Friday, February 19, 2010

Ticket Pricing: Part II

Ok, so I said it, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make art AND make money, but where does the social part in "social profit" come in because although we want (and should) make money we also want to make theatre accessible and affordable especially to those who quite literally can’t afford it.

As social profits we are here to serve our communities and do it in the most economical fashion. Yes, it is a hard balance to maintain. But that is why we have discounted previews, 2-for-1 nights and prices for students and seniors. We discount are regular ticket prices just like those Lululemon pants will eventually go on sale but there still needs to be a standard base rate that sets a value on the product.

Currently 20-something charges $22 adults, $16 students and seniors and from there we have two $10 previews and three 2-for-1 nights. And, this past summer, we had 6 sold-out performances and had an average audience attendance of 88% so I can only put two-and-two together.

Some people may ask: how much of that 88% percent were comps? And, I can tell you that Opening Night was probably 50% comps and then every other performances maybe on average 5 comps (and that included the free comps we gave to everyone who came to see our second preview that ended up being cancelled). So, that means the majority of our audience was paying, and that meant we turned a profit, AND that meant I was able to pay everyone who worked on the show. That is a great feeling. Especially for us, a young company, who is only now entering into their 5th year.

That being said however, I am trying something new with our upcoming production. I’m not scaling back our prices for our winter show – which is smaller and therefore we charge less – but I am changing our ticket pricing system. On a post in the fall I raved about another blogger's post on young audiences and the three points he made about getting young audiences. We have been successful at getting those young audiences; however, I’m not about to just say “ah well, we’ve been successful” and leave it at that.

No, I’m always going to be looking at new ways and new ideas of how I can bring more people, and specifically young people, to the theatre. So, point #3 on that list is “offer it at a price point they find reasonable”. Well the fact that we sold-out tells me we seem to be doing that but I said to myself how can I make it even more accessible and affordable for young people? Because god knows we are only starting to establish ourselves and money can be a struggle. Trust me I’m in that boat with the rest of you.

With that in mind I’ve decided not to change our ticket prices, per se, but to change our ticket pricing structure. Our target demographic is 18-35 and sometimes the “student” rate doesn’t cover that demographic because all 18-35 year olds are (obviously) not all students. So instead of a “students/seniors” rate we are going to be offering an “under 35 & over 65” rate.

I’m not sure how it will work out because it might be hard to monitor. It’s much easier to ask someone for student id then it is to say “excuse me but you look older than 35 can I please see some id?”. But I thought I would give it a shot and see what happens. On the plus side it will also make it much easier to keep track of how well we are doing at bringing in our target demographic.

What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Any other problems or glitches you foresee? Any thoughts on how to smooth out any possible glitches?

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ticket Pricing: Part I

Ok, I started writing this post this morning, and before I knew it it was 3 pages long in Word. Apparently I have a lot to say on this topic. So, today, I will post the first half and tomorrow I will post the rest. Here goes....

Brace yourselves I’m going to talk $$$ again.

This time I’m talking ticket prices. There are many factors that go into ticket pricing. You don’t want to charge too much but you also don’t want to charge too little. Yes, I said too little.

The bottom line is when things are cheap we expect cheap quality and when things are expensive we expect good quality. So if you price your production too cheap you are basically saying to your audience “don’t expect much because it’s cheap”; however, the price still needs to match the type of production you are putting on (ie. small independent versus large regional).

There are a lot of people out there that talk about how ticket prices for theatre are too expensive. I’m sorry but that is a load of crap. You go out to a restaurant today and you easily spend $20+ on a meal. You go to a movie: it’s $12.50 plus the inevitable popcorn, drink and candy you buy so you can easily add another $8 making that again at least $20. You go to a concert again easily $20. Some concerts are upwards of $100. The largest showcase of arts & culture that was the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics tickets started at $175 and the place was packed. I’m working on The Blue Dragon at SFU and tickets are anywhere from $55-$75 and the show has been sold out from Day 1.

Ok, okay, granted he’s Robert Lepage and a Canadian icon. If his shows didn’t sell out I would be surprised; however, it still drives home the point that it isn’t so much about how much as it is about quality. It’s not that people are not willing to pay good money to see theatre. They just aren’t willing to pay money to see bad theatre or okay theatre.

Obviously no one starts out working on a production going “ok, we’re going to make a really crap production”. We all strive (I would hope) to create the best possible production we can given the circumstances (and funds) we are working with. So, then it comes down to placing a value on our work and if we don’t start valuing the work we do as artists then how do we expect anyone else to value the work we do.

