Notes from the session "The Value of a Seat"
Moderators: Charles Isherwood, theatre critic, The New York Times; Joanne Steller, vice president, strategic communications, Target Resource Group Speakers: Jon Limbacher, vice president and chief operating officer, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Phillip Matthews, director of communications, Theatre Communications Group and manager, Free Night of Theater; Ellen Walker, director of marketing and communications, Pacific Northwest Ballet
Phillip Matthews (Free Night of Theater – TCG)
-started out as a pilot program in 2005
-now in over 100 cities and expect to offer more than 500,000 free tickets this year
-1/3 of audiences made under $50k, and were non-white
-suggestion: when theaters offer complimentary tickets, they should collect the contact information for each attendee so that they can follow up with them and invite them back (as a paid attendee).
Jon Limbacher (St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)
-he felt that if an organization doesn’t have a significant, growing, sustainable audience, it should make you question your purpose
-viewed price as a really important factor in the relationship that an organization has with its patrons. They designed their pricing (most by drastically lowering their prices) to create a “philanthropic” relationship with their patrons rather than a “consumer” relationship with them.
-In their community concert series, their original prices were between $11 and $47. They lowered the prices so that 60% of all tickets are $10 and 40% are $25. They went from have houses at 60% capacity to 90% capacity.
Ellen Walker (Pacific Northwest Ballet)
-their goal is to maximize price for each seat sold
-when a performance is sold to 80% capacity, they raise all tickets by $5. Once the performance is sold at 90% capacity, they raise all tickets by $10.
-they continue to have access programs for patrons that cannot afford full price tickets.
-on average, this dynamic pricing structure brings in $200,000 more in earned revenue per year than the previous model
-the company has several hundred thousand attendees each year, and in the five years that they have had dynamic pricing, they have fielded one complaint from a patron
-there was much more internal debate over dynamic pricing then there was customer dissent