What can we sell apart from tickets?

Convener(s): Ed Saperia (find me on facebook! Or [email protected])

Participants: many wonderful people that I forgot to write down the names of

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 

THESIS: 99% of theatre happens off stage – writing, producing, designing, marketing… maybe we can turn this into a business. We already see e.g. Punchdrunk afterparties/Shunt lounge – theatre bars that sell alcohol and subsidise the performances.

Perhaps we can sell e.g. clothes, which are designed as an integral part of the design/writing process? = “artistic” merchandise

Can this be done on a decent scale? Online? Could you potentially sell 1000s of units? 

Examples of culture projects with large merchandising arms: Star Trek/Disney…

In theatre: Cirque du Soleil, The Lion King

How do you create something that people will want to buy in a theatre company?

Making it part of the art increases its value

Reference eBay project where people posted items and wrote fictional but emotive stories about them, and their value increased many-fold.

Example of a show where a painting was created during the show and sold to an audience member at the end. Important to pick the right type of merchandise; tshirts will probably not sell, but that doesn’t mean that nothing will, need to understand your audience and the community that you are leading as an artist.

Bare product placement is against the spirit of theatre? But corporate sponsorship is already used a lot by theatres as a source of funding, why would this be different/worse?

Government funding business model does not encourage entrepreneurial activity and even punishes successful shows (“claw-back”)

Waste in theatre, sets, costume made for a production wasted? Can auction them on eBay etc.

Can also sell tickets to e.g. dress rehearsals, writing meetings, tech rehearsals, backstage tours.

Buying merchandise as an act of donation. “buy this and you are supporting the company!”


Many theatre companies have both charity and commercial branches so they can receive funding and also enjoy profits.

TShirts: Music execs were initially very surprised that punters would essentially PAY promoters to advertise their shows (by buying tshirts and wearing them)! So you may be surprised at how much people are willing to do this.

When Children’s TV Shows are pitched, they are not just pitched as the show but along with a whole slew of other content: online content, games, toys, outreach programs… that are really considered an integral part of the whole experience.

Children’s performances “Teletubbies” live show etc – this is legitimate theatre that is commercially successful. (+ Introduces children to the idea of theatre?)

Subsidises creatives to work on more creatively rewarding projects.

Pot Noodle the Musical. A success? Good theatre??? Perhaps!! 

The Globe’s giftshop, the directors of the company are quite snobbish about what merch is sold there, but probably Shakespeare would have approved of it!

Merchandising is perhaps much cheaper to produce nowadays with Just-In-Time manufacturing, 3D printing, cut down inventory costs.

Successful commercial theatres don’t fund fringe theatre at all!

Many successful commercial theatres in fact still receive funding themselves.

In traditional commercial theatre, merchandising hasn’t worked very well.