And, that means charging an appropriate price for what we are selling. We don’t give it away for free and we certainly don’t charge $5 (or even $10 for that matter). That just seems ludicrous to me. Like I’ve said time and time again. Theatre is a business just like anything else. We are in the business of Art. You don’t see Lululemon out there selling its yoga pants for $5. No these “magic” yoga pants sell for upwards of $75 - $100. And thousands and thousands of people have bought into the "magic" and strut around the city (and world) with great looking asses. I have a closet full of Lululemon (for a long time I resisted but then I just couldn’t help myself). One of the reasons (the other is marketing but that is another day, another blog) Lululemon has been so extremely successful is because they placed a value on the clothes AND they wanted to make money.

We are so dead set, in the world of making art, in the thinking that art doesn’t make money that it has become an unconscious belief. And our thoughts are a powerful tool as any new-age yoga practicing spiritualist will tell you. So we have to change the way we think. Making money is NOT a bad thing. It’s a good thing which is why I really like the new term “social-profit” rather than “charity” or “not-for-profit”.

So, I will say it loud and proud, so that you know that I fully believe (no unconscious negativity here) there is nothing wrong with making art and making money at the same time.

....To be continued.

~Sabrina Evertt,
Artistic Producer

Monday, February 15, 2010

Alexander McQueen 1969-2010

A couple days ago I woke up to discover on Twitter (yep, it’s official, the way we get news has changed) that Alexander McQueen had committed suicide. Alexander McQueen was a creative genius and an extraordinary fashion & costume designer. I’ve admired his work for as long as I can remember.

Oddly enough, due to my current contract working on The Blue Dragon, I am now a mere two steps away from Mr. McQueen in the game of Six Degrees of Separation. Robert Lepage, Canadian icon, who is the currently performing in his creation The Blue Dragon at SFU Woodwards collaborated with Alexander McQueen, who designed the costumes, on his creation Eonnagata.

I love fashion. I have always been a bit of a clothes horse. When I was sixteen I went to London for the first time and I came home with a shiny white pvc mini-dress and a see-through plastic jacket. No joke. AND, I wore it to school. Again, No Joke. Thinking back on it I’m surprised my parents let me walk out of the house like that. My friends like to joke that I wore suits to school. That may be going a little too far. I didn’t wear suits although I definitely wore “outfits”. I’ll fully admit to that. Think Cher in Clueless. I actually had one of the pens with purple fluff coming out of the top.

I think you are starting to get the picture so even though I became a costume designer, sort-of by accident, it is no surprise, that’s for sure.

When I got to University and started to study costume design it was inevitable that I would also study fashion because costume and fashion are interlinked. When you study costume design you study the trends and clothes of the time. Fashion designers are a big part of this. One of the first major designers – whose name everyone still knows today – is Chanel. But did you know that the first designer – where fashion design is thought to have begun – is actually a man named Charles Worth? Much like today, Mr. Worth worth dressed the stars and celebutantes of the day only then it was France in the 19th century and his loyal young starlet was Empress Eugenie of the French Court. Mr. Worth is considered to be the first couturier and while we study all articles of clothing from any time period in costume design only clothing created after 1858 can also be considered fashion design.

So, I’ve not only been a fashion lover but I have studied practically every designer there has been since Charles Worth opened his first couturier in 1858. I buy Vogue religiously and when I am designing for a show I inevitably look to the fashions of the time. So it makes me very sad that we will no longer see the work of Alexander McQueen strut down the runway or on the London stage; however, there is one thing we can be sure of and that is that his legacy will live on. The same way we study Chanel for the way she revolutionized fashion by introducing the women’s sportswear look with the use of Jersey fabric so too will Alexander McQueen be studied for his 1995 Highland Rape Collection inspired by his Scottish ancestry.

He made it fashionable (not just grunge cool) to wear Tartan again. Just two days ago, and one day after his death, there was a fiddling number during the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics where all the artists and dancers looked like they had stepped off the 1995 Alexander McQueen Highland runway show. Already his impact on the world is evident. And, years from now when a playwright pens a play set in 1995 in Britain the costume designer will do his or her research and be inspired by his work.

May he rest in peace: Alexander McQueen 1969 -2010.

~Sabrina Evertt
Admiring Fan and Fashion Lover