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.

Look Ma! We made an iPhone app called “At The Booth!”

I feel like a proud papa sending out a birth announcement.  And while the gestation of this offspring didn’t take nine months, at times it sure felt like it!  (Then again, I’m about as patient as a kid on Christmas Eve.)

On January 26th, I wrote a blog about the Top 10 Broadway and Theater iPhone apps, only to find out that there weren’t even 10 to choose from.

So, my staff and I hit the whiteboard and came up with some ideas, and I also put a call out to all of you for your ideas, and said that if I found one that we liked, we’d make it . . . and share the profits.

Well, lo and behold, my staff . . . and several of you (you know who you are) . . . expressed interest in an iPhone app that tells you what’s available at the TKTS® booth, and at what price, etc.

So, we made it!

Introducing . . . The At The Boothapp, your guide to what’s half-price on Broadway today!  Download it now!

 

At The Boothincludes:

 

  • A list of all the shows available at the TKTS® booth and at what price (both in dollars and percent off – 50%, 40%, etc) updated throughout the day!
  • A “line indicator” that tells you how long the line is!
  • A full directory of all the shows on Broadway and Off-Broadway, whether they are at The Booth or not, including cast lists, photos, videos, and more!
  • A full directory of all of the theaters in NYC, including maps!
  • Links to reviews of all the shows!
  • Links to full price tickets and discount tickets, just in case your show isn’t at the booth!
  • And more!

The app has been on soft-launch for a couple of weeks, and we’ve gotten great feedback already.  We gave a few away to some folks in Times Square and here’s what they had to say . . .

“This is exactly what I was looking for.  It helped me plan my day better and I knew I was going to save money.” – Karen, Texas

“If I can find out in advance that a show is available, I’ll come to TKTS® more often, because I know my trip down won’t be wasted.” – Tom, NYC

So, if you’ve ever wanted to know what was up at the booth before you got in line (or even while you’re in line), download the app today.  It’s a must-have for any savvy Broadway and Off-Broadway theatergoer.

Get it here.

Special thanks to my staff, especially Melissa and Blair, who supervised the development, and special thanks to all of you who submitted your fantastic ideas for all different types of apps.  You helped inspire us to make something where there was nothing before.  Now, if you’ve got another idea for an app (or a dog food, a book, and hey, even a musical), go make it.  It ain’t brain surgery.

(And while you’re downloading apps, don’t forget you can get my blog in app form as well.  Get The Producer’s Perspective blog app here.  I’m funnier on an iPhone. Really.  It’s true.  If you were reading this on your phone, you would have laughed . . . a lot.)

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.

“When I say Broadway, you say . . .” Survey Results revealed.

My staffers and I got into a discussion last week about what the word ‘Broadway’ meant to our ticket buyers.  What sort of images did it conjure?  What did they associate with it?  In other words . . . what did the brand of Broadway actually mean?

We decided to find out.

I sent a couple of my loyal staff members (and the ones with the warmest coats) to the TKTS booth to ask 100 female theatergoers the following question (we asked only females because they drive the majority of the ticket purchases):

“What is the first word that comes to your mind when I say the word . . . Broadway?”

Below is a list of the responses (only responses given by more than one person are listed):

Shows 15%
Plays 9%
Musicals 8%
New York 8%
Music 6%
Dancing 5%
Wicked 5%
Fun 4%
Singing 4%
Lights 3%
Theater 3%
Chicago 2%
Crowds 2%
Fabulous 2%
Lion King 2%

Pretty interesting, huh?

Kudos to the three shows that got on this list.  When your show equals Broadway, you’re doing pretty well.  The other good news is what was NOT on this list: expensive, uncomfortable seats, etc.  Actually, only one person out of the hundred associated the word Broadway with “expensive,” and that one comment was the only negative word associated with Broadway in the survey.

Since we found this information to be so valuable, and since my staffers’ coats were really warm, we decided to ask another question in the same style, to the same people.  Ready?  Here goes:

“What is the first word that comes to your mind when I say the word . . . Off-Broadway?”

Below is a list of their responses:

Plays 12%
Don’t Know 9%
Cheap 6%
Not as fun 6%
Theater 4%
Altar Boyz 3%
Fun 3%
New York 3%
Shows 3%
Small 3%
Avenue Q 2%
Comedy 2%
Dancing 2%
More shows 2%
Shoes 2%

Pretty scary, huh?

9% of the individuals surveyed couldn’t even come up with a word to describe Off-Broadway!  And not only were there negative associations in this top group, as opposed to Broadway’s survey which had only positive, but these negatives continued on with the rest of the sample.  Words like “sad” and “meh” and “wannabes” were amongst the single responses we recorded.  In total, over 30% of the people surveyed had a negative first thought about Off-Broadway.  (For those of you who think we misspelled “shows” and put “shoes” instead, unfortunately, you’re wrong. Google Off-Broadway.  The second search result is the reason why 2% of our survey said shoes.)

The takeaway from this survey is pretty obvious: Broadway’s brand is healthy and positive, while Off-Broadway’s image is damaged . . . kind of like Martha Stewart when she went away to prison.

But Martha came back . . . and so can Off-Broadway.  It’s just not going to happen on its own.

A model for the rebranding of Off-Broadway tomorrow . . .

What is the first word YOU think of when you hear Broadway?  Off-Broadway?  Comment below.

(Special thanks to Lindsey and Ashley for braving the elements for this sake of this study.

Lincoln Center gets its own TKTS booth.

Starting in the new year, Lincoln Center fans will be able to buy discounted tickets to LC events at the David Rubenstein Atrium on 62nd St.

That’s right, LC is setting up their own TKTS.

And why shouldn’t they?

With the volume of projects they produce, why not have their own discount distribution center?  Why not provide their niche audience with a place that they can call their own (and that has free WiFi, free performances and free restrooms!!!)?

Will this be the first of many?  Will we start to move towards the London model of half-price booths in more than one location?  (If you’ve been to the booth lately, you’ve seen that scalpers have already set up shop on the streets)

Will Roundabout be the next Non-Profit setting up their own half-price booth?

I know that I’ve had the sign below outside my office for months . . . and I can tell you firsthand . . . it works.  🙂

 

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Make sure you cast your vote by Sunday, December 27th at 8pm.

The winner will be announced here on the blog, on Monday, December 28th.

VOTE NOW

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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