University News

Performance groups juggle Family Weekend ticket prices

While some groups view parental attendance as a profit-making venture, others keep ticket prices low

By
Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Business managers of performing student organizations such as dance crews and a cappella groups weighed numerous factors as they set Family Weekend ticket prices. Some prioritized drawing a large crowd, while others strategized to bolster funds by charging attendees at the door.

Unfamiliar faces dotted the audiences at a cappella concerts and dance shows this weekend as parents, siblings and other guests flocked to campus theaters and auditoriums to support student performers and experience a taste of Brown culture. But what was afternoon entertainment for many visiting families was a fresh set of challenges to some business managers of these student groups.

As one of the only occasions when students do not make up the majority of audience members, Family Weekend can feel like an economics exercise in supply and demand for those in charge of setting the prices for performances. Several groups weighed the benefits of making tickets more expensive for family members against those of keeping prices equal for students and family members, and their decisions reflected the tension between the desire to primarily serve the student body and the need to make an additional profit from visiting relatives.

Julia Elia ’17, the business manager for the female a cappella group the Ursa Minors — which performed on Friday with the Bear Necessities, Badmaash Dance Company and the Divine Rhythm step team — estimated that parents made up around 70 to 80 percent of the audience in MacMillan 117. The entrance fee for the show was the same for parents and students: $3 before the show and $5 at the door.

“We wanted it to be for students as well as parents,” Elia said. “We chose a reasonable price because, as a student, if there’s too high of a price, it could be a deterrent.”

Though the Ursa Minors’ concert this weekend failed to draw as many people or as much money as past performances, the group received many more donations than usual, Elia said.

Family Weekend “doesn’t draw the biggest crowd, despite the fact that there are a lot of parents,” Elia said. “It’s also not our biggest moneymaker — our biggest funding comes up in February,” when the group offers singing valentines, Elia said.

Other groups charged higher prices for parents to maximize student attendance. The Brown Derbies charged students $5 and parents $8, while the Brown University Chorus charged students $5 and parents $15 for its Saturday concert.

Meanwhile, some groups were not concerned about funding and chose to have no entrance fee.

“We wanted our concert to be open for everyone,” said Charles Chretien ’15, the business manager for Disney A Cappella. “We think that if we charged something, less people would have attended it, and we wanted it to be as inclusive as possible.”

Chretien said the majority of the group’s funding comes from either the Undergraduate Finance Board  or paid University gigs.

“We didn’t feel the need to raise more money,” Chretien said. “We’re managing with the money we get from the University — we don’ t have huge expenses.”

Alex Sherry ’15, UFB vice chair, said many a cappella groups do not receive funding for Family Weekend performances because the events are already profitable.

“We have the funding process in place to make sure the groups are able to use the money appropriately,” Sherry said. “If a group wanted to charge ticket sales at the door to lower the cost of the event, we would consider covering the difference, but we don’t fund events if a group is trying to fundraise and make money off an event.”