The arts may have to rethink their ticketing strategy

The Book of Mormon is coming to Houston and I am so excited! I’ve heard rave reviews from my friends about it and I really want to go. Now the fun part…I have to find someone to go with me or go by myself and I have to plan that far ahead (it’s April, the show is in September).

This example highlights two main areas that present challenges to the arts: Singleness and timing.

Normally people buy tickets to shows and performances as couples or in groups. This presents multiple challenges to young professionals:

  • Young professionals are waiting much longer to get married, so there isn’t a spouse who is obliged to go along for sake of the relationship.
  • Young professionals might be dating someone, but, unless it’s a very serious relationship, purchasing tickets 6-9 months out with that person is more than likely a gamble they are not willing to take. What if the relationship doesn’t last? Who gets the tickets?
  • Because of the two bullets above, young professionals usually try to find a friend that will go with them. This can present a unique challenge on its own. First, someone else has to be interested enough to want to go. Second, they have to want to go badly enough to pay whatever the cost is to go. I sent a message to all of my friends to go with me to The Book of Mormon. So far, no yes responses.
  • The final solution is to go alone. I personally don’t mind going alone to things, but some do. And, I’ll admit, usually it’s more fun with someone else.
First woman: Wicked is on its final tour and will be in Houston. Ive wanted to see this forever, and Im thinking this is our chance. It will sell out quick though, so I want to buy tickets on Saturday night 4/6. The cheapest tickets are $67.25 with all fees and taxes, or we can get a little better seats for $88.95. They are in town from July 10th through August 11th. How about Saturday night July 20th? Comment left by another woman: I would go again. July 20th works and Im willing to pay for the better seat.
A Facebook conversation between friends showing a very common strategy that young professionals use in hopes of finding someone else to go with them to a performance or arts event.

Timing can also present a unique challenge:

  • In such an instant-gratification society, purchasing $200 tickets 6-9 months before a performance may prove difficult because patrons don’t see an instant reward.¬†
  • Young professionals are very mobile. Will they be in that same city in 9 months? Will they get a transfer at work? Will they have a different opportunity in another city? I had a rather unique issue similar to this a little over a year ago when I moved to Houston. Madonna was coming to Houston in October, but I had to purchase the ticket in March. I didn’t know anyone in Houston yet, so I bought a $250 ticket and went by myself in October. By October, of course, I found friends who might have gone, but I didn’t know them back when I had to purchase the ticket.
  • They don’t plan ahead that far. What are they doing 6 months from now on a Saturday night? They have no idea. So they can just block it out, right? ¬†Maybe, but they might also get a better offer. For example, I bought tickets to see The Lion King, but ended up getting an offer from a friend (and an inexpensive $470 flight) to Austria for an extended weekend. I handed my tickets to a friend and set-off for Austria instead.

The solution?

The arts know that young professionals are important to them. Young professionals have discretionary income and are future donors, but it’s a challenge to engage them in a way that works. Some organizations have set-up young professional organizations such as the Houston Symphony’s Young Professionals Backstage that have the potential to remove the “singleness” argument. I applaud these efforts, but the timing issue is still there.

How would you recommend the arts evolve to meet the needs of today’s young professionals?