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It’s about the money, money, money…

March 26, 2014

Following on from a few weeks ago, about dynamic pricing, two articles in the Stage newspaper interested me.

The first was that orchestras now find audiences are opting for cheaper seats. The second suggested that any ticket sold at a discount was due to a failure in pricing in the first place.

Both items made me wonder if the authors ever paid for their own seats, or actually considered the regular customers who make up an increasingly frustrated minority in auditoria across the nation.

First off, a lot is said about the “Dynamic Price” model of budget airlines being the way forward. Having worked in aviation ticketing, I’ve seen both sides – and can safely say that they couldn’t be more different.

Sure, there are a few attractive seats on a plane – and not always bulkheads in Economy Class either, as that’s where the screaming babies get put. Worse, the really brilliant places on a long-haul plane are “out of bounds” to passengers (usually).

Point is, on a plane you can buy extra comfort if you wish, but other than that, you are getting to your destination and that’s it. The deal is that you get exactly what you pay for – a seat with known legroom, known service and a (hopefully) safe landing.

In theatre, pricing doesn’t reflect these variables – and it often can’t either. Some seats have more legroom than others… but don’t have view that justifies a higher price… and there’s the difference. It is the view and sound that matter, and not just the fact you arrive at the end of the show.

So, regarding orchestras – of course audiences are not going to pay just to see. They come to hear, and if a cheap seat is aurally excellent and tolerably comfortable, it’s “job done.” I myself normally sit in the cheapest balcony at the Barbican Hall for just that reason. Any “expert” that doesn’t get that reasoning, doesn’t have a clue, I’d say.

As for discounting… a musical isn’t Majorca. People don’t commute to musicals on a regular basis to work (show crew and associated followers like the author excluded), or live in them, or have other reason to keep a bus going to them full often enough to be economic. You may HAVE to go to Majorca to visit Uncle Jose and Auntie Juanita, but you most certainly do not have to pay to see any show that doesn’t appeal.

Rather like a package holiday, the only choice a promoter has is to find out what anyone will pay to shift perishable stock. A discount isn’t the price failure the expert in the article says – any producer will tell you they can fill as many seats as they like if they priced them at £3 a throw (and there is an industry that does just that). It’s selling at a price that allows, if not a profit, at least a tolerable break-even or minor loss that’s important.

Discounted tickets fill seats that would remain empty mostly because there simply is no public desire to see a show. Nobody forces the public to go – unlike essential travel – and the quicker the minds in the “dynamic price” camp realise that, the better.

All regular theatre goers want is decent seats at fair prices, and those prices to be fixed whether we book early or late. Treat us better, and remember that “premium” seats don’t necessarily sell at those prices and may be sold cheap or left embarrassingly empty when they could have gone at a reasonable price – you’ll fill your seats. Well, that’s my opinion, anyway.

  1. March 30, 2014 6:24 pm

    its always about the money, isn’t it?
    for example, vienna is getting mary poppins later this year! there is a green category in the theatre which has different prices during the week! easy to pick a day to see the show after checking out, what i’ve posted here. Don’t understand the difference between tu, we,thu, dynamic pricing made in austria!

    Tu: 19 Euro
    We: 29 Euro
    Thu: 39 Euro
    Fri: 49 Euro
    Sa: 59 Euro
    Sun: 49 Euro

    • Steve Rich permalink
      March 31, 2014 12:03 pm

      I guess it is the same as London. Tuesday is a quieter night than Wednesday. Thursday is busier than Wednesday, and Friday and Sunday are equal. 19E is reasonable, I think 🙂

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