How do you sell the rear mezzanine and balcony tickets, by The Shubes.

No, I’m sorry, The Shubes are not a Tubes tribute band.

The Shubes are the Shuberts aka The Shubert Organization, which runs Shubert Ticketing aka Telecharge.  And with that comes a treasure trove of data that covers the last, oh, HUNDRED years of the habits of theatergoers.

In an incredibly generous effort to help all of us sell more tickets to our shows, over the last year, The Shubes have opened up their data vaults and provided the industry with their analysis of complex ticketing issues.

I’ve featured all of their previous reports on the blog, and I’ve gotten tremendous feedback from all of you.  So, here is their latest, uncensored and unedited.  It asks that difficult question of how to get rid of your unsold inventory in your least desirable locations.  Since we all know that our customers want the best seats in the house, how do we get rid of the not-so-best seats in the house?

Here’s what they have to say.  Just remember, data is only powerful if you use it. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of numbers on a page.

Hit it, Shubes!

How Do You Sell the Rear Mezzanine and Balcony?

One answer to this question is, to paraphrase an old Steve Martin joke: First sell all of the orchestra and front mezzanine seats; then sell the rear mezzanine and balcony seats. Sounds easy, right? Whether you remember the joke (it had to do with making a million dollars and paying no taxes), that pretty much sums up our industry’s strategy for selling the back of the theatre. And this “sell everything else first” strategy would work, if customers never walked away because of location or price, and if we always had enough walk-up business to fill the theatre. But that doesn’t happen, and depending on this approach is why we don’t always sell all of the rear mezzanine and balcony seats. 

  • On average, shows sell more than 35% of their tickets on discounts other than TKTS or TDF. 
  • For Shubert theaters (July 2009 – June 2010), there were 130,000 tickets sold on marketing codes in the rear mezzanine and balcony totaling $7.3 million in sales.  54% of those were on the web.  Average price paid was $56. 
  • 40% of the full price sales at the box office are typically rear mezzanine or balcony.

There are customers for different price points; some people want the best seats, while others are more concerned about price. How well do we service these price-conscious customers? We assume customers are motivated enough to see a show that they’ll make the effort to check out our prices, so we do not list them anywhere on the shows’ websites. We require the customer to make additional clicks to search for ticket prices. Are we following the old axiom for selling luxury goods, “if you have to ask you can’t afford it?” One of the only places we actually list prices is in email discounts, but even there, many shows only list the discounted top price. What if a customer is willing to see the show but is looking for a price point closer to $40, $50 or $60? How do they find out there is a price that suits their needs?

One common problem with marketing codes is many shows do not program the entire theatre on the code. In theatres on the Star System, customers using a marketing code must visit a separate website, Broadwayoffers.com. This is to avoid advertising the availability of discounts to all of the full price customers on Telecharge.com, especially since it so easy nowadays to do a Google search on “Broadway discounts.” When using a code on BroadwayOffers, customers are only shown the prices that have been programmed on that offer, so if the rear mezzanine and balcony are not programmed on the code, those sections will not be viewable and cannot be sold on that offer.

And those discount codes account for a significant percentage of sales. On average, nearly 40% of all tickets are sold at a discount (separate from TKTS or TDF). If the rear mezzanine and balcony are not programmed on a discount code, they will not be available to sell to the 40% of the customers using a code. In the year ending June 30, 2010, 130,000 tickets were sold for $7.3M on marketing codes in Shubert theatres in the rear mezzanine and balcony. Of those tickets, 54% were sold on the web, 32% at the box office and 14% were on the phones.

We all know there are a lot of price sensitive customers. At the box office, where the customer can clearly see the ticket prices, it’s common for less expensive tickets to account for two-fifths of the full price. There are many possible reasons for this. It could be recession-driven frugality or the reality of orchestra seats at $125 or higher. It’s quite possible that price sensitive customers buy at the box office, or that tourists who buy last minute are more price sensitive than those who buy in advance. Either way, most shows cannot afford any lost sales. The best way to counteract this problem is to make sure that marketing codes are programmed for all sections of the house. In addition, the lowest prices available should be listed on emails and bulletin board postings, even if there is no discount on the lowest price seats. This will increase the opportunities for customers who are especially concerned about ticket price to find seats that work within their budgets, and that is how we can sell more of the rear mezzanine and balcony.

