Priceline for tickets?

Ticketmaster and Priceline formed a partnership last week.  The deal is pretty simple:  Priceline is going to provide Ticketmaster customers with access to its hotel and travel deals.
I had to wonder, will the deals ever flow the other way?  Could this be the beginning of an online ticket liquidation system?  Stubhub, but for less?
True, the theater has some ancient last minute liquidation systems already in place (TKTS booth, TDF, etc.), but I wonder if there will ever be a push for an online auction model, like the original Priceline model, where shows could put up tickets at the last minute, set a threshold for what they would accept, and allow customers to bid for them.
It could be a way to get rid of unsold inventory and put a few more bucks in the till.  But, it could also be a way to train our audience into waiting until the last minute for a deal.
Do I think there’s room for it?
I actually do . . . but I would take such a system and merge it with a stubhub, making it an auction for the upside, the middle and the low.  Customers would go to bid on going-fast Billy Elliot tickets and leftover Chicago tickets.  And with enough care, planning, and monitoring, I’d bet some shows could get more than the half price that they are getting from the booth . . . and in advance.
I mean, why would a customer wait online, when they can go online?
And if didn’t work, and it did end up just being a bargain bin for Broadway tix?  Well, I’d yank it down. But it’s worth an experiment, as is most everything.
I mean, the TKTS booth had its non-believers, I’m sure.

A Graphic Design book about Broadway.

I e-stumbled upon a nugget of an interview recently with Barry Weissler, the Producer of the phenom known as Chicago, and Drew Hodges, the head of Spotco, one of the powerhouses in the theatrical advertising world, which handles Chicago.

What’s interesting about this interview is that it’s not in the theatre section of the NY Times. It’s not on or in American Theatre. It’s from a book called The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Clients:  How to Make Clients Happy and Do Great Work by Ellen Shapiro.
What’s also interesting is that the interview was done years ago, and features questions like, “How important is it for a show to have a website today?” as well as insights into how both Drew and Barry, two of the best in the biz, approach the creation of art for a show.
And with Google Books, you can read it without buying it.
Read here.  (p. 171)

– – – – –

Only 13 days left to enter The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool.  Win $500!

Play today!  Click here!

At the Broadway League conference: Day 2/I’ve seen the future of ticketing . . .

Can you tell me what this is a picture of?

Ok, we’ll get back to that . . .
One of the buzz phrases of this Spring’s Broadway League conference is variable pricing, or departing from the old school “one price – all performances” methodology, in exchange for a system where the in-demand performances (Saturday nights, holiday weeks, etc.) are higher, and the off-peak performances are regular price or even lower (gulp!).  Sound familiar?  It’s what airlines, hotels, and other industries that have major sales peaks and valleys do now, and have been doing for years.

Some Broadway shows have used VP and yield management strategies during Christmas week, and we’ve experimented with it successfully at Altar Boyz at various times throughout the year (with four years of data, we know when we’re going to sell out and when we can literally afford to raise the full price).  Many of the folks at the conference from the ‘road houses’ also talked about how they’ve been increasing their profit line with a little fancy price manipulation on touring shows.
But imagine my shock and awe when it was announced at the Broadway conference that weekly variable pricing was appearing nightly right under my nose . . . at a Broadway theater steps away from my office!
Got a guess on the picture yet?
Give up?  Ok, I’ll give it up:
That’s a computer screen . . . on the wall of the box office at Chicago!  On that screen are the digitally displayed price for each performance that week, as well as the price for future performances.  Obviously that screen and those prices can be changed with a few key strokes, depending on demand.
Chicago is the guinea pig in this program but I’ll make a prediction that you’ll see screens in all the box offices in twelve months time.  Kudos to the producers of Chicago and the Shubes for giving this a go.
I spoke to Ken (his real name), one of the box office staffers and a proud 751 member, about the screen and its effectiveness.  He said he thought it was definitely helping, and was another tool in his toil to “never let a person walk away without a ticket.”  He explained his strategy of using the spread on prices to help close every sale at the highest level possible.
He also told me that he loved his job and that he was going to stay at The Ambassador until he retired.
Thanks to the use of variable pricing technology, combined with the personal passion for closing sales by folks like Ken, Chicago will probably still be running when he cashes out.

