School Musical 101: Budget


Money, Money, Money, must be humorous in a monkey’s world…because their currency is bananas, not money…

So probably the boring part of the process, hence the attempt of humour in the introduction…but basically you want to control your money because in the week leading up to opening night you can find you will end up spending much more money than you anticipated. While financial gain isn’t the goal in a school musical environment by any means, school musicals are really expensive to produce and school’s aren’t immune to having to justify such an expense. Either way, I would put it all into an excel spread sheet and keep not as you go, even if the school has someone taking care of it.



The biggest source of your income will be through tickets. While you may think your production is going to be the hottest thing on the theatre scene you need to understand the stigma of school musicals and people will be disappointed if they don’t get their money’s worth. I stick with the guide of making sure it’s cheaper than a full priced movie ticket; $15 Concession, $20 Adult, however it’s always good to have promotions during performance week to create hype. My recommendation is that once you break even on budget, try and sell as many seats as you can, after all you want the students to perform in front of the biggest audience possible. It also depends on the size of your venue, if you have limited seats you may need to make your tickets more expensive – just make sure you are in a position where you will cover all of your costs.

The number one way you can sell more tickets is to increase the number of students in the show. Generally I work to 10 tickets per student.


First of all you have to pay royalties to the rights holders. It’s normally a minimum of about $250 per performance or 18% of the ticket sales, which ever is greater.

Another cost may be dependant of how you manage your ticketing. My preference is I have found it incredibly easy, you can design your floor plan; it allows you to provide refunds as well as discount codes. It also adds a very professional touch to the process.



As mentioned before there’s generally a $250 per performance fee or 16% of ticket sales, which ever is greater. These fees are generally cheaper if the show is less popular and they vary depending on the rights holders too.

You will also have to pay to hire the materials, usually $550 for the first 3 months for basic rehearsal materials (Piano score & librettos) then about $350 for the orchestra materials for one month – depending on the quality of the band you may want to hire them earlier.

Approximate cost: $900 + performance cost.



Not all schools are equipped with teachers who have the appropriate skills to put on a great show. As the school I work at doesn’t teach dance I have paid a choreographer for the last two productions. Generally you need to fill the three key roles though; Director, Musical Director and Choreographer. If you can get competent staff to do it, great! If not, it really is worth spending the money on paying someone to do it. You will have to organise a working with children check and have all the appropriate paperwork. The head of admin should be able to help you out.

You need staff supervision/production assistants during tech rehearsals and matinee performances and it’s easier to budget casual teachers in from the beginning. Depending on which schooling system you work in (Public/Private/Independent) the way the manage cover will vary. It’s normally $350 per day and in my last production I used 20 days.

Approximate cost: $8000



This part can be the most costly and depend on the show you pick. It needs to be a combination of what the school has available already and what you’ll need to buy. While set may be easy to put together, you need to make sure it covers all WH&S guidelines, which can be expensive. Two years ago for Beauty and the Beast I used an LED screen to cover the backdrop, it was expensive, but safe and useful for a venue with limited wing-space. This difficulty is that you need to have someone who is capable in design and incredibly organised. I would also suggest that there are only certain shows where using a screen in appropriate. You may also end up having to pay people to build things; I’ve been lucky enough to never have to pay anyone for labour. Also, a good use of set is scaffolding to achieve levels – I know a great place you can hire it from J.

Approximate cost: $1000-$4000



With costumes and make-up it totally depends on the production you’re doing. You also need to decide whether or not you will make your own or hire. The good thing about the musical theatre community is that there are plenty of full-sets of costumes for shows, however I’m yet to use a full set for a school production where I haven’t had to make changes or add more costumes. I recommend at least finding someone who has a full set to get an idea of cost for the show. Make-up generally depends on the show, if everyone is a realistic person, you can get the cast to bring in their own make-up or buy cheap foundation, eye-liner and blush which should cost no more than $100.

