This is the best audience feedback tool there is.

Everyone knows that I’m a big research guy, with a love of focus groups, dial testing and one day, hopefully, ethnography.

Recently someone asked me what my favorite tool for getting feedback from an audience was.  It made me think . . . what was the device, survey, etc. that captured the best consumer response data?

The answer is pretty simple.

Sales.  Dollars.  Dinero.

How many bucks you got in the box office?

Want to know if your show is resonating with audiences?  Are you selling tickets?  Cuz if you’re not, then it’s not.  Sorry, but you wanted to know.

Now . . . notice that I said “Want to know if your show is resonating with audiences?” as opposed to “Want to know if your show is good?”  It’s a very clear distinction.  Because just because your show isn’t selling any tickets doesn’t mean it’s not good.  And the reverse is also true . . . just because your show is selling tickets doesn’t mean it’s the best quality project on the planet.  Selling or not selling just means whether or not the show is what the ticket buyers at that time want to see . . . for whatever reason.  And sometimes consumers are cuckoo.  (You’ve all seen something that is doing buckets of business that you think is crap, right?)

Getting audience feedback as a creator and as a marketer requires you to check your ego at the door, and analyze the one thing that will unequivocally tell you whether or not your show is working . . . the box office.

People are coming or they’re not. And sure you can come up with all sorts of excuses why you’re not selling, from time of year to the amount of product on the street to the President had ice cream for dinner and tweeted about it.

But if you’re not selling, then your audience is telling you something.  Whether you like it or not, listen.


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  • Ken Wydro says:

    Advance sales is another good gauge. If you have a decent advance – my gauge is about 60% of preview tickets sold, it is likely that you will not have to go into the Reserve during previews. Once you have to eat away at your reserves during previews, the show is in trouble no matter how good it is. Or how good the reviews are. Once the reserves are gone, the show is now in priority loan territory which mean that investors can call their account and get ready for a Write Off loss of capital. Some good shows don’t sell, and some poor ones do find the customer eager and willing to drop down some dinero. Go figure. Any show that sells has some kind of owner effect and some kind of emotional pop. What do you FEEL? That to me is the main issue.

  • Rich Mc says:

    Ken, Good point generally, but how do you factor-in ticket discounting? Some shows will drop (often prematurely) their ticket drawers in an attempt to pack the house, resulting in either not meeting their nut, or sending a word-of-mouth message that the show is in the tank.Ya Gotta explain this.

  • larrylittle says:

    Ken, I think this is very smart. The audience is the KEY….not reviews….not quality….. Can this audience response system be rented or do you have to hire a firm to do this? I am working on an original show but on a small scale and our budget is limited. Thanks

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