At the Broadway League conference: Day 2/I’ve seen the future of ticketing . . .

Can you tell me what this is a picture of?

Ok, we’ll get back to that . . .
One of the buzz phrases of this Spring’s Broadway League conference is variable pricing, or departing from the old school “one price – all performances” methodology, in exchange for a system where the in-demand performances (Saturday nights, holiday weeks, etc.) are higher, and the off-peak performances are regular price or even lower (gulp!).  Sound familiar?  It’s what airlines, hotels, and other industries that have major sales peaks and valleys do now, and have been doing for years.

Some Broadway shows have used VP and yield management strategies during Christmas week, and we’ve experimented with it successfully at Altar Boyz at various times throughout the year (with four years of data, we know when we’re going to sell out and when we can literally afford to raise the full price).  Many of the folks at the conference from the ‘road houses’ also talked about how they’ve been increasing their profit line with a little fancy price manipulation on touring shows.
But imagine my shock and awe when it was announced at the Broadway conference that weekly variable pricing was appearing nightly right under my nose . . . at a Broadway theater steps away from my office!
Got a guess on the picture yet?
Give up?  Ok, I’ll give it up:
That’s a computer screen . . . on the wall of the box office at Chicago!  On that screen are the digitally displayed price for each performance that week, as well as the price for future performances.  Obviously that screen and those prices can be changed with a few key strokes, depending on demand.
Chicago is the guinea pig in this program but I’ll make a prediction that you’ll see screens in all the box offices in twelve months time.  Kudos to the producers of Chicago and the Shubes for giving this a go.
I spoke to Ken (his real name), one of the box office staffers and a proud 751 member, about the screen and its effectiveness.  He said he thought it was definitely helping, and was another tool in his toil to “never let a person walk away without a ticket.”  He explained his strategy of using the spread on prices to help close every sale at the highest level possible.
He also told me that he loved his job and that he was going to stay at The Ambassador until he retired.
Thanks to the use of variable pricing technology, combined with the personal passion for closing sales by folks like Ken, Chicago will probably still be running when he cashes out.