The ticketing war hits the skies.

http://www.theproducersperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/my_weblog/6a00e54ef2e21b88330147e174b04a970b.jpgI noticed a billboard on 7th Avenue the other day that I hadn’t seen before. I snapped a picture so you could see what it was advertising.

Yep, it’s pitching . . . Telecharge, the official ticketing agent of Broadway.

There was a time when Telecharge didn’t have to advertise.  Heck, there was a time when Telecharge didn’t have to give out seat locations.  But with brokers and websites hitting media hard with adwords, banners and even taxi tops (Have you seen that Broadway.com buy?), Telecharge super smartly decided use some of their service fees to fight impressions with impressions, in an attempt to educate the consumer that the fastest and cheapest way to buy is through the official source for tickets.  I’ve seen them spending money on adwords, but the outdoor angle looks relatively new to me.

And I like it.

Ticketing companies are like department stores.  They have a lot of different types of products of all different shapes and sizes.

And the money that is spent supporting the store helps to support all the products inside.

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Our Green Broadway $100 winner announced!

Holy comments, BroadwayMan!

Based on the mountain of comments this blog received, making the theatrical workplace a greener place is obviously a very important subject for all of you.

And what creative suggestions they were!  Everything from LED lights to a “Craigslist for Theater Supplies” to a shock-absorbing dance floor that turns time-steps into electricity.  (Can you imagine how much electricity you could get from “Electricity” in Billy Elliot?)

There were several subjects that kept popping up:  paperless ticketing, Playbills and leftover sets, to name a few.  And, you know what I say . . . if more than one person has the same idea, it’s a subject that needs close examination (and there’s probably a business model behind it as well).

My staff sorted through the comments yesterday, and while they could have given multiple winners, they finally narrowed it down to just one.

The winner of the C-Note and the title of Mrs. Green Broadway is . . . RS!  RS wins with this suggestion:

The Producers should try to get Equity to come up with a way to stop requiring stuffers, without having to announce the changes in cast – there are already too many announcements before a show. Either allow us to just post the changes at the entrance or even allow for postings near each entrance to the aisles – the amount of paper we waste in stuffing is beyond imagination. Also if we still have to continue to stuff Playbills – shows really need to do one page all encompassing stuffers.even if this means that the stage managers end up producing the stuffer on the day.

I couldn’t agree more.  The amount of stuffers used on Broadway is disgustingly wasteful.  There has to be a better system that saves paper, time, money and more.  I blogged about it once and even said it might be worth us paying a few more bucks to our staffers to lose this minuscule piece of billing.

But something has got to be done.  The pros are not outweighing the conservation.

Congratulations, RS!  $100 is on its way to you!

And thanks to all of you for be a part of the team that helps “green” Broadway.  What we can save together is worth a whole lot more than $100.

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.

What is marketing and what isn’t marketing?

This could have been my shortest post ever.

The answer to the question posed in the subject is simple . . . Everything.

I was inspired to write this post because I noticed a mumbo-jumbo discount code at the bottom of a recent discount email offer that arrived in my inbox (one of 7 that I got that day, actually).  The random collection of letters and numbers was so bizarre that it looked more like CAPCHA.

Wouldn’t it be more interesting if that code was somehow related to the show it was selling?  (In defense of the Producer of this show, not all ticketing companies allow completely customized codes – even though they should).

For example, if your show was about Smurfs, wouldn’t a good code be ‘Papa’ or ‘Smurfette’?

Imagine your marketing messaging is a thread and weave it through every aspect of what you do, not just what seems like media.  Because media is now everywhere. It’s the greeting you use when you answer your phone, your hold music, the sign that says where the restroom is, etc.  Use a consistent marketing image everywhere you go, so that your consumer is always reminded of the unique qualities that make you special.

Each time you don’t, is a missed opportunity to reinforce your message.  Oh, and as you’ve probably already noticed, most of these mini-marketing opportunities that demonstrate how you go the extra mile, are free.

It’s true, God is in the details…and so are Great Marketers.

(By the way, the subject of this post was supposed to be sung to the tune of “Who are the people in your neighborhood?”)

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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