are kept confidential. Some of your team may need access to some aspects of the contracts, like how many guest tickets have been allocated, but not others. The software has to be able to cope with this. And it needs to provide reports, in Excel, instantly and without struggling to translate them or get them to open.
So when we’re approached by festivals, we’re always asked whether we “do festival financials”.
“Sort of,” we reply, “but it’s more that we help your team to be financially aware.”
As any Festival System should.
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