Full Service PACs

Performing arts centers have a perception problem. PACs have too long been thought of as cash cows funded by wealthy benefactors and directed by donors.

So with this in mind, panelists set out to change the tone of this year’s “Full Service Performing Arts Centers” conversation by immediately renaming the panel “Full Service Venues.”

Professional Facilities Management’s Kelly Milukas said PACs take flak for their mission-based programming, but noted they also take risks, and more often than not include seasoned talent buyers on their staffs.

“We’re venues,” she said. “Venues are clubs, they’re theatres with proscenium arches, they’re tents on a piece of cement, they’re arenas. What we have in a full-service performing arts center is the fan relationship that all of us should be sharing. We want to give promoters access to that fan and make it, from when you walk in the door to when you load out on the loading dock, the best experience for the artist, the promoter and the patron.”

Fox Cities Performing Arts Center’s Gerald Henley took that idea even further, explaining that as a full-service venue, he strives to be a “one-stop shop.”

“A promoter or agency can come to us and they know that they’re going to get exemplary, world-class customer service,” he explained. “At the same time, we’re going to be offering them our marketing services, ticketing and all of our in-house production. We’ve got our own graphic designers; we can help artists develop their own web content.”

However, just because full-service PACs are often operated by nonprofit groups doesn’t mean the venues will provide such services for free, Christi Dortch of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center cautioned.

Dortch explained her PAC has devoted plenty of time and resources to getting its infrastructure in place.

“There are costs associated with being able to offer those services. You get people within our venue who are experts in our field and our region and what we do and how we do it. Every type of program you can imagine, we have put it on stage and we know how to do it.”

The other thing most PACs know how to do these days is make offers as competitive as any commercial promoters out there, Broward Center For The Performing Arts’ Mike Carr said.

“It used to be a world of flat guarantees, but I think in the last five to 10 years, many of the more active performing arts centers are doing back-end deals, plus percentage deals, versus percentage deals, co-promotions, promotions, rentals, whatever it takes to get the programming in the building to satisfy a particular audience,” he said.

That was good news to Brian Swanson of Monterey International, who’s apparently seen plenty of flat deals in his time.
“The venues I’m interested in are the ones that have their crap together that know how to sell tickets,” he said. “I’m interested in the payday, but I’m also interested in selling tickets and building the artist. If you don’t have a good marketing staff, if someone failed with a Buddy Guy show, then maybe I’m not interested in playing for them.”

ICM’s Rick Farrell gave other panelists some tips from the agency perspective to help get their venues noticed.
For starters, artists and agents need to be reminded that playing PACs means more than a paycheck because the proceeds from such shows often go toward education and outreach. Secondly, PACs need to consistently reach out to agents – if only to remind them such venues are out there.

“When we start thinking about routing an artist, often PACs are the nicest theatres in the market,” he said. “But promoters might have their go-to venues in the market. You need to raise awareness with agents.”

SMG’s Bob Papke echoed that sentiment.

“I think we’ve got an opportunity to provide a much more hands-on exclusive experience for your patrons,” he said, adding PACs must identify those unique qualities that make them stand out.”

And of course, PACs also need to stay actively engaged with promoters and the ticket-buying public by taking ownership of every show.

“If you’re not trying to figure out everything you can do to make that show a success, then you’re not doing your job,” Papke said.


See Also: Pollstar Live! Panel Coverage