Britt doubles price of basic membership, will stop freebies

The minimum cost of a Britt membership will rise from $50 to $100 for the 2011 concert season, Britt has announced. The price hike will affect a little less than half of Britt's membership of about 2,000.

In addition, Britt will discontinue the practice of giving higher-level members vouchers for free admission to shows. Non-members, who buy show tickets from the pool of remaining tickets after member pre-sales, will not be affected.

"It's trying to be sure we get a realistic return on those dollars people give us," Britt Executive Director Jim Fredericks said. "The value of the memberships had probably outpaced the cost. Fifty dollars is really not sustainable."

The increase, which Fredericks said is needed to make up an operating shortfall, is the first in nine years at the popular summer music festivals and comes as part of a package of changes in the wake of losses of about $1 million over the past three years.

Fredericks said he's talked with members who have complained and explained where the changes came from.

"I can understand folks for whom $50 is a good chunk of their annual charitable contributions," he said. "But it's about trying to sustain an organization that's of value to the community."

He said Britt wants to increase membership this year and raise the percentage of revenue provided by memberships from 10 percent to 15 percent, a 50 percent increase.

Like most nonprofit arts groups, Britt uses the proceeds of memberships to augment admission income, which does not cover its costs and must be supplemented by grants, gifts, corporate sponsorships and other sources of income. Fredericks said the changes were made after Britt formed study groups, consulted experts, looked at other arts nonprofits and talked with members.

At the $100 level, patrons will get the chance to buy tickets before they go on sale to the public and five $5 coupons for ticket discounts. Donors ($250) will get seven $5 coupons. Benefactors ($1,000) will get up to 40 coupons and other perks.

Fredericks said that under the old system, Britt was giving back as much as 35 percent of members' contributions as free tickets.

Britt will keep its pre-sales for members, install a new early gate for members at the $250 level, offer more reserved blanket options, food and drink coupons and make changes to the food menu.

— Bill Varble, for the Tidings

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