Just who are our premium ticket buyers anyway?

This could be one of my favorite “Market Notes”  yet.

Market Notes is a report that the Shubert Organization, which sits on top of a mountain of Telecharge data, spits out every month or so, to enlighten us on some our audience’s buying habits.  The reports are written by Mr. Brian Mahoney, who I referred to as the “Swami of Statistics” in 2008, during my first year of blogging.  (Read that entry here)

This month, Monsieur Swami, is pulling the curtain back on those folks out there that buy our premium tickets.  These guys and gals are the equivalent of our “high rollers.”  They want the best, and they want it now.  And they are willing to pay for it.  (As I like to say, there is always someone that likes to fly first class.)

But who the heck are they?

Here’s a word-by-word report of what the Swami said:

As an industry, we make a lot of assumptions about buyers of premium tickets. One such assumption is that customers who buy premium seats will do it over and over, because they always want the very best. We ran some numbers recently and came up with a few interesting facts about premium buyers:
88% of the premium buyers made just one premium purchase in a single year; only 12% made multiple premium purchases.
For 40% of the customers who purchased a premium ticket, it was their only Telecharge purchase.
60% of the premium buyers saw more than one show in a year, but the others were not premium purchases.
While women are the predominant buyers of theatre tickets, men are the predominant buyers of premium tickets.
Most premium buyers are from out of town (65%); only 12% are from Manhattan.
This data doesn’t support the notion that there is a “premium buyer” who always wants the best seats. Why don’t buyers make multiple premium purchases?  Could the nearly 100% premium mark-up on orchestra seating be the deciding factor in how many premium purchases people make?  Would shows sell more premium tickets if the mark-up to its premium seats was only 50%?

So we do have high rollers, alright . . . but they are specific to one show.  I call this the “Mormon” effect.  They gotta see one show, and they can’t get tickets any other way.  So maybe my theory of just wanting the best isn’t quite right. Maybe they are forced into premium tickets because it’s the only thing available.

Swami?  Do you have an answer for that?  Is there a way to find out if Premium buyers looked for regularly priced tickets first?

That question, and the questions posed in the repot about how much to mark-up a premium ticket are exceptionally important to the future health of our business . . . because as discounting initiatives increase, if done right, successful premium pricing could become a way to offset the amount of discounting that a show needs to do.


(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)



– 77 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– Win 2 tickets to Hair on Broadway, and tell us what you think about nudity in theater. Click here!

  • Jay says:

    So what about that 12% of buyers who do this more than once? How many theatres are taking care of these premium buyers? When I fly first class I get my “own” (I use that word loosely) line through security and onto the plane; I get free drinks the whole flight; a special meal; checked bags for free; etc. While those perks don’t necessarily add up to what I paid for my first class ticket, they certainly gave me a better experience.
    Would I be more enticed to buy a higher priced ticket if it came with perks – like my own bathroom line; a drink at the bar during intermission; a souvenir program? I’d certianly consider it, if the price was reasonable.

  • Eric Grunin says:

    Questions for Telecharge:
    Are premium tickets bought closer to the performance date than other tickets? (My guess: yes)
    How does the ticket multiple compare to non-premium sales (My guess: fewer singles, the usual pairs, more 3-9, less 10+)

  • Over time, the premium tickets have really changed the face of ticket-buying. Ten years ago, when I went to NYC, I would order 4 or 5 tickets in advance, often at full price. I would get good seats and be set to go. When I went to NYC last year, I could no longer afford the top seats I used to get. So, instead of ordering in advance, I found that if I went to the theatre box office a couple of hours before showtime with a discount code, I could get the seat I wanted at a reasonable price (i.e. around $80, often cheaper). If I couldn’t get the ticket I wanted, I could move on to another show.

  • Michael says:

    Is there a way to sign up for Market Notes?

  • Liz says:

    Isn’t it hard to really analyze this data without the corresponding Ticketmaster information? If someone bought premium tickets to Book of Mormon, Spider-Man, and Wicked, this report would show them as a one-time premium ticket buyer, and that would be wrong. I’m not sure we can make assumptions about these buyers with only half the data.

  • Randi says:

    Wow, Jay, now that’s an idea! As a woman, I can honestly say that if a premium ticket would provide me with my own bathroom line at intermission, I would absolutely buy one!

  • Joyce says:

    What ever happened to standing room? It used to be that when a show was sold out, that was another option that my Mom (a true theater-lover who couldn’t always afford seats) taught me about. Now,the websites don’t even mention standing room, which for $20+ is a better choice for lots of us than premium (read: unaffordable) seats.

  • WC says:

    I’m not surprised by the results as the “high-rollers” that I have encountered are usually are very savvy and would know to look at out for lower priced tickets and discounts. If one, two, three rows back means regular priced tickets, why not get those? They can then use the money they “saved” on dinner, parking and etc. Hey, everyone loves a bargain!
    How well are premium seats selling since its introduction?

  • Lisa Poelle says:

    I think that many of the premium ticket buyers are tourists who mistakenly think they can get a ticket to a popular theatre show more easily than they actually can, kind of like going to a movie. I find that most tourists don’t know all the online ways to get tickets, especially discounted seats. Once they get here, they don’t want to waste valuable vacation time on internet research or waiting in line for sub-par seats, so they simply throw money at the problem and no one’s dreams are dashed and the family goes back to being happy while on vacation. That’s why they pay the price; domestic harmony.

  • Stacey says:

    OK. This happens to be a very important topic to me so Ken, I hope you are listening.
    I purchase premium tickets to 5-ish shows a year. I see 15 shows a year. I live on the West Coast and travel to NYC to see theater 4-5 times a year. I’m 40, gay, male and upper income and I usually only purchase tickets though Platinum Amex concierge services. I am also a member of The People of Godspell.
    I believe the premium ticket buyer is a very particular and specific kind of person. Also, I believe the premium ticket buyer is looking for something very specific when making their purchase.
    I purchase premium tickets for (1) something SPECIFIC I HAVE to see and (2) where the seats are located in the theater. I had to see Bernadette Peters sing Send in the Clowns in A Little Night Music. I had to see Harvey Fierstein sing I Am What I Am in La Cage Aux Folles. I did not pay $500 for two tickets to see La Cage, I just don’t care that much about the show. I spent $500 to hear Harvey Fierstein sing one song, and BTW, it was totally worth it. Same this with Bernadette Peters and Send in the Clowns.
    When you are lucky enough to be producing a revival of a musical where the songs are iconic, (Godspell, Funny Girl (different producer)) you are not selling the high end ticket buyer a show, you are selling them one song, their favorite song, hopefully with a performer they are interested in seeing.
    The question is: what is the one song for that person and how do you sell it to them?

  • A Contrarian says:

    I believe “Stacey” is one type of premium ticket buyer. But I doubt there are all that many of this particular type. Would be interesting to find out more.

Leave a Reply to Lisa Poelle Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *