How to tell if you’re going to sell out this weekend.

Ooooh, here’s a fun tip that I started using months ago that has already started paying dividends.

Broadway and Off-Broadway shows are fully engaged in the variable pricing war.  We used to employ the “set it and forget it” philosophy of our full price sales.  Then, of course, we decimate those prices in the discount market.

Now, we’ve gone all airline industry on our consumers, and have started adjusting our full price sales depending upon demand.

But when do you know if you’ve got that demand?

Here’s the trick about variable pricing . . . the sooner you know that a show is going to be “hot”, the better you’re going to do, right?  Raising the prices one day before your show certainly would not be as beneficial to your bottom line as raising the prices one month before, as long as you were sure that show was going to sell out.  (BTW, this is also true about discounting – if you know a show is going to be soft a month out, you have more time to employ tactics to shore it up).

So how do you know if a show is going to sell out?  Especially in a market like NY’s, where the week-of, day-of, hour-of, business is so dependent on street traffic and tourist traffic and the like.

There are a lot of factors you can use to help determine how you’re going to do on a particular weekend.  The best thing you can do is use historical data (if your show or your theater has been operating for more than a year).

But what if you don’t have it?

Here’s my latest trick . . . and shhhh, let’s just keep it between you, me, and the rest of blogoshphere.

What do I do?  I let other industries with a lot more money and a lot more data figure it out for me.

I’ll call or go online to check hotel prices in the Times Square area over a month period.  On the days they are offering deals, I know we have trouble.  On the days where the rates get close to the rack or MORE, I know the hotel is expecting heavy demand . . . which most likely means heavy ticket demand.

Sometimes I’ll cross reference this with other tourist cities.  A busy tourist time in NYC should also mean a busy tourist time in Las Vegas, DC, etc.

Then I’ll do the same with the airline industry.  See when they are offering deals, or when those deals are blacked out.  If you’re paying $600 to fly from Chi-town to NYC, guess what . . . there are going to be some peeps in town that weekend.

You can’t set your watch by these tips, of course, but they are just a little more information that will help you understand more about current consumer behavior.

And, as the NBC PSAs say . . . “the more you know.”


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– How To Market Your Show with No Money!  TONIGHT!  Click here.

– Win tickets to see Ghost on Broadway! Click here.

– Take a Broadway Road Trip from DC on 4/28.  Click here.

  • Ellen says:

    As a marketing major/product developer turned lawyer, and of course a devoted theater fan, can I just tell you how much I love this blog! It reminds me of all the reasons I enjoyed my marketing classes (especially the ones on consumer behavior!). I’m sure you can imagine that the show’s pricing pattern also helps me determine if I should see a show early in its run in case it runs into trouble (an abundance of discounts/deals after the show has been open for a few weeks) or whether I can hold off and see it down the road. Of course I also use the weekly grosses/capacity charts for that too :).

  • Kristopher says:

    Brilliant maneuvering! I am starting to think more this way, thanks to these tips.

  • Lewis Marlowe says:

    The best way to know you will sell out, is to produce a good show. Keep trying Ken.

  • Adam says:

    I would have expected it to correlate differently. People paying higher rates for airfare and hotels says “Business travelers” to me, and people looking for discounts says “tourists”.

  • Alistair Hunter says:

    Ken I’m a Theatre Producer from Los Angeles in NYC the last week of May. How can I find out if you have any Seminars going on then ( before I get to NYC)?

  • As a playwright, I have often resisted the pull to “sell out” by writing for hire. So when I saw the title of this posting, I thought it was going to be some inspirational advice about staying true to your artistic ideals. Oh, well. Enjoyed it anyway.

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