How to sell tickets before they are on sale.

Some of the best advice I ever received was from one of my first Broadway Investors who said, “When someone wants to give you money, take it.”

That’s true when raising money, and it’s also true for selling tickets.

Whenever I decide to produce a show, one of my first questions is, “How soon can we get on sale?”  The sooner we’re on sale, the sooner people buy . . . the sooner people buy, the sooner other people buy, and so forth.  And early sales not only helps get money in the bank, but those first few days of your on sale are a great indicator of the “heat” on your project, and how much advertising and marketing you may need to do (or not need to do).

And, well, if someone wants to give you money, you should take it!

Putting Broadway shows on sale has some idiosyncrasies.  I know, I know, you’re shocked to hear that something on Broadway is a little more difficult than other industries.

One, since our sales are through a 3rd party (Telecharge or Ticketmaster), we can’t flip the switch ourselves, so we have to go through that logistical and time consuming process.  Two, since there are 3rd parties involved, there are also costs involved (nothing in life on Broadway is free).  And lastly, we’ve got union rules to deal with as well.  For every 5 weeks that you’re on sale over the phones or online, Local 751, the ticket sellers’ union, requires the box office staff (which can be around $10k/week) to be on the clock for an extra week.

Now, couple this with the fact that so many shows out there don’t have a theater . . . and what is a Producer to do if they want to test the market and build up even more excitement for their show?

I’m glad you asked.

Producer Lorenzo Thione has a musical he’s looking to bring in to Broadway called Allegiance starring Lea Salonga, George Takei, Godspell‘s own Telly Leung and directed by Altar Boyz helmer, Stafford Arima.  They’ve also got great reviews from their out of town tryout.

But they don’t have a theater.

Not one to sit on his hands, Allegiance launched a pre-sale initiative two weeks ago that worked its way around the obstacles above.  For a whopping $5, fans of Allegiance (and there are a lot of them) can purchase a “Priority Pass” which allows them to buy tickets BEFORE the general public.  Yeah, it’s like an Amex Offering . . . except you don’t need an Amex card.  You just need to want to see the show.

This initiative will:

1 – Make some money

2 – Get some press.

3 – Give the Producers some data on the excitement for the show . . . which they could use to show the theater owners as evidence to why they should get a theater.

It’s like ol’ fashioned TV advertised mail order manufacturing.  Put an item on sale, and if it sells, we’ll make it!  (ever wonder why stuff you order from television takes 6-8 weeks to deliver . . . because they make it after they have enough orders to make money!).

You know what’s great about this promotion?  If they don’t sell many Priority Passes, it doesn’t even matter.  The Producers found a way to keep Allegiance in the conversation as it treads water waiting for this theatrical log jam to clear up.

Read more about the Priority Pass here.


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  • Well, what do you know? It takes money to make money. A very insightful revelation that.

    Will the info gleaned from this “promotion” be audited? How might theater owners know that this VERY POPULAR show has as much interest as the producers say it does? Not that a producer would inflate the numbers to influence a theater owner, but….just sayin’.

    Will the creative team have any royalty interest in the proceeds of this scheme? If not, it seems not much different than pimping. Why not just wear a sandwich board and offer “free looks” to get the johns in?

    Only time will tell if there is any merit to this promotion. As it stands now, it’s little more than a low rent additional cost on potential ticket buyers who pay too much as it is for “first chance” availability.

  • Thomas Heath says:


    Once again you come up with a picture of just how things can be done, IF one just steps out of the box…

    These inspirations are so valuable to story tellers like myself that after a 2-rehearsal day, coupled with making sure that marketing efforts move forward to sell more tickets to our upcoming shows next week…

    That all the hard work and creative efforts make it worthwhile.



  • James says:

    Why not use the Kickstarter model for ticket sales? You “buy” a ticket in advance but you only get charged if and when the show gets a theatre and dates. No show, no charge. It will be the same as getting first access but could perhaps avoid the union rule as you are buying an option on a ticket and not the ticket itself. And you could perhaps have backers who would kick in only once you hit N amount in committed ticket sale options. Don’t mean to gloss over the logistics, which would be tricky but no point delving until someone actually picks up the idea…

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