Thursday, June 17, 2010

Price is not the problem

Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Leigh Goldenberg.

After years of producing Off Off, while learning from fabulous Arts Administrators Off Broadway, I jumped ship for regional theatre in Philly where I now focus on Marketing. I've found this focus is a good combination of creativity and numbers, while close enough to the actual work so I don't forget I work at a theatre. Here's something I've been thinking about from Off Off land that totally applies to my marketing universe.

Price is not the problem

Equity caps Off Off's ticket prices at $18 (or a whopping $25 if you have made it to the Seasonal code). Even if you aren't using union actors, this is probably the limit you will charge for a ticket since it's the market price. You may charge even less. You may make up discounts for students, seniors, community groups. You'll probably give comps to fellow artists, friends of cast members, people you are trying to impress, the press.

In the scheme of things, Off Off is a ridiculously cheap way to spend an evening, especially among the vast, overpriced options of New York.

Does the fact Off Off is a ridiculously good deal mean that your audience is packed? Absolutely not! (It still may be packed, and if that's the case, please share the formula for success with us all!)

I'd even venture to say that because Off Off is so cheap, this might even deter people from forking over their money to sit in our theatre, if only because something cheap can't possibly be as good as something overpriced. (All marketing tactics aside, wouldn't most people rather return from to their trip Big Apple bragging about spending $200+ to see Nathan Lane from 100 yards away instead of your big ideas up close in a Lower East Side basement?)

In the regional theatre scene, I feel like we talk about price all.the.time. Should we discount? If so, when? How much? Should we raise prices when something is popular? Who are we alienating? Who are we subsidizing? Why aren't we making ends meet even when our houses are full?

With less flexibility in pricing in Off Off, this conversation doesn't seem to happen so much.

But the fundamental issue is the same in both situations - how much a ticket costs has very little effect on if people will want to come. Our challenge is to make sure that what we put on stage is relevant, intriguing, and worth seeing. Potential audience members have to be convinced somehow that the 2 hours they spend with you is the most valuable thing they can be doing with their time. It's not just good for them, but fun and, maybe more importantly, hip.

Our job as theatre makers is to create plays that can't be missed, part of the culture, desirable.  The bigger challenge from a marketing standpoint is to communicate that your play, whether it costs $100, $10 or nothing at all, is unmissable.

How will you do it?


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