A Friday Chat About the Cost of Making Art

Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

NICOLE: Happy Friday!

JESSICA: You too! Did Cedar Rapids get hit with this snow, too? I’m in Ohio and it is… not great out.

NICOLE: We got snow at the beginning of the week, plus a kinda wild windstorm, but most of it is melted now. I guess it makes sense that it’s Ohio’s turn.

JESSICA: I am very eager to be able to put my snow boots away for the season, but I should know better than to think that’s possible in March.

How was opening night of Ragtime?

NICOLE: It was so much fun! We’re expecting a bigger audience tonight, since Thursday isn’t always the best night for a three-hour show. But it was really nice to get to perform for an audience!

How about you? Have any plans for the weekend? Doing anything to celebrate DST?

JESSICA: I am going to see Neil Gaiman speak tonight, which I’m super excited about – I’ve seen him a couple times already, and he’s just so great live.


JESSICA: Haha, thanks! I got tickets for me and a few friends they second they went on sale.

NICOLE: Is he speaking on a particular topic?

JESSICA: Nope, just “An Evening with Neil Gaiman.”

NICOLE: I am sure it will be incredible. I love that “Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer” album.

JESSICA: Even just his voice is great? I love when he reads his own audiobooks. He could talk about basically anything and I’d be happy.

NICOLE: So since this is The Billfold, what does it cost to see Neil Gaiman these days?

JESSICA: $35 + fees for balcony seats, at least in Cleveland. Which is pretty reasonable, I think.

NICOLE: For sure. I mean, it costs $40 to see Ragtime.

JESSICA: Interesting! That seems like a lot, but I’m sure a full musical production has a lot of costs.

NICOLE: The creative team did an event at the African American Museum of Iowa and that was one of the questions they were asked at the Q&A. Actually they were asked why we were only running the show for three nights.

JESSICA: Oh my gosh! That’s so much work for such a short run.

NICOLE: Our director explained that once you buy the rights (and you get charged per performance), pay the actors/team, build the show, etc., it costs $40,000, and the rights take up a huge part of that cost.


NICOLE: So when they get more money, they’ll do more shows.

JESSICA: I had no idea it was that expensive.

NICOLE: Yep. I’m making a donation later this month. Theoretically tax-deductible but we already know that’s not going to be likely this year.

JESSICA: Yeah. I’ve never made enough to make itemizing my deductions worthwhile, so that won’t change anything for me. But I’ve always worked in nonprofits and I’m worried for all of them.

NICOLE: Me too. BTW I just checked Neil Gaiman’s website to see if one night with Neil cost as much as staging Ragtime and he does not precisely mention his speaking fees:

Contact Steven Barclay at the Steven Barclay Agency. Tell him you want Neil to appear somewhere. Have him tell you how much it costs. Have him say it again in case you misheard it the first time. Tell him you could get Bill Clinton for that money. Have him tell you that you couldn’t even get ten minutes of Bill Clinton for that money but it’s true, he’s not cheap.

JESSICA: Hahaha! I’ll be curious to see what he talks about; it’s not part of any speaker series, as far as I can tell? It seems very random.

Cleveland has a fantastic speaker series, in partnership with one of the universities and the library, which is actually where I saw him last time. I knew they must pay a lot — they brought Margaret Atwood and Colson Whitehead this season.

NICOLE: Oh wow. I clearly need to make a trip to Cleveland!

JESSICA: It’s pretty great! I actually live in Akron? Which is about 45 minutes south, but it’s nice to have a Big City nearby for things like this.

NICOLE: I went to school at Miami in Oxford, and we took a special trip to the Steinway Museum in Akron! But most of our big city-ing was Cincinnati.

JESSICA: Okay I had to look up the Steinway Museum, because I have not heard of it and I know A LOT about this city. Apparently it moved in 2013.

NICOLE: I wonder how much it cost to move all those pianos. And on that note, have a great weekend! Enjoy your evening with Neil Gaiman.

JESSICA: Thanks! Enjoy your Ragtime weekend!

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