What happens when you raise or lower prices?

There was a debate waging on the boards last week about whether or not ticket prices for the theater should go up, down, sideways, or—to quote one of my favorite movies, which is soon to be a musical–slantways, and longways and backways (anyone?), in order to promote accessibility to more audiences.

One thing I think everyone can agree on . . . we all want ticket prices to go down.

That said, there are two axioms I live by in terms of pricing that I thought I would pass on to you.  While I certainly could fill up blog page after blog page on pricing, when it comes to pricing your show, there are two things you should know:

1.  Lowering your prices doesn’t mean more people will come.

2.  Raising your prices doesn’t mean less people will come.

In the luxury consumer goods market (which is what we are, whether we like it or not), it’s about product first and then price.

 

 

What will happen to Broadway if Spider-Man is a hit?

When the work started back up at the Hilton Theater recently, it felt like that moment in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when, after years of silence, smoke started coming out of the chimneys.  “The Oompa-Loompas are back to work!  They’re making chocolate again!”

Well, unfortunately for the Producers of Spider-Man, they don’t have Oompa-Loompas to do their pre-production.  Their labor costs a lot more than a free room and all the chocolate you can eat.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding what’s going on in that theater.  Everyone’s waiting to see what will happen on opening night.

Me?  I’m more interested in what happens after opening night.

Spider-Man is the biggest show that Broadway has ever seen.  I’ve compared it to the movie version of Titanic and Avatar before, as it has the potential to create that kind of tsunami-like splash.

But what happens in the aftermath?

First, let me state how much I’m fantasizing about Spidey-success.  That same post I linked to above talks about the potential it has to bring new audiences to the theater, to bring more rock-star composers to the theater, and to re-energize our market by giving us one of the most unique events we’ve ever seen.

It could be a game-changer.

It could also drive up capitalizations and costs quicker than Clark Kent can change into Superman.

We’re an industry that swings for the fences.

And regardless of how out-of-whack some of our labor rules may be, or or royalty pools, or GM fees, and so on . . . when you get a hit, none of it is out of whack.

And that’s why the fees are so high.  The unions, vendors, and so on, keep the rates at high levels to make sure that they have what one Producer I know calls “Bonanza Insurance.”

I call it Phantom Insurance.

And those rates and fees will always stay high, as long as there is one show that defies the odds and mints money like the Oompa-Loompas mint . . . uh . . . mints.

So, if Spider-Man sets a new bar . . . will the unions and creatives and Producers have to set a new one as well?

Me? I’d rather have a whole slew of hits than just one super-sized hit.  So when you hear, “If Spider-Man can do it, ” even if it comes out of your own mouth, make sure whatever you’re discussing makes sense (and ‘cents’) for your show.

Because Broadway musical budgets 50 years ago were less than a million bucks.

Now the average is getting closer to 15 million.  That’s an increase of 1500%. And inflation has increased.

What will the average be in 2060?

How many of you save your Broadway ticket stubs?

I saved them all.

When I was younger, I’d get my Playbill, and that ticket stub (which is no longer a stub, thanks to ticketing scanners) would go right in the middle.

Full embarrassing disclosure: when I was in high school, I used to take the cover of my Playbills, the ticket stubs, and a few choice photos from inside the Playbill, and I’d create a poor-man’s decoupage that I framed and put on my nightstand.  I guess my hope was that they would help all of my Broadway dreams come true.  (My Secret Garden Playbill/photo combo even had an autograph from Daisy Eagan!)

Ok, so I was a lonely kid . . . but it was pretty obvious what I was going to do when I grew up.

This post isn’t about my awkward youth (there isn’t enough space on the entire internet for me to go into that), but rather that ticket . . . which for me, and for so many of you, I bet . . . was a souvenir.

And a souvenir is merch . . . and merch is marketing.

The ticket as a souvenir is slowly but surely disappearing as we transition to e-ticketing, and eventually mobile ticketing technology (having the ticketing scanners scan an image on your phone itself, which requires no paper product at all).

And as much as I’m a huge fan of this technology (and of all technology), it’s going to take us a long time to adopt it.

Why?

  • We’re always slow to adopt technology.
  • Our customers like hard tickets.

While hanging out at the booth last week, I watched a woman turn to another and say, “Did you get ’em?”  Her friend smiled, then fanned out five Billy Elliot tickets like a winning poker hand.  They both literally screamed with joy.  Now imagine what it would have been like if she showed her friend a UPC image on her phone.

Wah-wah.

Broadway tickets still have a Willy Wonka “Golden Ticket” effect that we don’t want to disappear too soon.

They are a tangible passport to entertainment that can create a positive emotional response about our product . . . whether or not you choose to frame it.

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UPDATE:  Two days after I wrote this blog, it was announced that New York State became the first state in the nation to pass a law requiring paper tickets. To read more about it, click here.

Another day. Another dream crushed.

Sigh.

I already told you earlier this week how I used to dream about reviving Carrie.  Well, whenever my mind wandered away from that horror-hottie, I dreamed about producing another musical:

A musical that could appeal to children and adults alike.  A musical that had great tunes already, but also could benefit from a supplemental score.  A musical that would be visually spectacular.

A musical of . . . Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Admittedly, I’m not the only one that has thought of this idea.  I think anyone who has ever dreamed of being a Creative Producer has imagined how the Oompa-Loompas would look live at some point in their career.  One of my favorite readers told me that she was in discussions with the estate for a while (I couldn’t even get them to return my phone calls).

It looks like Willy is finally going to happen, and Sam Mendes is going to be the guy to do it.  Click here for more details.

Am I really disappointed?

No.

You know why?

1. Sam is the perfect guy for the job.

2. When I came up with the idea of Willy Wonka, I wasn’t ready for it.

Would it really have been possible for me to grab the rights to that material in between my acting classes at Tisch?  If you were the estate of Roald Dahl, would you have given the rights to me, no matter how much passion and creativity I had?

Of course not.

Was it worth my time to work on Willy Wonka back then?  Probably not. I would have been better served working on something that I could accomplish more easily like a reading of a new play or musical that would have actually had a greater chance of happening and becoming MY Willy (uh, that sounded awkward).

Starting small is often the best way to become big.

You don’t wake up one morning and say “I’m going to run for President,” and expect to win.  You go slow. You start off by being a community organizer, and then a senator, and so on.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t shoot for the stars, just remember that success is a staircase, best taken one step at a time.

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