Rant alert: Stop telling me you can’t afford theater tickets!

I was teasing an industry friend of mine the other day who shall remain nameless (although I am biting my fingertips right now–I so want to type it) because he hadn’t seen Miss Abigail’s Guide . . . yet.  I was actually going to let him off the hook when he pulled me aside and said, “Ken, listen, in all seriousness, I am going through a tough time right now . . . and I haven’t seen ANY theater because frankly, I just can’t afford it.”

My first thought?  Pity.  When someone says, “I can’t afford it,” about anything, your heart goes out to them, right?  It’s the ultimate out.

But I had a theory, and I decided to test it out.

“NAMELESS PERSON,” I said, “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, Ken.”

“Have you seen a movie in the last month?”

“Well, yes, I have.”

“Have you seen more than one movie in the last month?”

“I’ve seen two.”

“Ahhh, I see.  But you can’t afford the theater, right?  You just spent at least $25 on movie tickets.  You know about TDF, right?  You know about 20at20, right, where you can see shows for $20?”

He didn’t answer.

I could have pressed on . . . “Did you have popcorn when you were at the movies?  Oh, and do you drink Starbucks?  Watch Netflix?”

But the point wasn’t to embarass him . . . the point was to demonstrate how the problem isn’t price.  The problem is value.

Here was a theater person, who was claiming that theater tickets were too expensive . . . who chose to go to the movies instead.  The movies were of a greater value to him.

And that’s our problem.

There are cheap ways to see theater.  Period.  And people who can’t find $20, $30, $50 or yes, even $120 to see a show don’t value the experience enough to work at finding that money.  (And please, don’t challenge me to say that you’re different and you really don’t have even $20 to see a show, because I will come to your house and do an audit on your life and find $20 somewhere, I promise.)

And if theater folks won’t work at finding those extra few bucks, how are we going to get ordinary folks to do it?

So the next time you find yourself saying “Theater tickets are too expensive,” stop yourself.  Man up and admit it.  Say, “I don’t find enough value in going to the theater.”

If we admit the problem, maybe we’ll come closer to a solution.

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FUN STUFF:

– Enter The Sunday Giveaway!  Win two tickets to Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo on Broadway starring Robin Williams!  Enter today.

– Take the seminar in NYC on June 25th!  Take the seminar in London on June 6th!

 

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.

And the winner of the Tony Pool is . . .

. . . not me.

I scored a pretty disappointing 18 out of 26 in my own personal Tony Pool this year.  I feel like I should give my iPad back!

But how did you do?

Well, get this . . .

In looking at what the majority of you Tony Pool players thought . . . you scored a 23 out of 26!  That’s right . . . you are now the best predictors of the Tonys on the planet!  (And two of the awards the aggregate got wrong were design awards).  Next year, all eyes are going to be on what you think is going to win.

Speaking of winning, let’s get to the winners of the Pool!

This year, the Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool grand prize winner is . . .

Judson R. from Lawrenceville, Georgia, with an almost perfect score of 25 out of 26!  Wowza, Judson!  If I were the NY Times, I’d be calling you for your predictions next year.

Congrats, Judson, you’re taking home an iPad!

Our first prize winner of an Amazon Kindle is . . . Neil R., who is also from Georgia (it’s a big Tony pickin’ state down there, apparently).  Congratulations, Neil!  The Kindle ain’t an iPad, but I gotta tell you, it’s pretty awesome.

And our second prize of a $50 Amazon.com gift certificate goes to Roberta H. from Oconomowoc, WI.

Unfortunately, no one nabbed the perfect score bonus of $100 bucks.  But since I was prepared to pay that out anyway, I’m going to donate it to one of the great programs at TDF.

But we did need that tie-breaker!  Marian screwed us all with that zero-second speech, so the ties went to the person closest to zero.

Winners, we’ll be contacting you about your stuff shortly. Watch that inbox.

Now, who’s got predictions for next year’s Tonys?  Will Daniel Radcliffe win Best Actor for How To Succeed?  Will Scottsboro Boys win best score?  Will Godspell take the Tony for Best Revival?  🙂

How to design a Broadway poster.

