Psychic Sally probably doesn’t earn £5million a year
In the Guardian today, in an article to promote a Psychic Challenge set up by the generally brilliant Merseyside Skeptics, Chris French sticks his neck out with the following assessment of Psychic Sally’s finances:
“The bottom line is that if [Psychic] Sally tours for, say, 10 months of the year, she is almost certainly making at least £5m per annum, just from her stage shows.”
This follows on from a similar claim made last year by Simon Singh:
“My best estimate is that Sally sells over 100,000 tickets each year, which generate at least £2m.”
I’m no defender of Psychic Sally, but if either figure were true, I’d be amazed – many top TV comedians would struggle to earn that from tickets and DVD sales combined.
To arrive at the figure French cites, we are asked to believe that 18 dates in February can generate a profit of £450,000 from gross revenue of £500,000. “Of course, Sally will have costs to cover,” French concedes, “including promotion, insurance, hiring venues, paying her crew, and covering expenses such as travel and accommodation,” but these apparently account for barely a tenth of the takings. If that’s true, then Sally is a business genius making a 90% profit margin on her tours, and the venue-owners she deals with are schmucks.
We then have to accept that February’s 18 dates represent a typical month. A quick visit to her website shows that she has 19 dates booked in November – so far so good – but then only 4 in December, none in January, and for the following months 1, 6, 8 and 10 – add that up and we have 48 dates in the next 7 months, which is less than 7 dates per month, not 18.
Of course one way to clear this up might be to look at her details on Companies House (where, yes, Morgan lists her occupation as ‘psychic’). A new company, Sally Morgan Entertainment Ltd, was only incorporated on August 26th 2011, and hasn’t filed accounts yet. Another firm, Sally Morgan Enterprises Ltd, has been running for several years, and is named on her website as being the primary contact for her tour. Accounts are available, and as of March 2011 they show that the company had around £50k in the bank, and that Sally and her husband personally owed it approximately £269k, up from £99k in 2010.
Morgan has been touring for several years, and it’s unlikely her earnings have changed drastically since 2011. Nothing in these accounts suggests earnings of £5million or even £1million. Perhaps the money lies elsewhere (there are rumours of a £3.5m house, but she could of course have a mortgage), but the fact that her and her husband’s debt to the company a) was unpaid and b) had more than doubled since 2010 doesn’t suggest fabulous, liquid wealth either.
The truth is probably quite banal – that touring a mid-level stage show is not a path to fabulous wealth. Morgan advertises chat lines, but these are run by a service provider and use other psychics, any cut she makes is likely to be on the small side. There’s a bit of merchandising and the odd TV appearance; but running and staffing a psychic business ‘empire’ involves costs and overheads. While I’m sure she earns a tidy salary it’s probably not millions, and I certainly wouldn’t be willing to claim anything concrete about it in a national newspaper.
We don’t really know, and I don’t think it particularly matters either – how much she earns is less important than what she does to earn it. With so little evidence to go on, this kind of speculation feels uncomfortably like making stuff up; and of course the issue of whether people ‘making stuff up’ is what this is all about in the first place.
Anyway, I have some other thoughts about this whole Psychic Sally situation, but I’ll save them for another time.