3 Things to do to sell tickets during a snowstorm.

Snow is a beautiful thing . . . until you realize the effect it has on business.

Broadway is in the middle of its first big snowstorm this season, and as usual, it’s causing a whole bunch of problems with ticket sales.

Not only can people who bought tickets not come in, and not only do places like the TKTS booth become virtually impossible to visit, but people also stop buying for the future . . . as all of their attention is focused on the weather at hand.  It’s true!  When a big weather event hits, almost all buying just stops.  It’s hard to get a consumer to focus on buying, when they’re focusing on how to get by.

But the show must go on . . . so what can you do in the middle of a snowstorm to sell tickets?

1.  People can’t come in, but they also can’t get out.

Thousands and thousands of tourists come to the city every day, and Broadway counts on them for ticket sales.  But flights ain’t landing in the next 12-24 hours, so our supply has been shut off.  But flights aren’t taking off either.  And this week, we’ve still got some holdover tourists from the New Year filling up hotel rooms.  Can you flyer hotels (I got busted for slipping flyers under doors once)?  Can you offer incentives to concierges?  Just like you may be trapped in your home, a lot of folks may be trapped in their hotel . . . but a Broadway show is just a few steps away.

2.  Snow Day Special.

You’re going to have a lot of available seats in a snowstorm.  Even the sold-out shows are going to have cancellations (if you’ve been waiting to see The Book of Mormon, now’s your chance).  Go public with a low price/great seat special to appeal to the locals that don’t have school or work.  Use a press release, your email list and yep, social media, to spread the word.

3.  Remind everyone you’re running.

Every time there is a storm a-brewin’, we start getting calls three to five days (!) before the storm, asking whether we’re canceling or not, or providing exchanges (another reason Broadway’s snow exchange policy should be made more public).  We always have to tell people to hold-their-horseys and wait until we see if the storm actually hits (it’s usually never as bad as the super dramatic weather folks make it out to be – sometimes I think that weather is a whole show in itself!).  Preemptively strike with communication to your customers and anyone considering buying that storm or no storm, you’re open for business!  A message out five days before the snow starts falling can help prevent the loss of sales momentum.  (I’d include safe public transportation alternatives in the communication.)

Selling while it’s snowing ain’t easy.  It’s never going to be easy, but implementing the above can help prevent the day from being a complete white-out.

Have any ideas of your own on how to sell tickets during a snowstorm?  Share ’em below.


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Saying goodbye is even more important than saying hello.

I recently found myself at a vacation destination . . . where the local economy is fueled almost entirely by tourists who fly in from places around the world.

When I arrived, I was welcomed with open arms, given gifts, and made to feel so welcome.  Yep, they warmed me up to get me to spend money.  And it worked.

But when my trip was over, an interesting thing happened.  No one seemed to care about me.  It was a customer service version of “Don’t let the door hit you in the a$$ on the way out!”

Staffers were slow, people were rude . . . and don’t even get me started on the airport – uncomfortable, no food, broken facilities,  long lines, no wifi despite it being advertised, etc. (ok, you did get me started).  Boy, was getting out of this place not fun.

Now, guess what memory I took with me the most.

Yep, the last one . . .

I had forgotten about the hello . . . it was days ago.  The most recent memory was what I was most likely to recall . . . especially when people said, “Oh Ken, you just went to XXX.  How was it?”

People are most likely to spread both positive and negative word of mouth right when an experience ends, whether that’s a show, a vacation, or a break up!  Catch ’em right after the final moments, and that’s when people are the most passionate, which means saying goodbye is even more important than saying hello.

If you’re  a regional theater, how do you say goodbye to your audience?  How do we do it on Broadway?  Or if you’re a playwright, how does your finale compare to your opening?

Or if you’re a blogger, how do you end your blog?


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5 Things I Learned About Australian Theater

I’m writing this blog on my last night in picturesque Sydney, Australia. I fly back tomorrow.  And somehow I’ll arrive earlier than when I left.  So weird.  I mean, I get why that happens, but I’ll just never get over how bizarro-world it is.

Anywho . . .

I had an awesome time in Australia, and as I always do when I travel to foreign lands, I tried to pick up a few of its theatrical uniqueness so we could all learn from them.

Here’s what I found out:

1.  There are two Broadways in Australia.

In the US, we’ve got one Broadway.  In Australia, two cities have similar sized commercial theater industries.  You’ve got your Sydney.  And you’ve got your Melbourne.  They’re only separated by an hour flight, but both put on the big shows. And from what I gather there seems to be a friendly rivalry between which city does drama better.  Both cities aren’t big enough nor do they have the influx of tourists to support super long runs like we do, but I wondered what it would be like if Boston was almost as robust as Broadway.

2.  Chat Boards?  What Chat Boards?

The fans I spoke to said the chat board community doesn’t exist in Australia like it does in the states, so shows can go about their business without online pot shots.  Of course, the people I spoke to all read the NY chat sites, so . . .

