If I didn't write about theatre, I wouldn't be able to see anywhere near as much theatre as I do.
I don't get paid to review*, but I get tickets, which I'm able to share with friends who mostly work in the arts so also can't afford the luxury of seeing a lot of theatre.
Theatre tickets aren't free because theatre is created by people who deserve to get paid in the same way that your doctor or postie expects to get paid for doing their job. And if you think theatre pays well, take your ticket price and divide it by the number of names on the program, then throw in the costs of front of house staff, venue hire, insurance, cleaning, publicity, rights, printing and the wine and sandwiches for reviewers and friends on opening night.
There's little appreciation of the hours it takes to create any performance by those who don't do it.
I used to work for in local government programming live entertainment for large festivals. I had to stop counting how many very well-paid staff members would ask me if the entertainers would do it for free or for a crap hourly rate because "they'll be seen by people" and "that's what they want".
I once had a fight with a friend once because she'd figured out a way to sneak into a large Adelaide Fringe venue via a toilet with two doors; she didn't accept my argument that if they don't give you the ticket, it's stealing.
But knowing and supporting that creators deserve to be able to pay their rent doesn't solve the problem of how to support and enjoy theatre when you don't have a pile of ready cash – which is often because you're a creator and spend your free time doing things you don't get any money for.
Then there's the problem of how to get people to love and appreciate your work. Unsold works, posts with no hits and empty seats can hurt.
Ronnie Fazekas also understands these frustrations.
So she formed Little Birdy Tix to give artists access to new audiences and folk like us access to tickets.
Ronnie says, "My background is in ticketing, managing the ticketing for quite a large number of festivals, venues and events both here and in the UK. I spent a lot of time with upset artists, producers etc who either couldn't afford publicity for their show or simply didn't understand how important new audience members are to the growth of their ticket sales.
"On the flip side, I dealt with thousands of general public members who were overwhelmed by choice and quite possibly were very unfamiliar with seeing live performance in general, often choosing to buy a ticket based on a sold out sticker (buying to another date) or walking away not buying anything.
"I wanted to help both groups!"
And she has.
And she has.
For punters, it costs $55 to join Little Birdy. For this you can have two tickets for shows promoted on the site. This usually makes your membership pay for itself after one show. Ronnie says that in the eight months Little Birdy has been running, some members have used over $1000 worth of tickets. That's gotta be the best deal around.
However, if you can't make it to a show, you have to cancel within two hours of the start or risk losing your membership. Fair enough, I think.
If you join now, you could nab tickets to eleven shows including see Midsumma's Gaybies at the Sumner Theatre, AcidTongue and Dollface at the Owl and the Pussycat, Equus at Revolt and not a very good story at La Mama.
Gaybies (which may have already sold out)
AND if you want to head to SA for the Adelaide Fringe, you can already grab tickets for shows at The Garden of Unearthly Delights. There's enough free shows to fill a few days, which could leave you with enough money to get to Adels, buy beer and spend your change on seeing more Fringe shows.
If you have empty seats or want to bring a new audience to your shows, listing your show on Little Birdy is free. FREE! (That's easier that asking an arts journo to write a story about you.)
Members hear about you through the Little Birdy website, the weekly newsletter, Twitter or Facebook. And members are asked to share the love and create the buzz by sharing on their accounts.
You're not getting ticket income, but if your show is great, the chances of audiences recommending you to their friends and paying to see your next work are pretty good. And they'll probably buy a wine and a program. Regardless, it's always better to have bums on seats and it's amazing what good word of mouth and a couple of full houses does for the rest of your season.
I think this is one of the best new ventures I've seen.
Little Birdy Tix are joining audiences to shows and artists, while encouraging and helping people to see a lot of theatre. This can only help to build all audiences and support all companies and venues, and I suspect that it's going to be wonderful during festivals when the choice scares the best of us.
Become a Little Birdy member HERE.
* But if anyone wants to give me a job where I get paid to write about theatre, I'll say yes please and promise to submit on time. And there's a donation button on the right.