What a great blog topic, right?

Well, it’s not mine.

I gotta give the credit for this one to my friends over at TDF (including fellow blogger, Mark Blankenship), who came up with the idea and shot an instructional video featuring none other than the man, the legend . . . “Fraver.”  If you don’t know Fraver, you should watch the video.  Fraver has had his fingerprints all over such posters as The Lion King, Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George.  If you do know Fraver, watch it anyway.

After you do, take a trip over to Fraver’s website, which is a bit of a poster museum itself (see original concepts for Sunday in the Park . . . and more).

And after that, stop by TDF’s website.  They’ve been doing some great stuff over there.  Stuff you wouldn’t expect them to do.  It seems like the TKTS booth isn’t the only thing under TDF’s umbrella that has undergone a renovation.

In both cases, their work is paying off . . . and helping develop audiences for our future.

10 Great gifts for the Producer in your life. [UPDATED]

We’ve updated this blog with the best Broadway gifts on the market in 2018. Enjoy!


Happy Black Friday!

People are in line and online today, looking for great holiday gift ideas for their family and friends.  But what do you get for that odd bird in your nest that is or wants to be a Producer?

Here is a list of 10 gift ideas for those folks with shows on the boards, or for the Producers-to-be out there.

And if you are a Producer, just email this list to your family and friends and tell them that it’s their civic responsibility to do their part in stimulating the economy . . . by buying you everything on it.

1. Be A Broadway Star Board Game

Yes, full disclaimer, this one is mine.  But it’s such a no-brainer gift for anyone who loves Broadway, it’s always top of my mind for Broadway gifts.  The game itself is like Life with a dash of charades . . . but Broadway style.  Win Tonys, Audition for Wicked, and the person with the most fans wins.  Fun, right?  There’s a reason it’s the best selling Broadway gift on Amazon every year.  But don’t take my word for it.  If you want some objective advice, go check out the 55 FIVE star reviews on Amazon.

2.  A Playbill Binder!

Playbills are probably the one thing on the planet that is given away free, yet is priceless to a Broadway fan (especially a NEW Broadway fan). Protect them in this binder that includes free sheet protectors!

3. A Broadway Puzzle of your favorite Broadway Stars!

If you’re like me, then holiday times at the parents’ house includes puzzles. So forget about the ones with windmills and skylines, how about one featuring Broadway stars!

4. Broadway Nail Decals

Need a stocking stuffer or a Broadway Secret Santa gift? This is it because it’ll come in under ANY budget.

5.  The Abominable Showman:  The Unauthorized David Merrick Biography

David Merrick is to Broadway shows as Henry Ford is to automobiles.  Read all about how Merrick became the powerhouse that he was.  This bio is like a training manual of both what to do and what not to do.

6. The Broadway Coloring Book

Created by my own Director of Marketing, Monica Hammond (I have such a multi-talented staff), The Broadway Coloring Book is available as an instant download PDF for you to print, color and enjoy right away or gift to friends! This 10-page coloring book features hand-drawn scenes from some classic Broadway shows, including Mamma MiaChicagoCabaretGypsy and more! Color the costumes and sets of Broadway as many times as you like! Download your copy now!

7.  Gift Cards

No list would be complete without suggesting you get tickets for the Broadway lover in your life. Unfortunately, we don’t make this easy on Broadway.  You can’t get gift cards for specific shows, but you can get Telecharge Gift Cards and Ticketmaster Gift Cards.

8. Anything from Broadway Cares

Give the gift that gives back when you get anything from BC/EFA.  From their Broadway snow globes to Broadway ornaments to a 1992 Jerry Mitchell Broadway Bares “solo strip” DVD (hubba, hubba) these gifts will make the giver and the getter feels good all over.

9. Once On This Island Cast Album

If you love Ahrens and Flaherty, if you love great musical theater period, you’ll love this Tony-award winning cast, and so will the theater lover in your life.

10.  The iPhone

No list of mine is ever complete without the iPhone.  Sure, AT&T sucks more than Moose Murders, but carrying music demos of shows in a killer web phone that has an app-game where you can produce We Will Rock You is something I’m telling Santa that I want.

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