World Choir Games Flanders 2023

Money matters 2 – online payments and ticketing systems

  • [The views expressed in this blog are from my personal experiences from 25 years of leading non-auditioned community choirs in the UK, as well as adult singing workshops. My focus is on teaching by ear using a repertoire of songs from traditions across the globe. Your experiences may differ from mine, so do feel free to leave a comment and let's begin a conversation! A version of this article first appeared as a post on my blog From the Front of the Choir]

     

    Last week, in Money Matters 1, I wrote about practical solutions for dealing with choir finances.

     

     

    This week I want to look at the many options for using online services to collect payments and set up box office systems for concerts.

     

    printing your own tickets

    When I started out I used to print my own tickets at home and hand them out to choir members to sell on a “sale or return” basis. It was simple and worked reasonably well.

    It was a lot of work though and hard to keep track of sales. People would say that their friends were “definitely coming” but “hadn’t paid yet” then at the last minute “decided not to come”. Which meant that I couldn’t keep track of how many were going to be in the audience.

    Whether you print your own tickets or not, you still have to find an easy way for people to buy them.

    go straight to the bank, do not pass Go

    One of the cheapest and easiest ways for people to pay you is by direct bank transfer. The big drawback is that I don’t like to put my bank details in the public domain so people have to email me first. Which is one more barrier to people buying stuff.

    It’s even possible to do it on your mobile phone these days. My bank in the UK is part of the Paym system which means I only have to give my mobile phone number for people to pay. Not many people have adopted this though.

    on-line box offices

    In recent years there has been an explosion of on-line box office and ticketing systems. One of the best-known is Eventbrite, but there are plenty of others out there (I used TicketSource for a while, but am going to try WeGotTickets as it’s much cheaper for low cost tickets).

    All these systems allow people to book and pay on-line using a debit/ credit card or PayPal account (or similar) and then either download an e-ticket to their smartphone or print one off at home.

    They allow you to keep track of audience numbers, allocate seats, input your own sales and all the other things you’d expect from a box office service.

    Most of these services publicise themselves as “free on-line ticketing systems”. What they mean is that it’s free to sign up, but if you charge for tickets, they will charge you a fee for selling them.

    hidden payment “processing fees”

    What is not immediately apparent is that they will often charge you an additional “processing fee” when people use credit/ debit cards or PayPal to pay for their tickets.

    As an example, at the time of writing (February 2022), TicketSource charge 7% + VAT per paid booking (or 4.5% + VAT per paid booking when connecting your own Stripe account).

    So if you charge £10 for a concert ticket, TicketSource will take 84p. You will usually have the option of absorbing this cost yourself (so it’s invisible to the customer), or passing it on entirely to the customer, or splitting it between you.

    If you charge less than £10 per ticket, you’re probably better off with a service like WeGotTickets who charge a flat rate of 10% all in.

    But if you charge much more than £10 (for example, if you’re running a workshop at £25 per person), then TicketSource becomes cheaper (£2.10 compared with £2.50). So choose your ticketing service accordingly.

    pay monthly services

    There is another option: pay for credits in advance. For example, wiht a service like Ticket Tailor you can buy 100 credits in advance, which works out at 40p + VAT per ticket (saving £10 over their pay as you go rate). The more credits you buy, the lower the fee per ticket will be. So if you’re expecting a large number of ticket sales, this can work out cheaper.

    For instance, if you’re selling £10 tickets and hope to get an audience of, say, 100, then TicketSource will cost you £84, WeGotTickets will cost £100, but Ticket Tailor will only cost £48 (including VAT at 20%) if you buy credits in advance.

    There are plenty of other online ticket solutions out there, I've only covered a few.

     

    do it yourself

    Another on-line option is to sell tickets on your own website. You can set up a shopping cart service on your site (worth it if you sell lots of other stuff like CDs or sheet music). These are known as e-commerce solutions.

    Some free or cheap (usually open source) examples are AgoraCart, Zen Cart, and OpenCart. These packages involve various degrees of technical know-how and usually mean putting software on your website’s host. They can be integrated easily with PayPal or Stripe.


    do we even need to sell tickets?

    Somebody recently pointed out that they don’t charge for their concerts but have a “retiring collection” (i.e. people donate as they leave). This has resulted in greater income than from previous ticket sales! Something to consider as it makes the whole thing much easier (although you do have to count the cash at the end of the evening). One drawback is that you won’t know in advance how many people will turn up.

     

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

    website: chrisrowbury.com
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