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Would KISSING bring the public back to theatre?

October 11, 2017

For those who don’t know, the West End went through one of its toughest Summer and Autumn seasons ever this year. Even “hit” shows had empty seats – yet the city was full of tourists and everybody was ignoring those idiots, you know the ones I mean.

Thing is, I think it goes deeper – a thought confirmed to me in a chat about the state of ticketing in general, in which the feeling was expressed and agreed that it’s now “simply too dang difficult to buy a ticket.” Yet, the industry has spent a fortune on new booking websites, and as never before you can choose a seat and have the ticket in your hand before you even close the browser window.

So, what’s gone wrong? My suggestion is that some things are now too illogical for the casual “once a year on the wife’s birthday” visitor to follow. A bad experience, and they are off forever to find some other means of celebrating, as it were.

To that end, I’m thinking that the entire industry should consider that old management phrase “KISS” – Keep It Simple, Stupid!

A few ideas to do just that may include:

1) Becoming pro-active about website names. Still, the name of a theatre with a dotcom on the end all to often goes to a ticket agency – either legitimate or not – that adds a massive service fee on a narrow range of tickets. How can a regular customer be expected to know that in the West End, most theatre chains rather than individual theatre names are used to access the box office? If you want to see “42nd Street” is the place to be – do customers always know that?

Appealing to get the name back is costly, but perhaps worth it? Failing that, what about venues clubbing together to buy the “toplevel” ending “dot officialtickets.” That way, they have control over who can create names like, say “Harrypotter.officialtickets” and have total control of the sites they point to, as only the official venue owner or producer can buy the name – and it can be withdrawn at any time if abused. On the same subject, there are websites who are not members abusing the STAR logo, time for a crackdown?

2) Fix those prices. As in, let’s stop them zooming up and down like a faulty Canary Wharf elevator. At the very least, end the horrible patchwork quilts where three adjacent seats are 3 totally different prices for exactly the same view. Give customers confidence that booking early will always save them money. Amazon does, and it is the reason I buy from those, yes, well, moving on.

3) Think again about how far in advance customers book. The trend now is for even big shows like “The Book of Mormon” to dribble tickets only two or three months ahead out. That’s fine, makes a lot of sense in some ways as sales increase nearer the date and you can put the prices up… but for those “sure fire” holiday periods when folk plan further ahead, it can be a real problem – at least to those who contact Theatremonkey.

4) Have a long think about the spectacular “new period on sale” rush. If your machinery can’t cope, the next day’s news is not happy reading. Pre-register (not ballot, let all those who want to have a chance) but do it in a way that limits numbers. For example, I want to book in April, so I register for the April period – and have an allocated date, time period and access code that will let me and only as many others as the system can handle, book for that month.

5) Kill the touts. I’m thinking heads on pikes along Shaftesbury Avenue. No, I’m meaning let’s ban those re-sale sites in favour of something that gives the venue full control of tickets and pricing. A whole other blog I’ve written before, but anyway.

And finally, as we have followed Broadway with the horrors of extreme “dynamic pricing” how about letting London have the same protection Broadway gives customers over stars not appearing. If the name is above the title but the name is under the weather, let’s follow America and allow an exchange.

All fairly big stuff, but sometimes a KISS is a pretty good start, I think.

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