Special Sunday Post: Last chance to win $100 in our Green Broadway contest.

Got a great idea to Green theater?

Submit it by commenting on this blog by 11:59 PM EST tonight and you could win $100!  Winner announced on the blog on Wed!

Good luck!

Click here and comment away!

One. Singular sensational vision.

I was lunching at Orso the other day (doesn’t that sound posh?) and my dining partner-in-posh made an astute observation that I thought you all should hear/read.

We were discussing how the recent trend of granting more and more producers seats at the decision-making table may be having a detrimental effect on the shows being produced.  In most cases, more voices, equal more noise, and less action.  Lead Producers can spend hours upon hours massaging egos, managing expectations and more, rather than thinking about how to market their shows better, or negotiating better deals with vendors, and so on.

It was then that my lunchmate spoke up and said, “When you think about it . . . the most successful shows ever have had one clearly defined Producer with one clearly defined vision.”

We proceeded to rattle off some titles that quickly verified his theory.

I wanted to test it out a little more specifically before presenting it to you.  So, I went to the Wikipedia entry form the longest running shows of all time.

Here are the top 10.

  1. Phantom of the Opera
  2. Cats
  3. Les Miz
  4. A Chorus Line
  5. Oh, Calcutta!
  6. Chicago
  7. The Lion King
  8. Beauty and the Beast
  9. Rent
  10. Miss Saigon

And before you can say “multi-billion dollar grosses,” here are their corresponding Producers:

  1. Cameron Mackintosh
  2. Cameron Mackintosh
  3. Cameron Mackintosh
  4. Joe Papp
  5. Hillard Elkins
  6. Barry & Fran Weissler
  7. Disney
  8. Disney
  9. Kevin McCollum & Jeffrey Seller
  10. Cameron Mackintosh

You see what I mean?  With the exception of the exception (Calcutta), this list of 10 is a collection of strong, visionary, leaders who may take a few people along for the ride, but they never let anyone else even get close to the wheel.

And I would argue that it’s that determination and visionary fortitude that helped get their show one this Wiki-list.

There are even more examples of this trend with big hit shows that haven’t cracked this top 10 yet:  Mamma Mia and Judy Craymer, Jersey Boys and Michael David, and Wicked and David Stone.

So for those of you out there desperate for partners at an early stage of developing your project, be careful.

Look, I know what it’s like to need money.  But just remember, if you take it, you may have to sacrifice more than you want to in exchange.  And by doing so, you may just short-change your show.

And then you’ll never get a table at Orso!

10 Ways to green your show or theater. Come up with an 11th and win $100.

It ain’t easy bein’ green, as Kermit would sing.

It takes extra effort and sometimes some extra bucks.  It’s just like joining a gym!  But it’s time we all got together to make sure our planet has some rock-hard abs.

And that’s why I set out to write this post giving you 10 ways to green your show or theater, until I realized . . . the Broadway Green Alliance had already written it!

What?  Don’t know what the BGA is?  From their website:

The BGA (formerly Broadway Goes Green) was launched in 2008 as an ad hoc committee of The Broadway League. The BGA brings together all segments of the theatre community, including producers, theatres in New York and around the country, theatrical unions and their members, and related businesses. Working closely with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the BGA identifies and disseminates better practices for theatre professionals and reaches out to theatre fans throughout the country.

On their site, they list several ways that your designers, shops, office mates, etc. can green the work that we do.

Some suggestions:

  • Shop from local vendors instead of having items shipped across the country.
  • Design with LED lights (or other energy efficient instruments) whenever possible.
  • Reuse set and costume pieces from previous productions

For more ideas, visit their site here.

But wait . . . you don’t get off that easy.  Why don’t we use this forum to come up with some more super specific ideas to green your shows, theater or workplace.  Comment below on something you do or can do to get on the green train.