3.  Got a star and a musical? Give me a few weeks.

Here’s something that just doesn’t exist in NYC . . . it’s the limited-run star-driven revival . . . of a musical!  For example . . . Geoffrey Rush just did a dozen or so weeks in Forum.  Our economics haven’t allowed for such a thing . . . yet. (Note to self:  Call FAMOUS AUTHOR to discuss a limited run star driven revival of his musical because this one could work).

4.  When your theater is a tourist attraction, you’ll sell tickets.

My First Time is playing at the Sydney Opera House, along with a bunch of other shows in its many venues.  Well, guess what one of the top things to do is in Sydney?  Duh, it’s “see the opera house.”  Tourists are drawn to the venue like I am to bacon.  So, the venue becomes a lead generating machine, bringing you possible ticket buyers by the ferry boat full.

5.  It could be the new Chicago.

Audiences speak English.  Creatives love to stay there.  It’s cheaper.  It’s no wonder in the past several years, a whole bunch of new musicals have been born in the Bush.  Boy from Oz, Priscilla, Officer and a Gentleman, Dr. Zhivago, and the upcoming King Kong and Strictly Ballroom are just a few of the shows that began their lives in Aussie Land.  I’m predicting we’ll see several more start here over the next decade.  I know I want to bring a show to town.

6.  BONUS:  Everyone is a mate.

They call you mate here, all the time.  And why sure, that’s just the local jargon, but for me it typifies this bonus theatrical trait.  Ready for it?  Here goes . . . the theater people are just nice.  Super nice.  They love what they do.  They love where they live.  And they love welcoming people to their land.  I’ve never felt so at home in a foreign country, so thanks Aussies.  I’ll be back soon.


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Got bait?

I feel a bit like the band I did a documentary on this week, because I’m in like five different cities in six days:  LA/Vegas/San Diego/LA/Portland.

The cool thing about these trips though is the tips and tricks I can pick up along the way, and share with you.

Today’s tip is sponsored by the town of Malibu (which I liked so much, I think they should change the name from Mali-boo to Mali-ohhh-yeah.)  I was driving through Mali-ohhh-yeah, and stopped at this cool, little, fancy, outdoor mall to get a bite at one of the cool, little restaurants within (I had a chicken sandwich from Mutts Grill, which was to cry for, btw).  In the middle of the shops and restaurants there was . . . a playground.

And that playground was overflowing with a bunch of Mali-ohhh-yeah kiddies.

So I don’t know if you know this, but . . . people under the age of 8 usually travel with people over the age of 25.  So if a kid says, “Mommy/Daddy, take me to the playground,” Mommy and Daddy (and their wallet full of credit cards), are really taking them to the mall.

The playground is the marketing bait that gets the fish closer to the hook.

It’s brilliant, of course, but it’s marketing without looking like marketing.  It’s a win-win.  Parents get a playground to take their kids to.  Stores get shoppers.

So what can we do, both in our theaters in NY, as well as the theaters all over the country to get more people closer, so that they might buy a ticket?

How about:

  • Free WiFi
  • Free coffee
  • Charging Stations
  • Fancy art collections
  • Local art collections
  • Theater Museums
  • Lectures
  • Classes
  • and . . . yep, a playground

The possibilities are . . . well . . . they are only limited by our own imagination.  But we should spend some time imagining.

Because sometimes the best way to expand an audience is to bait them into your building for another reason altogether, and then they’ll jump on your hook without you having to do a thing.

P.S.  If there’s something you think I should check out when I speed through one of those cities I mentioned, let me know!


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Will we charge for more legroom too?

If you’ve been reading for a while then you know that I watch the airline industry pretty closely, as they are often prognosticators of things to come in our industry (and in all perishable inventory industries, actually).

They, like the theater, the restaurant industry, etc., are very high risk, face high labor costs, etc. so they have to constantly reinvent their ways to earn revenue.

They were the first with email discounts . . . they were the first with premium seats (first class) . . . they were the first with variable pricing (my new favorite – “only 1 seat left at this price”), etc.

So, when I read this article on CNN the other day, I had to wonder if the theory would eventually spill over to our biz.

You’ve all seen the newfangled “premium economy” or “more legroom” seats on flights, right?  You pay maybe $79 or $99 more and get some more room to stretch your legs, and maybe another perk or two.  It’s for the folks who want a little more comfort, but don’t want first class.

Well, apparently, a couple of airlines are doing so well with this concept that they are adding more legroom seats . . . and get this . . . shrinking the legroom of the rest of the seats!  (The 1% wins again.)

Now, I’ll admit, I’ve opted in for the “more legroom” seats a few times, especially on red-eyes.

Which made me think . . . would people pay for them in the theater?  We already have some successful test cases of people paying more for aisle seats.  But what if we had a couple of rows that were roomier than others?  Would people pay?  Would we sell more premium seats?

It would take an adventurous theater owner to incur the labor costs to remove and readjust the seating to give it a go, knowing that they’d probably lose a row of seats in the back as well.

Would it work?  Not sure.  And just like on airlines, some folks would probably end up getting it for free (which is how I ended up in a “more legroom” seat the first time).

Of course, now I buy one whenever I can, so . . .


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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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