We're in Miami for the Opera America conference!
Today, an entire day spent in the company of colleagues from Marketing Departments, in a seminar called "Creating Demand." Lots of geek-talk about analyzing ticket inventory and price points.
Thoughts From Day 1
Demand is not a static variable
To someone on the outside of the the marketing/box office equation, the idea of a bunch of us sitting around all day talking about raising ticket prices is a little tough to swallow. After all, aren't opera tickets already too expensive? You'll be relieved to hear that we weren't looking for ways to get rid of student tickets, standing room, or affordable dress circle prices. Rather, it was a frank acknowledgement of the notion that when we have a "hot ticket" (a gala, a "Top Ten" piece with a big star), we shouldn't be hesitant to consider those ticket prices and resultant income as a tool to balance the budgets of our other repertory.
What to promote?
Somewhat counter-intuitive. We tend to spend marketing dollars on those pieces that "need it" - if the rep includes Monteverdi and Verdi, well, it's probably clear which piece needs more butts in seats. The controversial fact is that the audience for the Monteverdi is pretty predictable. Some might even say it is finite. And it will come from among those folks who are already well acquainted with the company. Does the Traviata need promotion? Possibly not per se, but the value of marketing the hell out of the "hot ticket" has far-reaching implications in driving new ticket-buyers to the company. Once they've crossed that line, then we have the opportunity to cultivate them.
Those new people - do they stay? Where do they go? “Thousands of new patrons are being attracted every year. The majority of them don't come back. It wasn't our mission to answer the larger philosophical and artistic questions begged by this fact. Rather, the discussion was all about ways to "hold the hands" of new patrons and structure their experiences with the company (both in the theatre and afterward) so that they will consider becoming part of the family.
Word of the Day
I love listening to consultants; it always enlarges my vocabulary. Today's word - "operationalize." (Insert your own definition.)
I'm not particularly good at this. Have to work against my natural instinct to sit in the back of the room and speed through the halls with my head down and my nametag covered. Thank heaven I never really had to depend on "networking" to get a job...
It is good to chat with colleagues that I haven't seen in a while. And it's particularly refreshing to sit back and take in the thoughtful and insightful comments of experts in the field. But I always come away feeling pretty schizoid - in equal parts invigorated and discouraged. We'll see where I end up by Saturday night.