Entrance fees?

This may have been asked before, but I'm sort of new. How does everyone feel about entrance fees to shows? I'm kind of against them because I want people of all economic levels to be able to enjoy the arts. Others seem to be for them to "weed out the riff raff". Opinions?

Robin Ragsdale


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  • I think it depends on the area. In Madison WI you can NOT charge an entrance fee. They expect everything to be free. In Milwaukee, just 75 minutes away, they expect to pay an entrance fee. The show must not be worth going to, if you don't charge a fee. Personally, we have good and bad at each type of show. We paid a high booth fee for a 30,000 attendance show with a $7 entrance fee and a big band at one end of the show. We did $197 in 2 days. Ouch! They all paid $7 to go see the band.


    Last weekend I organized a show just outside Milwaukee. I got a non profit group involved. All the entrance fee went to the non profit. People give them more than the suggested $3 fee at the door. Good for the non profit, people thought they were getting into a good show. Everyone wins.

  • I've always felt that art shows satisfy two needs: providing a venue for artists to sell their work AND providing a venue for all people to see and experience art. I don't mind sharing what I do with people who are obviously not buying right then. I especially love to see families with children taking in the art and the experience of talking to the artists. I did a show once that was combined with a pioneer day for the kids. By the time a family of four paid to get in, they had nothing left for purchases other than food. Then again, I do another show that charges $5 (children 17 and under are free) for which all proceeds go towards a scholarship for art students. That one I don't mind.

  • I think it works better at inside shows rather than outside shows.  Personally, I too have had good and bad shows with each but I think the admission fee does help with qualified buyers.  If they are willing to pay admission, they are at least thinking they might buy rather than just looking for a day of free entertainment.  I also like to choose shows without lots of entertainment and food venues.

  • For some shows it  helps keep the booth fee down, depends on how much the admission fee is and if it's reasonable.  Talked to an artist who quit doing Sausalito when the admission fee went up to $25, she felt it inhibited some attendees who wanted to bring their families, that would get to be an expensive family outing or even just a date for 2 people.

    • And the entrance fee certainly didn't help keep the booth fees down at Sausalito. Sheesh.

      • Sheila - did you find the attendance changed as the booth fee increased?  The Wood Artist I talked to at Best of the NW said she felt like the $25 admission fee drastically decreased attendance and sales.

        • There was a high entrance fee as long as I did the show. I think it may have gone from $20 to $25 or something, but that didn't make much difference in numbers that I could see. I guess I never really thought of it as a family show, since there are wine and beer available all over the grounds, and mostly high-end art. I didn't get the impression that the gate fee would be a problem for most buyers of the art that was there.

          I did get the sense that for the past few years, the music may have been emphasized more than the art, and that the attendees changed to more of a music crowd. I had one person come in to my booth and tell me they had no idea there would be art for sale.

          But despite the gate fees, the booth fees are VERY high.

  • It makes no difference to me if the show charges admission or not.  Coconut Grove charges $10 a person and there are probably 30,000 people that come through.  Main Street Fort Worth does not charge and has probably 50,000 people come through.  I have sold well at both.  I have also had poor shows where an admission is charged and poor shows that did not.

    I do think that shows that charge admission tend to have crowds that are more likely to be buyers but that is only a generalization.

    • If you have lower end impulse items you could probably do better at a show that doesn't charge, but if your work is more expensive, the admission shows would probably bring you a more qualified audience.

      Not every show can get away charging admission and in some cases leaves the door open for a non admission show to take away their customer base. Las Olas is an example. 

      Another way that would be preferable would be like the Arts Festival of Atlanta used to put donation booths at every entrance and ask for a $5 donation and give people a small button to wear. The show made their entrance fee money without dropping the attendance. Everyone benefited. That's the original Arts Festival of Atlanta that folded over ten years ago.

      Larry Berman

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