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Topic: Table fee question
Message: Posted by: sethb (Dec 9, 2008 08:02AM)
In going over my numbers for the past year, I found that my table fees (the cost of renting space) averaged 15% of my gross.

Of course, at some events where the table fee was low and I did very well, the fee might have only been 10% of the gross or less. Even with a low fee, if business was slow, the fee might have been 20% or 25% of the gross, or more. And sometimes even a high fee still resulted in a low percentage, because it was a quality show and I did very well.

In other words, low fees didn't necessarily mean a low percentage, and high fees didn't necessarily mean a high percentage. In my experience, you just have to play all the available shows, take some lumps, and learn which ones are worth doing. Even then it can still be a crapshoot, especially if you do lots of outdoor shows where weather is a big factor.

But on average, I am paying about 15% of the gross for table fees, and I was wondering how that compares with everyone else's experience. SETH
Message: Posted by: Jon-O the Great (Dec 9, 2008 09:09AM)

Sent you a PM with facts and figures.

Message: Posted by: DonDriver (Dec 9, 2008 09:29AM)
I never tried to figure out how much percentage rent was.I just paid it and went to work.The Wisconson state fair in Milwaukee was $1,200 for 10 days plus gas plus a room etc.That was my best spot for making money so $1,200 wasn't a big deal.(and the deck sold for $3.00 back than)

Back in thoses days if I was eating steak out everynight is was a good spot.If I was eating a "carnie steak" (hotdog) on the lot every day it wasn't that good a spot.

But I always make a profit everywere I worked.Not one spot did I go in the hole and that's all that mattered...the good old days!

Message: Posted by: sethb (Dec 9, 2008 09:54AM)
Thanks for the info, guys. I am no accountant and am not sure myself what to make of these numbers. But I don't think 15% is unreasonable and in fact, it probably isn't too bad, all things considered. Paying rent is a necessary evil, I guess, unless you want to busk (not me!).

And I think it also helps to gauge whether you are charging the right prices for your stuff and whether you are keeping expenses under control. As Don says, I don't mind paying a big fee if the location is good and there are lots of crowds, because you will make good money. Still, at some point, I have to pass on a show because the fee is just too much and too much of a risk, and it becomes much tougher to make a decent profit. On the other hand, some cheap shows are cheap for a good reason, and they are not worth your while!

I'm fortunate that I have always made my table fees (with a couple of close calls), and have always walked away with a profit. But since the amount of work is basically the same, I'd like to maximize my profits if possible! SETH
Message: Posted by: DonDriver (Dec 9, 2008 10:18AM)
Thoses ten days at Milwaukee flew by.David Walker and I would work an hour on and an hour off from 10:00 AM till midnight and sometime beyond midnight.You couldn't do it all by yourself,your brain would become tapioca pudding in 2 days.An hour on and an hour off kept you fresh.

A busy spot is much easer to work than a slow spot.A slow spot will ware you out.

Besides all that money coming over the joint every pitch at a busy spot gives you "unfound energy" that you never knew you had.Amazing what money does to a person.
Message: Posted by: Jon-O the Great (Jan 13, 2009 12:15PM)
In my opinion, there is simply no way to correlate show cost and sales. And just because a show was good last year—or several “last years”--does not mean it will be good THIS year.

A good example: last weekend did a 2nd-year hamfest. Fri 5-8. Sat 8-5. (Was actually over about 2PM Sat.) Cost $20. Did $1700 gross. Had I known it was a 2nd year show, would probably NOT have done it. (Most people have to get into the habit of going to a particular show and a 2nd year show is USUALLY terrible because they are not in the habit.) This one turned out to be a “birdnest on the ground” type of show. Actually worked only about 7 hours total. And many vendors were saying the attendance was about half of the previous year. Darn!

But I have done MAAANY shows that cost MUCH more and grossed MUCH less. Farm shows, for example, cost $400-$500 for 2-3 days. Usually gross around $700 per day. Advantage? Many are in the middle of the week so I can do 2 shows that week. If I'm on the road, I'd just be sitting around in my room, costing money. Doing a farm show MAKES money. So my feeling is, 10% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

Two-day gun shows cost $50-$60, have been grossing $1000-$1500 per show recently. The good flea market in San Antonio costs $65 per weekend for 3 spaces. (I usually do sheets/strippers/cards there, so I need 3 tables.) Usually do less than $1000 per weekend. Sometimes MUCH less.

My point is, it is truly IMPOSSIBLE to say “Pay XXX dollars and earn XXX dollars.” I wish I could but I can't. PLUS if you travel, as I do, there are other things to consider.

Last weekend's hamfest was in FTW, 4 hours from SAT. Fortunately, the IRS allows me to charge off MUCH more than actual cost on both car/personal expense AND hotel. For example, got the Hyatt on Priceline for $40. The room was, bluntly, LUXURIOUS. Actually a suite plus BIIIIG flat screen TV, free breakfast, free internet. Plus a free chili supper, compliments of the show. (I was so thrilled with the hotel I took PIX! Wanna see 'em?)

Previous weekend, HOU gun show, Red Roof, same $40, average room. No breakfast, internet $10 (used my ATT wireless). Plus $12 toll on the freeway. So even expenses are not an indicator of income. Did between $1500-$1600 that weekend

So I think you can see, it comes down to, “You pays your money and you takes your chances!” Good luck, guys!

Message: Posted by: sethb (Jan 16, 2009 07:58AM)
Jon, you are probably right that there is no way to correlate show cost and sales, because there is often no logical relationship between them. I have paid $35 for a spot at a municipal fair and grossed over $500, and paid $65 for a big craft show and taken in half that amount. But it's often true that the better shows with the bigger crowds and better traffic (and better advertising and publicity) do cost more than the cheaper shows.

You are also right that you cannot rely upon previous years' results (especially now, with the economy going into the tank). However, I have come to know from experience which shows are generally "dogs" and not really worth the effort. But as you say, you never know -- this year I did a flea because it was less than a mile from my home, even though business was usually mediocre there. Surprise -- I came home with a fistful of money!

In retrospect, I think what I was trying to say is that after a while, you know what your top possible gross is and what your customary gross will likely be (even if Hope Springs Eternal). So, you are able to draw the line at the top table fee you are willing to pay in order to take a shot at that gross. Bear in mind, too, that I work mostly outdoor shows, some of which do not have rain dates. If it rains, I may be out of luck and lose the fee. Although in four years, I haven't been washed out yet, my luck can't hold out forever!

Just for example, suppose your usual gross is about $500. A $50 table fee represents 10% of that gross, a $100 table fee is 20%, and so on. If you're not careful, the show can become your partner, instead of just another expense.

While it's true that 100% of something is better than 100% of nothing, I also can't be in a situation where I am paying out more money than I could ever hope to make a decent profit on, even with amazing business. It's also a question of how much risk you are willing to undertake, and the higher the table fee, the higher the risk. On the other hand, "nothing ventured, nothing gained," as they say, and if you pay dumpy fees, you will usually work dumpy shows and probably make dumpy money! I guess that part of the answer is to pick and choose as wisely as possible, take a chance now and then, and just hope for the best.

I believe I will now sit down and have that Bourbon Old-Fashioned I just made, this is giving me a headache! :) SETH