What happens when you raise or lower prices?

There was a debate waging on the boards last week about whether or not ticket prices for the theater should go up, down, sideways, or—to quote one of my favorite movies, which is soon to be a musical–slantways, and longways and backways (anyone?), in order to promote accessibility to more audiences.

One thing I think everyone can agree on . . . we all want ticket prices to go down.

That said, there are two axioms I live by in terms of pricing that I thought I would pass on to you.  While I certainly could fill up blog page after blog page on pricing, when it comes to pricing your show, there are two things you should know:

1.  Lowering your prices doesn’t mean more people will come.

2.  Raising your prices doesn’t mean less people will come.

In the luxury consumer goods market (which is what we are, whether we like it or not), it’s about product first and then price.

 

 

We need younger audiences. But who hasn’t?

The cry in advertising and marketing meetings all over the country is, “We need to find younger audiences!”

And I agree.

But . . . something tells me that this same cry has been heard for every decade of theatergoing.  I have to wonder if even Shakespeare himself was frustrated because he couldn’t get college-age kids to put down their PBR, leave their sorority parties and come listen to some verse.

Back in this country, over the past 75 years, has the theater ever been something that the youngins have flocked to organically?

Nope.

Unfortunately, that means it’s going to take a lot more than a $25 ticket or a ‘bring us your empty PBR can and we’ll give you a free t-shirt promotion’ to win over this lot.

It’s going to take the right product.

Unfortunately, product that appeals to this sect, doesn’t necessarily appeal to the traditional theater going sect, who are the fuel that keeps the theater going economically.

And, as ol’ Bill would say, “there’s the rub.”

Because we do need them.  And yes, every generation may have said that, but I believe that this generation needs it even more, thanks to the declining attendance on Broadway and the declining participation in the arts nationwide.

While young audiences may not be the answer for your short term sales needs, if you’re looking to stay in this business for a long time, they are the future of your long term needs.

Because they grow up.

And eventually they grow out of PBR-soaked hangovers and would rather enjoy a night of Hamlet instead.

5 Signs that Broadway is becoming more like Vegas.

I’ve been in New York for just shy of two decades now, and to say things have changed in the theater district is as obvious as saying Wicked is a big hit.

The transformation of Times Square into a Vegas Strip-like scene seems to have had an effect on what’s happening inside our theaters as well.

Here are 5 things I’ve noticed that indicate we’re getting Vegas-ized:

1.  WHO IS THE HEADLINER?

We’re becoming increasingly dependent on the names in our shows, just like the casinos have depended on Wayne Newton and friends for years.  In some cases (A Steady Rain, anyone?), Shakespeare has gotten a rewrite because now, “the star’s the thing.”

2.  A TRIBUTE TO TRIBUTES.

When Love Never Dies canceled its Fall NYC opening, the show that took its place wasn’t a limited run play revival.  Instead it was Rain, a Beatles tribute show that has been touring the nation.  If it succeeds, expect more of this type of entertainment to be coming down the long and winding road.

3.  BROKERS ARE NOT GOING BROKE.

In Vegas, the Brokers mean business.  If you don’t have them on your side, you’re gonna get Bugsy Siegeled in no time.  In NYC, they don’t wield that much power . . . yet.  But as they continue to out-spend us on advertising, and continue to organize, we may find ourselves not wanting to sit with our backs to the door, if you know what I mean.  My suggestion?  We all have a sit-down.

4.  PARDON ME, I DON’T SPEAK AMERICAN.

International audiences have been slowly increasing here in NYC, with the Broadway League reporting that 21% of our audience was from around the globe in 2008-2009.  21%!  That means more than 1 in 5 people that see a show many not speak English as their first language!  You’d have to be high on glue to not think that stat has an effect on what runs.  If it increases, expect more and more non-verbal entertainment or spectacular events to take over our boards, like, oh, I don’t know, Spider-Man?

5.  ADVANCE = DAY OF.

It used to be that our tourist audiences picked up a paper before they came into town and bought their tickets in advance.  When my Mom bought my fam Phantom tickets we waited EIGHT months. And we sat in the 2nd row from the back. (Side note: when I went to see it a second time, I bought tickets from a broker because I wanted a great seat.)  Our audiences are becoming more like Vegas audiences, and waiting until they get here to decide, causing most shows to have more availability, requiring more discounting, etc.  So much of our marketing dollars now have to be spent on converting the customer when they get here, instead of before.

Will Broadway become the U.S’s second Strip?  I doubt it.  Great plays and great musicals will always have a place here, whereas I can’t imagine that The Pitmen Painters or Next to Normal will ever play The Mirage.

But we do have more in common with Vegas than ever before.

And you can place a big bet that this trend concerns me.

Can you tell what these people are looking at?

A car accident?  A celebrity?  The naked cowboy?

None of the above.

They are all looking at . . . themselves.

Forever 21 recently installed a brilliant video billboard in the heart of Times Square that takes a live video image of the street below, and then broadcasts it for everyone to see.

So what happens?

People walk by, and stop . . . and look for themselves on the big screen.  They wave, jump and down, and generally make fools of themselves, just to see themselves broadcast over Broadway.

I shot this pic on a Sunday evening, and what struck me as this gaggle of folks stared at the billboard (and as I stared at them) was the diversity of the people drawn to this phenomenon.  All different types were trying to find themselves on the screen, from kids to seniors, from Europeans to Oklahomians, from lower economic classes, to a bunch of brand-wearing snobs that looked like they just got off a yacht.

You’ve felt like these people, too . . . don’t tell me you haven’t.  Maybe you were at a Yankee game when the camera swung your way, or you walked by the NBC studios during a taping of The Today Show.

Audiences, no matter where they come from, or what they do for a living, have certain things in common.  They want to be noticed.  They want to be recognized.

And they want to be a part of the experience.

I’m not saying every show has to pull a person on the stage for the rest of the crowd to see . . . but the audience wants to see themselves up there somehow, whether in a character, in a story, or yes, getting pulled on the stage for the rest of the crowd to see.

They want a little attention . . . it’s just not apropos to wave your hands and jump up and down in a theater.

– – – – –

Side note:

One year ago I blogged about the very first video billboard in Times Square.

And now there are seven.

Fun on a Friday: my greatest wish for you.

There is nothing greater than watching an audience see something they find entertaining and then showing their love by giving it a rousing ovation at the end. Standing Os, “bravos!”, dancing in the aisles, whatever . . . it’s the audience’s way of showing their appreciation for what we do.

Well, I can only hope that one day you all get an ovation for one of your shows like the one the guy gave below to something he found unbelievably entertaining: Mother Nature.

Now, when you’re done watching, (and please, for the love of all that’s holy, watch the whole thing because it gets better), watch the 2nd video I’ve posted below, which is a parody of the first.

As “just-for-fun” as this post may be, there are a few things to glean from the parody and the original vid.

1.  This video was posted on YouTube in January.  It had only 10,000 views . . . until Jimmy Kimmel tweeted the bejesus out of it.  Now it’s got 4.5 million.  To spread your word, look for people with big mouths and a lot of people already listening.

2.  The authors of the parody found something they enjoyed (and something that audiences already enjoyed), adapted it using their unique voice, and created something they’ve monetized.  Isn’t that the same story behind Mamma Mia?  Wicked?  The Phantom of the Opera?

3.  The best viral videos aren’t made, they just sort of happen naturally . . . like, well, like a rainbow.

Enjoy both videos (trust me – watch ’em both) and have a great weekend.  (If you’re an email subscriber and the videos don’t appear in your email, click here to see them).

I mean, talk about “Rainbow High!” (Anyone know what show?)

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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