Just who are our premium ticket buyers anyway?

This could be one of my favorite “Market Notes”  yet.

Market Notes is a report that the Shubert Organization, which sits on top of a mountain of Telecharge data, spits out every month or so, to enlighten us on some our audience’s buying habits.  The reports are written by Mr. Brian Mahoney, who I referred to as the “Swami of Statistics” in 2008, during my first year of blogging.  (Read that entry here)

This month, Monsieur Swami, is pulling the curtain back on those folks out there that buy our premium tickets.  These guys and gals are the equivalent of our “high rollers.”  They want the best, and they want it now.  And they are willing to pay for it.  (As I like to say, there is always someone that likes to fly first class.)

But who the heck are they?

Here’s a word-by-word report of what the Swami said:

As an industry, we make a lot of assumptions about buyers of premium tickets. One such assumption is that customers who buy premium seats will do it over and over, because they always want the very best. We ran some numbers recently and came up with a few interesting facts about premium buyers:
88% of the premium buyers made just one premium purchase in a single year; only 12% made multiple premium purchases.
For 40% of the customers who purchased a premium ticket, it was their only Telecharge purchase.
60% of the premium buyers saw more than one show in a year, but the others were not premium purchases.
While women are the predominant buyers of theatre tickets, men are the predominant buyers of premium tickets.
Most premium buyers are from out of town (65%); only 12% are from Manhattan.
This data doesn’t support the notion that there is a “premium buyer” who always wants the best seats. Why don’t buyers make multiple premium purchases?  Could the nearly 100% premium mark-up on orchestra seating be the deciding factor in how many premium purchases people make?  Would shows sell more premium tickets if the mark-up to its premium seats was only 50%?

So we do have high rollers, alright . . . but they are specific to one show.  I call this the “Mormon” effect.  They gotta see one show, and they can’t get tickets any other way.  So maybe my theory of just wanting the best isn’t quite right. Maybe they are forced into premium tickets because it’s the only thing available.

Swami?  Do you have an answer for that?  Is there a way to find out if Premium buyers looked for regularly priced tickets first?

That question, and the questions posed in the repot about how much to mark-up a premium ticket are exceptionally important to the future health of our business . . . because as discounting initiatives increase, if done right, successful premium pricing could become a way to offset the amount of discounting that a show needs to do.

 

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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Godspell tickets officially on sale starting today.


Godspell
officially entered its “soft sale” period today.

If you’ve enjoyed my blog, I hope you’ll get a ticket today.

Because I know you’ll love the show.

Get Godspell tickets here.

And if you want a definition of “soft sale,” click here.

 

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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Is social networking hurting sales?

I got an email blast for a Broadway show the other day that made me wonder whether or not we’re putting too much emphasis on the “like” or the “follow” call to action that is appearing on every piece of marketing material known to man these days.

Here’s what concerns me:

In direct response advertising, what we want the person to do is buy a ticket. Period.  And any great salesperson will tell you that when you make the “ask,” you offer your customers only what you want them to buy.  If you offer something else to them at the same time, they just may take it.  And then you lose, or diminish your returns.  Make the ask, and if your customer rejects your first and best option, then you can reduce your ask.

By pushing the “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter” we’re actually giving our customers a free way to show their support and love for a product without spending any money.

Yes, obviously there is a big difference between seeing a show and liking it, and the customer is missing a big part of the experience . . . so let me give you another example.

I got an email asking for a Kickstarter donation yesterday. I signed on and was ready to make my pledge when I noticed something.  The project had only raised money from 5 people.  But the project had almost 40 “likes.”

Obviously those 35 other people didn’t “like” the project that much, right?

Could it be that some of those 35 people were on the fence about giving and then clicked the like button and said, “Ok, now I don’t have to feel so guilty for not doing anything”?  They had an out that could show their support, albeit in a small way, without buying.

Now, you could argue that these people are warmer leads for conversion later on down the road (as long as a good social media strategy backed it up), but we could be letting some people off the hook by pushing liking and following too much.  (Hopefully someone will do a study to see whether this theory bears fruit or not.)

But whatever the answer to the question is . . . the message is the same.

Be careful what you ask for . . . because you just might get it . . . or worse, you might not get it.

 

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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You make the call: would you take the group and change your show?

The fight between Art and Commerce is like the fight between Cats and Dogs, Republicans and Democrats, Lindsay Lohan and the law.

As a Producer you may be faced with tough decisions all the time.  You’ll have artists who want to add more scenery to a scene that you know won’t result in more ticket sales . . . but you’ll want to do it, because it will make the show’s statement stronger.  You’ll have marketers that want your star to appear on Howard Stern . . . even though your star hates Howard like Lindsay Lohan hates paying for expensive jewelry.  And you’ll want your star to do it because maybe Howard reaches an audience that is right for your show.

Or . . . you’ll be faced with the real-life decision that came across our desk here at DTE last week.

Here’s what happened.  And pay close attention, because just like my favorite part of watching football when I was a kid, I’m going to give you the chance to “Make the call!”

I have a division at my office that sells group tickets to Broadway shows.  A few weeks ago we got an inquiry from a group of 500 people that was looking for a show.  Yep, 500!  That’s 1/3 of a big Broadway house, which means quite an impact on a weekly gross.  We suggested a few shows to the group leader that we thought were appropriate for this group, and the leader went off to scout them.

The group came back and said there was one show that they specifically interested in.  “Great,” we said and started to place they order.

There was just one problem.

The group explained that there were a few moments in the show that they thought were objectionable, and unfortunately, because of the mission statement of the organization, they would not be able to book their group (of 500!) if those moments were in the show.

Insert dramatic chords here.

The “moments” weren’t specifically plot-related, nor would they involve a great deal of work to alter them.

But would the show make the alterations to satisfy this group?

Insert more dramatic chords here.

Obviously there are a lot factors that would be involved in this decision, like when the group is looking to come (what time of year and what performance during the week), how well the show is doing, how much the group is paying, etc.

But if you’re a commercial theater producer, the question is whether you would be willing to ask your creative team to make the changes to their work to accomodate this bonus to the bottom line?

And that’s the question I’m asking you!

You make the call.  Would you change the show for the group?

Comment below!  (Email subscribers, click here to add your comment).

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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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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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