More on the price war.

I stumbled across this article in the fancy Atlantic a while ago about everyone’s favorite subject . . . “Why are ticket prices so expensive?”

There are two things about the article that I really love:

1 – It includes a graph, and I’m a sucker for graphs.


2 – At the end of the article the author says . . .

I’ve just moved to New York, and so to make myself feel at home in this strange and hyper-kinetic city, I decided to make my first city post about the most obvious of New York topics: complaining about how expensive things are. And compound the cliche, I’m going to talk about Broadway.

Broadway is an easy target for its high cost . . . it always has been, and unfortunately it always will be.  The author, Derek Thompson, even acknowledges that early on with a statement from an economist about how it’s very difficult “to make a string quartet more efficient” and his own thesis that . . .

Prices are people, and theater is labor-intensive work, and that makes a night at the theater necessarily an expensive thing to consume.

So then what is he complaining about?

The rate at which prices have gone up . . . and this is where the graph comes in.

I won’t be a spoiler and give away his ending, but let’s just say that Mr. Thompson may be new-to-New York, but he ain’t no newbie when it comes to understanding one element of why prices have gone up.  My only two nit-pickies about the article is that he neglected to graph  the alarming rate at which expenses have gone up over the same period . . . so higher ticket prices are an attempt to counteract those costs.  Just because prices have gone up, doesn’t mean profitability has gone up.

And most importantly, the discount revolution during the last twenty years has made cheaper tickets available in greater volume, which requires Producers to try and balance that out by getting more from the top. (See this post about Discounts Eroding Full Price Sales that has a few fancy graphs of its own.)

But I’m being that annoying dude who gives away the movie before you’ve gotten a chance to see it.  It’s a great article, and I applaud the Atlantic for giving Broadway some space.

You can read it here.

And welcome to NYC, Mr. Thompson.  Yes, it’s an expensive place to be.  And Broadway is expensive too.

But there’s no place like it on earth.  And no better experience anywhere.

And that, my friend, is worth every penny.


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  • A Contrarian says:

    I don’t know why a one-man show should charge the same price as say, South Pacific with large cast and enormous orchestra (for today). And what of sets & costumes? Sometimes less is quite a bore, if not simply hideous.

    Of course, I’m bothered even more in the non-profit world where we have one-woman plays scheduled in the most well-equipped of playhouses, yet there is a permanent staff of 200+.

  • Here is an idea for a graph when discussing ticket prices: The line/inch cost of a NY Times ad. Or the cost of the billboards overlooking Duffey Square!

    — Rick

  • adam807 says:

    I have another nit-pick with comparisons like these: No one ever takes inflation into account. Adjusted for inflation, Broadway ticket prices have stayed shockingly steady over the last 20 years or more.

  • Good article. For me, the take-away from this observation was that a Third Category should be looked at: Big-name, short-run, high priced musicals and plays. Maybe they should be called “Whatever his/her name is” in a Concert Theatre Performance. If, as a producer, you’ve got the bucks to hire a well-known name (whether they have talent or not)then you should pass it on to the affected theatre goer who will pay any price to see them. It’s not a new idea. Back in the day, sports celebs, radio and movie stars, and all kinds of people, even murderers, were cast in shows. The infamous and the famous, the public loves celebs, etc, etc, etc.
    -Steven J. Conners

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