Extra credit if your idea saves money and saves the environment.

Ok, I’ll kick it off.

Everyone recycles paper, right?  Right?  But before you put it in the bin, make sure you’ve used the second side of the page.  Use it as scrap paper, fax machine paper, or I have a second “draft printer” that I fill with only half-used paper.  We don’t go through life drinking half a cup of coffee or living in half a house, right?  Why use only half the paper?

Alright, your turn.  And come up with something better than mine, will ya?  In fact, lets up the stakes.

The environment is priceless, but let’s put a prize on it anyway.

$100 (or 100 “green” backs) goes to the best idea commented below. My staff will be the judge.

We close the polls on Sunday at 11:59 PM EST, and I’ll announce the winner on Monday morning’s blog.  Comment away!  (Email subscribers, click here to get to the blog and register your potential winning comment.)

5 Things I learned from King Tut.

I fell prey to the ton of marketing being done for King Tut in Times Square last week, and headed on down to 43rd Street to check out what treasures the exhibitors had in store for me.

Although it may not seem like it, exhibits like King Tut are forms of live entertainment, shrouded in education.  These are multi-million dollar productions with big capitalizations, operating costs, and marketing challenges.  In other words, they have to be produced.

So, as I explored the life of King Tut, I also tried to find some gold coins of wisdom that I could apply to what we do.

Here are 5 things I learned from King Tut:

1.  It’s not the size of your pyramid.  It’s how you use it.

The priceless treasures of the Tut exhibit are currently sitting in . . . a basement.  The producers of the exhibit found a non-traditional venue, and with some smart designers, turned it into a theater fit for a king.  If you can’t find the perfect space for your show, make it.

2.  You can’t touch the mummy.  But you can wear his t-shirt.

Man, are these guys good at merch.  They get your photo taken on the way in and show it to you on the way out (I almost bought mine . . . they photoshopped pyramids behind me, for Pharaoh’s sake!).  Just like the theme parks!  And you can’t get out of the building without walking through their super-sized shop of Tut toys and trinkets.  Merch is a science, not a hobby.  It can help pay for your play. (Remind me to tell you about the time a Company Manager friend of mine paid his load-out crew on a flop with cash from the merch till.  When the cash ran out, the crew ran out.  Oh, wait, I guess I just told you about it.  You don’t have to remind me anymore.)

3.  Got your ticket?  Good, now, it’s just a couple more bucks for this.

During the check-out process, I got pitched a $5 add-on movie called Mummies.  And it was in 3D!  Just like Avatar!  What’s another $5, I thought, since I already dropped $40, and for something that sounded so cool!  In reality, it wasn’t that cool, but what did I know until I got there.  And, at only $5, there wasn’t much remorse.  Once you’ve got a customer on the hook, getting them to pay for just a little bit more isn’t too difficult, if you ask.  Tacking on an extra isn’t tacky, especially when it makes the entire experience better.

4.  Egyptians can wear funny hats too.

This is a monumental exhibit.  It’s educational.  It’s important.  And it also knows not to take itself too seriously, evident by the King Tut street team that’s been flyering Times Square wearing King Tut headdresses.  You can’t help but smile when you see one, and that’s not a bad thought to have when considering an entertainment option.  On top of that, the Tut mask is so well branded that the flyer guy can make the impression on the passerby even without handing them a flyer.  This street team strategy reminded me of the Princess Leia/Carrie Fisher team that brilliantly wore those bun-wigs while they were on the street promoting Wishful Drinking.  The best street teams think every day is Halloween.

5.  King Tut was a teen, and no one cared.

I get a lot of young folks emailing me saying that they are too young to produce, that they could never get a show up at their age.  Well, King Tut was 9 when he was crowned and 19 when he died.  In that time, he changed the entire Egyptian God structure (which had been set by his father), restored diplomatic relations with neighboring peoples, and married his half-sister.  Ok, ok, so he was born into some money.  I’m not saying you have to produce a pyramid, but age hasn’t nothing to do with what you do, unless you let it.

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