Who is in line at the TKTS booth? We found out!

Did you ever wonder who is standing in line for hours waiting for that half-price (or 40%, 30% or 20%-off ticket)?  Did you ever wonder where they were from (and how that
compared with the overall Broadway audience)?  And what shows those
peeps wanted to see?

We did!

Every show I’ve worked on has had a “booth strategy”, even if that
strategy is not to go there.

Well, as I often say, you can’t have a
strategy without statistics (actually, that’s not true . . . you CAN
have a strategy without statistics . . . but that strategy usually

So we sent out a team of PPers to take a survey of 500 of those bargain
hunters, and here are the questions we asked and the
exclusive results:


1.  Are you male or female?

42.4% male
57.6% female

2.  Where are you from?

80% from outside the tri-state area
16% from the tri-state area

3.  Do you want to see a Broadway show, an Off-Broadway show or does it matter?

77.2% preferred Broadway
3% preferred Off-Broadway
15.8% had no preference

4.  Do you want to see a play or a musical or either?

8.60% preferred a play
79.80% preferred a musical
10.40% had no preference

5.  When you got in line today, did you know exactly what show you
wanted to see or did you wait to get in line to make your decision?

60.80% knew what show they wanted to see
39.20% didn’t know what show they wanted to see

6.  Have you ever paid full price for a Broadway show?

65.60% have paid full price for Bway
34.20% have never paid full price for Bway

7.  What show do you want to see?

The following were the top five shows requested in order of popularity.
1. Chicago    
2. Phantom  
3. Mamma Mia  
4. Mary Poppins 
5. Avenue Q

Were the results what you thought they would be?  How did they differ?

And the most important question of all, what can you do with these results to strengthen your strategy?  The old rule about taking surveys and doing focus groups is not to do them, unless you’re prepared to do something with the results.

The most exciting stat to me?  Almost 4 out of every 10 people in line
haven’t made up their mind on what show they want to see when they get on line.  Now, if
you’ll excuse me, I have to go come up with some ideas on how to
increase my booth presence.

Special thanks to my assistants, Amanda, Krysta and LA for collecting the data.

– – – – –

THIS IS YOUR LAST DAY to enter the Broadway Fantasy Virtual Investment Game, WILL IT RECOUP?


Don’t forget!  You must be an email subscriber in order to validate
your entry and the email address on your entry and your subscription
must match.

Fishing in Times Square. I first moved to NYC, the only people selling stuff on the street were hookers and dealers.  And not the ones from Sweet Charity.

It’s quite a different story these days.  Take a look at some of the street teams we snapped pictures of over the last few weeks.  So many shows were street walking:  Chicago, Shrek, White Xmas, Altar Boyz, Spamalot, 39 Steps and 142 comedy clubs (not to mention the caricaturists, photographers, people like Duane, and more).

Why the change?  Simple.  When Times Square became a destination in the 90s, instead of a destination to avoid, the marketers descended upon it . . . because the pond was suddenly stocked.

Let me explain.

When I was a kid and used to fish . . . ok, scratch that . . . when I was a kid and used to make someone else put the worm on the hook and someone else take the fish off the hook and I would just ho the pole . . . we always knew when our local lake had been “stocked”, or when lots of fish had been literally dropped into the water for the catchin’ (a bit sick, I realize).  We used to look for the place along the lake where they had put in the fish, hoping the fish stayed in that area.  We stick our pole in the water and pull out fish after fish.

Times Square is now stocked with tourists, now that it’s a much healthier 
environment for our fish to live, breathe and buy tickets for shows.

Thankfully, you don’t have to put a worm on a hook to make that happen.  You just have to have a killer street team that knows how to sell.