How do you sell the rear mezzanine and balcony tickets, by The Shubes.

No, I’m sorry, The Shubes are not a Tubes tribute band.

The Shubes are the Shuberts aka The Shubert Organization, which runs Shubert Ticketing aka Telecharge.  And with that comes a treasure trove of data that covers the last, oh, HUNDRED years of the habits of theatergoers.

In an incredibly generous effort to help all of us sell more tickets to our shows, over the last year, The Shubes have opened up their data vaults and provided the industry with their analysis of complex ticketing issues.

I’ve featured all of their previous reports on the blog, and I’ve gotten tremendous feedback from all of you.  So, here is their latest, uncensored and unedited.  It asks that difficult question of how to get rid of your unsold inventory in your least desirable locations.  Since we all know that our customers want the best seats in the house, how do we get rid of the not-so-best seats in the house?

Here’s what they have to say.  Just remember, data is only powerful if you use it. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of numbers on a page.

Hit it, Shubes!

How Do You Sell the Rear Mezzanine and Balcony?

One answer to this question is, to paraphrase an old Steve Martin joke: First sell all of the orchestra and front mezzanine seats; then sell the rear mezzanine and balcony seats. Sounds easy, right? Whether you remember the joke (it had to do with making a million dollars and paying no taxes), that pretty much sums up our industry’s strategy for selling the back of the theatre. And this “sell everything else first” strategy would work, if customers never walked away because of location or price, and if we always had enough walk-up business to fill the theatre. But that doesn’t happen, and depending on this approach is why we don’t always sell all of the rear mezzanine and balcony seats. 

  • On average, shows sell more than 35% of their tickets on discounts other than TKTS or TDF. 
  • For Shubert theaters (July 2009 – June 2010), there were 130,000 tickets sold on marketing codes in the rear mezzanine and balcony totaling $7.3 million in sales.  54% of those were on the web.  Average price paid was $56. 
  • 40% of the full price sales at the box office are typically rear mezzanine or balcony.

There are customers for different price points; some people want the best seats, while others are more concerned about price. How well do we service these price-conscious customers? We assume customers are motivated enough to see a show that they’ll make the effort to check out our prices, so we do not list them anywhere on the shows’ websites. We require the customer to make additional clicks to search for ticket prices. Are we following the old axiom for selling luxury goods, “if you have to ask you can’t afford it?” One of the only places we actually list prices is in email discounts, but even there, many shows only list the discounted top price. What if a customer is willing to see the show but is looking for a price point closer to $40, $50 or $60? How do they find out there is a price that suits their needs?

One common problem with marketing codes is many shows do not program the entire theatre on the code. In theatres on the Star System, customers using a marketing code must visit a separate website, Broadwayoffers.com. This is to avoid advertising the availability of discounts to all of the full price customers on Telecharge.com, especially since it so easy nowadays to do a Google search on “Broadway discounts.” When using a code on BroadwayOffers, customers are only shown the prices that have been programmed on that offer, so if the rear mezzanine and balcony are not programmed on the code, those sections will not be viewable and cannot be sold on that offer.

And those discount codes account for a significant percentage of sales. On average, nearly 40% of all tickets are sold at a discount (separate from TKTS or TDF). If the rear mezzanine and balcony are not programmed on a discount code, they will not be available to sell to the 40% of the customers using a code. In the year ending June 30, 2010, 130,000 tickets were sold for $7.3M on marketing codes in Shubert theatres in the rear mezzanine and balcony. Of those tickets, 54% were sold on the web, 32% at the box office and 14% were on the phones.

We all know there are a lot of price sensitive customers. At the box office, where the customer can clearly see the ticket prices, it’s common for less expensive tickets to account for two-fifths of the full price. There are many possible reasons for this. It could be recession-driven frugality or the reality of orchestra seats at $125 or higher. It’s quite possible that price sensitive customers buy at the box office, or that tourists who buy last minute are more price sensitive than those who buy in advance. Either way, most shows cannot afford any lost sales. The best way to counteract this problem is to make sure that marketing codes are programmed for all sections of the house. In addition, the lowest prices available should be listed on emails and bulletin board postings, even if there is no discount on the lowest price seats. This will increase the opportunities for customers who are especially concerned about ticket price to find seats that work within their budgets, and that is how we can sell more of the rear mezzanine and balcony.

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