2 Ways to get rid of discounting on Broadway forever.

I promised this blog for yesterday, then bumped it to today.

And now I feel like a guy who is about to tell a joke and quickly realizes his audience has heard it before.

Because my two ways of decreasing discounting on Broadway are not that revelatory.  In fact, they are so simple, you’ll probably want to electronically punch me in the face for hyping the thought that I had a from-the-mountain-top type of answer to solve Broadway’s discounting ills.

So, without further a-doo-doo, here they are:

1.  Make better shows.

Great shows sell tickets.  Full price tickets.  Now the real question is, “What makes a show ‘better’?”  As I’ve said before, people aren’t price resistant . . . they are value resistant.  They have no problem paying full price plus some when they feel the value of the experience outweighs the cost.  What increases value?  Great writing, big stars, big belly laughs, sloppy tears, spectacle, etc.  It varies for every audience.  Find out what your audience values and do more of that.  If you want a clue as to what the Broadway audience values, well, that’s easy . . . just look at what shows sell out and at full price.  You might not like what you see, but that’s the story, morning glory.

2.  Produce less shows.

There are a pretty fixed number of people that see Broadway shows every year.  It varies by a few percentage points every year (and this year it’s going back in the right direction, thank whomever you pray to), but it stays somewhat constant.  If we reduced our supply for those wanna-see-a-show folks, discounting would decrease, because customers would end up fighting over seats, rather than waiting to get a discount offer in their inbox.  Less supply, greater demand.  It’s Econ 101.

So there are my two ways to get rid of discounting.  What do you think?  Want to e-punch me yet?  I kind of do, because they’re both “duh” ideas.  #1 – We’re all trying to create better shows, right?  No one sets out to create crap (although I do think we can get a lot better at remembering who our audience is before we spend a few million bucks).

And #2?  People aren’t just going to stop producing. And that’s the great thing about this country, this city, and our business.  If you’ve got an idea that you’re passionate about–so passionate that you can convince other people to follow you and put up a few million (and you can get a theater)–well, then, by golly, you should be able to produce your show.  But, since there are only a fixed number of people that see Broadway shows per year, and since there seems to be more available theater seats than that number, you best be prepared to discount.

Discounting is here to stay (and actually it ain’t that new, it’s just more out in the open).  The modern consumer doesn’t just want a discount, they feel entitled to one.

So trying to get rid of discounts altogether is futile.

What we can do is get a lot smarter about how we use them.

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  • Frank says:

    #1) Quality is subjective, not sure that would work. There are probably only 2 or 3 shows a year that I would pay full price for.
    #2) What do you propose we do with all the excess theaters, tear them down and replace them with parking lots?
    A third way is to reduce the price in the first place. If orchestra seats to a musical sold for $80 you wouldn’t need discounting.

  • Kevin says:

    I’ve thought about this one a lot. If I were to produce something I would base the entire budget on a lower ticket price. Since there are so many discounts available for nearly every show, the price of a full price ticket is really an inflated price, making the “discounted” ticket more like a real full price ticket. Rarely is there a show these days (Addams Family being a big exception) where there are nearly no discounts. Wouldn’t I as a producer be more in control of my weekly nut if my budget were based on a more stable ticket price without discounting it? Then what is now the “full price ticket” becomes the PREMIUM ticket. Isn’t it likely that I will sell the same amount of tickets at say 80 bucks than I would selling some at 60 and some at 100 thus making the same GROSS? And wouldn’t this help me recoup faster? Aren’t people attracted to shows if there is no discount? Damn, there are so many variables here — so many different ways that different theatre goers perceive show prices. Some people want a luxury item and some people just want to be able to see a show. But, I do agree that discounts have become misleading, yet I still use them. Now my brain hurts, thanks, Ken!

  • adam807 says:

    What about just pricing things realistically instead of pricing to discount? What about pricing seats 8-16 in the orchestra lower than 101-130 and 2-6? What about doing away with rushes and lotteries and making the front row, or the back row, or partial view, available to anyone for a low price, in advance?
    I feel like the current discounting system penalizes those not “in the know,” and creates a perception of theatre (this is not just a Broadway problem) being overly expensive and elitist. I also see no logic to pricing the entire orchestra at the same rate, when we all know some of those seats are better than others. If a show can legitimately charge $400 and people will pay it, I say go for it! But if you’re setting high prices just so you can market the discount, why not be honest and eliminate the middle step? Or provide a greater range between your best seats and your worst, and let the customer decide what he’s willing to pay for?

  • JW says:

    Hi Ken –
    No. No e-punch. Rather a suggestion for a 3rd method to help get rid of discounting, and it’s based on disputing the 1st sentence of your #2 – increase the audience pool, instead of accepting that there’s a finite number of people who’ll go to theatre. Adding this #3 certainly isn’t any easier than your #1, and your #2, but there’s no reason to accept that all those folks who haven’t yet come to a live theatre event in NYC are never going to; we just have to find better and newer ways of reaching them.

  • Rich Mc says:

    Hi Ken,
    There’s a glaring underbelly to your #1 … people don’t really have a good idea in advance of seeing a play what they’re asked to shell out full price for; consequently many lean toward hedging their bets via receiving a discount. This is especially true early in a play’s run, before positive word of mouth kicks in (for the ‘hotties’). Would seem a good idea to provide folks with a capsule video preview or “trailer” of the Broadway Play via e.g., you tube linked or rich media-containing emails, to increase confidence that the play will be worth a non-discounted ticket. Of course, trailers are done with movies all the time, accessible at the website; I envision more of a e-mail promotional campaign with the blast going out to lists of play goers having a history of discount affinity (e.g., TDF members). However, this approach also entails some risk – e.g., never would have set foot in “Next To Normal” had I viewed a representative video preview of this play.

  • Noel Turner says:

    Stop selling discount tickets at the TKTS booth in times square. Its full of rich visitors who can afford to pay full price, these aren’t locals who need discounts over a long time to keep going to shows.

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