I’ve seen a couple of people talk about running their first event recently, and ask for feedback about ticket prices. As much as I appreciate that different people can afford different things, and everyone has their own limits, I was horrified to see that when some of those people talked about running a weekend long event for 40-50 people, with sub-£100 ticket prices, people responded saying “oh, I’m not sure about those costs, that would make it a maybe for me”. While I do 100% sympathise with those who are budget constrained, and I’m not suggesting they’re talking about anything that their own budgets, I am a little tired of of watching LARP runners slash their budgets to the bone, because it’s a super risky thing for them to do, and I don’t think it helps the hobby.

Having just done run #2 of Hannigan’s: Graduation Night, I thought it might be interesting to break down how that worked out for us, in case anyone else is thinking of similar. At the outset, I’m going to say: this is one of the simplest LARP events it is possible to run. Non-combat, with small number of players in one room for 6-8 hours, timed so people could eat before and after, and not need to eat during, with a cash bar as “catering”. We were/are a cheap-and-easy event by design. One room, in an already-insured venue. A doddle compared to a weekend in a field or other more complex venue.

Oh, and before getting into this: we still lost money. Do not make our mistakes.

So, income: we sold 31 tickets at £20 quid each, for a budget of £620.

Expenses:

  • Venue £500.
  • Props: £70
  • Tech budget: £20
  • Crew: £50
  • Payment processing fees/refund costs etc: £72.45

Net result: £92.45 loss.

So, let’s break those down, and explain what went wrong:

Venue
Our initial venue budget was £400. Only after quite a few tickets had been bought did the venue contact us to tell us they’d misread our times (we double-checked, they were definitely correct in the emails we’d sent) and they wanted rather more money – more than we could have afforded. After the initial panic, we eventually were able to keep them to just a £100 price hike, in exchange for less run time than we wanted. We compressed things a bit to make them fit, resulting in a shorter event than we might have wanted, but I don’t think it suffered overly.
Lessons Learned: Honestly, not sure. I’d like to say “have your costs fully locked before you put tickets on sale”, but this time round, we thought we did. I suppose “factor in a 20% contingency to your pricing” would have done the job, but again, we actually thought we had a (small) contingency fund factored in.

Props
There’s nothing really controversial here. Except this: our real costs there are about £60 more. We have £40 quid set down against a future event, for some props we had custom made that we intend to re-use, and we re-used about £20 quid’s worth of stuff we had from a previous event. If this was 100% stand alone, costs would have been higher. And our props were cheap – no major creature budget costume or makeup costs.

Crew
Badgers and Jam pays the crew (not the 2 game runners, just the 5 NPC crew) – there’s a whole other blog post in “Paying the crew and LARP Economics”, so I’ll leave that there for now. It’s a token honorarium at the moment, because if we went with what we’d like to do, and paid London Living Wage, then our costs for the event would have more or less doubled, so we’re just doing that for now. Still, this should have been rather higher, because the crew catering ran to “some dried fruit and nuts in the crew area for emergency snacking”, and that’s not great.
Lessons learned: factor in higher crew costs to allow for better crew catering as well as the honorarium.

Tech Budget
Another uncontroversial one. Factored in and ran to-budget for the event.

Payment Processing Fees
Another slightly unusual one. Badgers and Jam have a mostly-functional event booking system that will let people use their credit/debit cards to pay online, and that we can issue refunds through and so on.

There’s a bunch of reasons for this, chief among which is that we want to ensure that our players are confident of their legal protections and consumer rights. Bank transfers (of the sort most LARP systems seem to prefer) and even Paypal (who are not a bank, and not regulated as such) remove a lot of those – it’s basically impossible for a consumer who has made a bank transfer to claim that money back if they don’t get what they paid for. But if we were to vanish with the money, or go suddenly bust and fail to put the event on, people who had bought tickets from us would have the benefit of fraud protection.

However, it means we are charged fees to process the payments, and those fees are still taken even if we refund the payment. So we lose a percentage of every ticket, and we lose more than double on refunds.
Lessons Learned: These fees run to about 50% more than we expected. We’ll factor that in next time.

Overall: If we hadn’t had the venue problem, we’d have just broken even. Not terrible. I think next time, assuming everything else remained exactly the same, unless we can 100% lock in a cheaper venue before running, (and probably even if we could) we’d want to add £5 to the ticket costs – I don’t think there’s a big psychological purchase difference between £20 and £25 quid, and if nothing else went wrong, it would even give us a (small) crew catering budget.

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