A common misperception loose in some wings of the theatre world is that COST is what keeps people away. According to this line of thinking, the reason audience members are not coming to the theatre in sufficient numbers is because it is too expensive for them.
This belief is wrong. And theatre people who act on it pursue misguided strategies like TCG’s “Free Night of Theatre”. They also discount tickets and season subscriptions if not all the way to 0 then at least to a level far below what is necessary to support the costs of mounting a show. Which is not sustainable. And still they won’t come…
Because the cost hypothesis is wrong. It’s not about cost. It’s about quality.
As a general rule, if it’s good (or desirable), people will pay ANY price. Whereas if it’s bad (or undesirable), people won’t go even if it’s free.
Why would 8-10 thousand people pay $500-$1000 each to see Wagner’s RING cycle at Seattle Opera if it were about cost? Sure, some of that audience is quite wealthy. But by no means all of them.
Why don’t the Timbers have “Free Night of Soccer”?
Why is the line for Salt & Straw so out of control you can’t even get down NW 23rd in the summer any more?
Because it’s not about cost. It’s about quality.
When you have a quality product people want, they come. When you don’t, they don’t. That simple.
When you hear someone talking about the cost hypothesis (“If we make it cheaper, they will come”), ask them what they are doing to make their shows more desirable.
Sometimes theatre companies drop prices because they’re not sure what else they can do. But low prices signal to the audience that the product isn’t worth much.
The problem is a lack of demand. You have to increase demand. And if you have already dropped the price to 0, the only other way to increase demand is to make the product more desirable.
If your theatre tickets are priced at $15, $11, $5 (which, compared to almost anything else people spend their money on in daily life is already LUDICROUSLY cheap), and people are not coming – they are NEVER going to come. Unless you change something.
Prices are not too high. They are too low. And quality is too low.
Create an unforgettable experience – and people will pay ANY price for it.
And then they will come.