Eligibility for Nonprofit Music Presenters—2015

Below are some proposed best practices and an eligibility guideline we hope will lead to larger audiences and greater organizational self-sustainability.

If your 501(c) 3 agrees to abide by these standards and is accepted into our program, it doesn’t guarantee funding but it will qualify you for funding. Importantly, It also insures we’ll maintain an ongoing conversation and share actionable, data-driven insights with you. 

We fully understand that “agreeing” and “executing” is a journey not traveled overnight. The key is commitment to the principles and a willingness to work towards their fulfillment. We aim to begin the adventure in early 2015.

Some of these ideas may seem ridiculously self-evident; others may surprise or seem counter-intuitive. Here we go:

Establishing Metrics

Submit metrics to our Foundation for every performance*. We’ll provide the methodology (quick and simple). Information will include but may not be limited to:

  • Performance date
  • Advertisement and announcement sources
  • Scheduled starting time
  • Actual starting time
  • Artist(s)
    • Amount the artist(s) was paid
  • Advance sale
    • Starting / ending dates
    • Price
    • Tickets sold
    • Ticket revenue
  • Door sales
    • Price
    • Tickets sold
    • Ticket revenue
  • Number of complimentary tickets issued
  • Guest list (separate from complimentary tickets)
  • Total attendance
    • Member: yes or no
  • Intermission: yes or no
  • Performance end time

*Aggregated data and subsequent recommendations will be shared with all program participants. Individual organization data will remain private.

  • Implement a method for electronically (iPad, etc.) collecting attendee name and email address at every performance. Assign someone at the door who is responsible for greeting attendees and proactively encouraging sign-up.
  • Execute statistically valid multivariate testing and submit results to RDBF (we have a data analyst on our team who can help set up your testing and provide the methodology for submitting results to RDBF).  Sample Tests:
    • Advance sale price versus door price. 
      • Small difference
      • Medium difference
      • Large difference
    • Advance sales only
    • Vary starting time of performances
    • Include the service fee in the ticket price

Let’s Talk Money

  • Implement online and at the door a “round up,” “change for the better,” “top off” opportunity for attendees who are able to contribute more than the stated ticket price. Consider using the term “minimum price.”
  • Standard ticket prices should never (ok, 90% of the time) be lower than $15 and should often be $20 or $25.
    • Exceptions for students
  • Payment should always (ok, 90% of the time) be made to the headliner (who then decides what to pay each musician.)
  • Begin planning for an eventual system of guaranteed payments to artists. (This is a work in progress with many variables requiring further study.) At this nascent stage, we suggest working towards:
    • $200 minimum per musician per evening up to a quartet is a reasonable but by no means sufficient alpha.
  • Don’t turn away customers at the door who fall reasonably short of meeting the minimum admission. Use discretion.

Best Practices

  • Announce every performer from the stage prior to every set: who, what, why, where else they’re playing and if they have merchandise for sale. Take a moment to promote your organization as well – including website and social media outlets. (If the presentation takes more than 3 minutes, you need a different announcer.)
  • Open the doors when you say you’re going to open the doors – EVERY TIME (ok, 90% of the time). Let performers know formally that if set up isn’t completed by “x time,” they’ll be setting up in front of the paying audience.
  • Start the performance on time – EVERY TIME (ok, 90% of the time).
  • Ask the audience to keep discussion and photography during performances to an absolute minimum unless otherwise indicated by the situation or the direction of the performers.
  • Set goals – attendance, financial, and otherwise– publically announce them and allow those interested to see your progress online. Actively solicit advice and celebrate success.
  • Engage in cross-promotion with like-minded presenters.

In Conclusion

We don’t profess to have all the answers to promoting a healthy creative music culture. This has to be a dialogue, not a monologue. We’ll gladly speak to anyone whether they agree or disagree with the standards we’ve put forth and pivot if and when we need to, based on the feedback we’ve received.   Our mantra is test, test, test, iterate, iterate, iterate.

Every circumstance is different; therefore grants will be program specific.  As per our mission statement: “We stew and brew data analytics with intuition and experience…”

We’re wading into unchartered territory and we won’t be able to recognize our successes without encountering a few failures. However, we share the same goal: a creative music community that flourishes for all stakeholders – Artists, Presenters and Listeners.

For more information, contact Robert D. Bielecki at and feel free to share your comments about our first blog post at