Comps cost money.

If you’ve ever gotten a free ticket to see a show, you cost the Producer money.

With ticket printing costs and liability insurance, you could be looking at fifty cents to a dollar per comp, not to mention the labor associated with filling the orders, etc.

Doesn’t seem like a lot, right?  Well, one of my favorite sayings is that a lot of a little equals a hell of a lot.

It would not be unheard of for a Broadway show to have 10,000 comps during the first year of a run (think papering for previews, trade deals, etc.)

That’s $5k – $10k.  That’s some expensive paper, isn’t it?

So what if we took a lesson from mail order companies that offer FREE products as long as the customer pays for the “shipping/handling”?

Here’s my proposal that I’m going to institute at my shows this week:  Charge $1 processing fee for each comp to cover your costs.  And, if you can get that fee up front, you’ll also get a stronger commitment from the consumer to actually show up for the show, as comp ticket attrition is one of the biggest problems with papering.

The takeaway?  When producing a show and looking to cut expenses, a lot of people just look at the big things.  Don’t.

Termites aren’t very big, but put a whole lot of them together, and your house will be history.

  • Kevin McGowan says:

    I think that’s a genius idea. Some may see it as “nickel and diming,” but a comp is a free ticket to a show. In the overall theater pricing scheme, $1 is effectively 0 compared with every other price point. Even the most cash-strapped student or actor would gladly pay $1 to see a show.

  • Rocco says:

    As an audience member, I disagree. The whole draw of free tickets is that they’re free. The transaction is easy and you’ve put out absolutely nothing, so there’s less risk of disappointment (with the exception of papering service fees (which actually just went up 50 cents) but you pay those way in advance so you don’t think about it.
    And…(you know this)…papering isn’t a producer charity, right? You give those tickets away so you can have your theatre look full and have hearty audiences for critics etc, and so you can maybe generate good buzz in the community. Charging part of the audience that is actually doing the show a favor doesn’t seem right.
    And…I always figured larger audiences means more concessions sold, which is good for everybody, no?
    I see a lot for free and half the shows that were worth the time make up for the other half that were painful. If a show is good and I saw it for free I’m always sure to tell others about it, which should be enough repayment for the risk I took in venturing to something I wouldn’t have normally bought tickets.

  • Mia Vaculik says:

    I agree- Brilliant!
    I think people value it more if they have to spend some money- even a token amount. We have a professional theater lab and the same is true- everyone pays a nominal fee and they show up!
    It’s terrible to expect a full house, have paid for all the ticket printing fees and have 10% of the papered seats show up.
    Ken- Have you instituted this? How is it working? Did the papering companies etc. agree? I’d love to know more.

  • Steve says:

    $1.00 is not much at all per ticket. That’s very reasonable.
    But what shocks me , is the papering companies. I’m shocked how papering companies need to charge $3.50 to $4.50 per ticket. If you have 100 “free tickets”, why would a papering service collect $450 in profit for writing 100 names down on a sheet of paper? Total greed on the part of papering companies.

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