Approximate cost: $1000-$3000



This is normally the most expensive part of the show. However, a varying factor which could be flexible depending on your school’s current resources. This is also a component that makes the students more invested in the show. I still remember my first school musical as a student going into tech rehearsal and being blown away by all the cool lighting, smoke machines and head-mics. If you’re in a big venue or intend to use an orchestra you must have every principal character with a head mic. In another blog I will go through the technical aspect of the show and how to create a “mic plot” which determines how many mics you need. Alternatively if you are hiring your equipment from a major company, they may have done sound for the show before and will already have a mic plot made up. Lighting is what you make of it; the minimum I would work with would be varying whitewash and at least one spotlight. Again, I have various contacts for equipment; feel free to comment below if you need them. Also, if you have students knowledgeable of the equipment this works best as you could double/triple your cost if you have to get a programmer(s) in.

Approximate cost: $8000


I traditionally save the most money here, because the entire orchestra I use is made up of students. This will depend on your Musical Director and whether they have contact with the school orchestra, if there is one. Ways you can save money are; do a show where the rights-holders provide a backing track, pre-record the orchestration yourself, pick a show that uses modern music and fewer instruments, do the whole show with just a piano. If you do wish to go down the professional musician route the fee is $40-$150 a call, make sure you include all performances and rehearsals. However, try and use students, as that is the whole darn point of a school musical!!!

Approximate cost: $0-$5000


Generally most schools have a hall or auditorium where you can perform. If not you could be looking at spending big money on room hire for rehearsals or even lose even more money from your ticket sales. My recommendation is to try other schools in the area, as they will be cheaper or even better, free. Different venues have different costs too, general costs that are included may be: cleaning, ushers, security, sound operator, and lighting operator. You may also not have a choice on which services you use.




Spend as much as you like on this one, this is where your budget is most flexible, however, you do need to let people know the show is going on. Within the school community there are plenty of free advertising opportunities; Facebook, viral marketing and local newspapers. This is where the students can really help out. The two things I always spend money on are vinyl banners ($90 each) and flyers. The cheapest place to buy banners I’ve found is and In my budget though, I put aside $1000 just in case. Another form of advertising I make use of too is T-shirts, all the kids in the cast get t-shirts from their show fees, which brings me on to my next point…

Approximate cost: $1000


This will definitely be determined by the SES of the local community. For my shows at a school in Northern Sydney’s Hill’s district I charge $60 for a student to be involved with the show. This has only been a recent thing as of the last two shows. While it makes it easier to get in the black, having show fees just makes things a bit easier to organise. From their fee each student receives a T-shirt, their dinner for the tech rehearsals as well as snacks during rehearsals. It avoids having to chase parents up to get sizes for shirts or dietary requirements, you put it all on the one form at the very beginning and it’s already paid for. Naturally there is a system in place for students who may not be able to afford the fee. This financial contribution also ensures that you get a certain level of commitment from students.

Approximate income: $3000-$6000,


Programs are what you make of it, there’s potential for more income here, but more importantly it is a chance for the kids to feel that what they’re doing is a big deal! I would only charge audience members for programs if I got them professionally printed and I wouldn’t charge more than $5. I budget this aspect of the show so that it breaks even. I rarely make money on this part, but I often break-even or come close. One bonus though with the program is that you can also use it as leverage for advertising in order to gain sponsorship for the show.

Approximate cost: $1600 for 700 copies at Snap Printing. We normally only sell about 300.


This is an aspect of each production that I neglect the most to be honest. Mainly because it requires a lot of time and coordination, which I haven’t had the staff to help me out. We generally offer companies a place in the program if they offer financial support or even prizes for a raffle, but nothing ever eventuates. So there is an untapped source of revenue here that I’m yet to capitalise on.

Approximate income:???? Bonus money!! Shouldn’t cost you anything.

A budget is an incredibly boring thing, but essential for a production. It is also essential when communicating with your production team and the Principal, which I’ll cover in my next blog; Production team and the pitch!



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