Manchester Royal Exchange’s co-artistic director Roy Alexander Weise has said he would cut his production budget in half to allow more money to be spent on audience development.
Weise said he would rather shows cost less and fewer people saw them, than exclude certain audiences due to high ticket prices.
The director was speaking in conversation with audience development expert Donna Walker-Kuhne, as part of a webinar discussing actions organisations can take in the wake of events surrounding the killing of George Floyd in the US.
He said: "Money tells such an interesting story, finances and budgets tell such an interesting story.
"I look at some of our budgets with regards to audience development and we have spent maybe 100 times over that amount on a single piece of set for a show.
"And then you wonder why people are mad. And then you wonder why artists kick up a stink when they come to work in your spaces and bare their soles, and make the work, and don’t see people that look like them in the auditoriums. It’s soul destroying sometimes."
Weise added: "I would rather cut my production budget in half, reduce the amount of tickets, and make sure that I can cast the net for this show as wide as I possibly can."
The director said that when working as a freelancer, he would make sure audience development was discussed when negotiating a contract.
Weise added: "I developed a bit of a thing with my agent - that the last thing we bartered on before I would sign a contract was always abut audience development, it was like: ’so how many tickets are you going to make available at a reasonable price?’.
"We’re all doing dynamic pricing because we need to, but we’re still spending hundreds of thousands and millions of pounds on set, on things, and not people.
"So that would be the provocation that I would like [to make] - think about the story that the money your organisation or institution [is telling]."
The webinar was hosted by arts consultants TRG Arts and is part of a series exploring the future of the arts and the impacts of Covid-19.