Front of House Course – Session 3

Programmes, Merchandise & Page 4

In Sessions 1 & 2 we covered the main jobs in doing Front of House, except programmes & merchandise – and Page 4 of the record sheets, the back page. We’ll have a look at all that now. Here’s Page 4 first because all of these things are tied up with it.

Page 4 – The back page

  • You will see that there are basically four blocks of information here: The Combined Totals, a row for recording programme sales, some rows for recording merchandise sales & a few rows giving details about key people.

The Combined Totals

  • This is obviously where we record the totals of people attending & how much they have spent (excluding the donations). There is no need for you to fill this in. When we’ve had a chance to study all the tickets we can decide all this.

The Programmes

  • Count them – When you get the BBB (Big Black Box) you will find in it (assuming the actor responsible for front of house is on the ball) a pile of programmes, usually 40, but it depends on how the venue has done in the past. First of all count them & enter the total in the box marked ‘Total to begin with’ (surprisingly enough!). At the end of the show count what’s left & enter this figure into the ‘Total at the end’ box. Obviously you will then know how many you have sold, so enter that as the total sold in the box next to it. It’s easier doing it this way than trying to count as you go along.
  • Selling – Hopefully there will be at least three of you doing front of house, so the person selling programmes should stand at Table 1 & share the cash box with the person selling tickets. Programmes cost £2. A bargain! All the money can go in the same cash box. As long as the number sold has been calculated we can sort which money is which afterwards.
  • Give them time but push it – Some people will buy as they come in but often if they are loaded with chairs & picnics they will want to find their seats first & then come back. Suggest this to them if they are loaded up. Do push the programmes however. Make sure you offer them rather than waiting for them to ask. We want to increase our sales; I think in the past we have been a bit too passive at times – and they are a good buy with lots of interesting stuff in them!
  • Other places & times to sell – If front of house is slack you may like to circulate in the crowd & sell that way. Also, be available for at least part of the interval, once you’ve had a chance to go to the loo. The job at this point – now ticket sales are done – could be shared around the team. Don’t leave the programmes on the table unattended; some people think they are free! It’s a convention in America (& we do have Americans coming) & in some UK theatres & arts centres. If you are not actually selling put them back in the BBB until you are ready.
The Gold Rush (2006)

The Gold Rush (2006)

  • At the end – Occasionally people ask for a programme at the end of the show so don’t be too quick to put them way. However, when it’s clear sales are done & you have established how many you have sold & entered the total on Page 4, put them back in the BBB.

Merchandise

  • Two boxes – When you arrive there should be two plastic Really Useful boxes in the tent. One will say ‘Display’ on it & the other ‘Stock’. If they are not there go back stage & ask the actor responsible for front of house for them.
  • Displaying – From the ‘Display’ box take out the t-shirts & hangers & hang them around the walls of the tent. If you can hang up a tote bag as well that would be great. Try to hook the hangers into the walls at the top rather than just on the rails because they tend to ‘travel’ down the rails into the middle & get in people’s way. All the smaller items put on Table 1  but leave enough room for selling tickets.
  • Stock – Keep the ‘Stock’ box on the floor & try to sell from that box because they should still be in their plastic bags, but of course if they want one from display because it’s the only one in their size then that’s fine.
  • Selling – If the person selling the tickets is really busy, then whoever’s selling programmes will need to double up with this job as well, but basically all of you work as a team & help each other when you can. Merchandise is rarely sold as people are coming in anyway & don’t try to push it then. They are busy thinking about other things – and generally the display is usually enough to make a sale or two. No need really to push anyway. Our merchandise is basically a way of identifying with ‘our brand’ (rather than making money) & if people want to buy  they will say so. Unlike programmes!
  • Recording sales on Page 4 – The items available & the prices are listed on Page 4. Record the sales in the blank rows under the items available using a line and a dot in this manner -|.|.|.|. – that is four sold, to keep a track of how many you are selling. When you’ve finished put a total next to each item.
  • Prices – The list of items & prices are in columns on Page 4. Everything is very cheap!
  • When the show starts – Cover the items on the table up with the cloth provided. It should be in the BBB. If not ask back stage for it. Ideally you should be sitting nearby anyway to watch over it.
  • The interval – You may need to go to the loo, so leave the cloth on until you are ready.
  • At the end of the show – People mainly just stream out but occasionally there are people who want to buy, so don’t put stuff away too quickly. Once it’s clear that’s it, however, pack everything back into the appropriate boxes & leave them in the tent. The team will pick them up.

Key people

  • Some helpful contacts – At the bottom of the page there is a list of all the key people you may want to speak to, including other people doing front of house. You will see that the actors’ tour manager is Rowan Talbot but there is also another actor (Ian Harris is just an example) who has the specific task of liaising with you. You’ll find them both in the actors’ tent backstage. You will also see who the local organiser is; he or she may have the ticket books for local sales, or the actor dealing with front of house may have it. Finally at the bottom there may be some notes about this particular venue which you might find helpful.

So that’s it! 

Now you’ve done the course you are well set up to do front of house!

So a really big thank you! 

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