Regardless of your view on whether or not the average ticket price at professional US orchestras is an accurate representation of the overall experience’s value or is artificially inflated to help pad earned income shortfalls (or a little of Column A and a little of Column B), Joe Patti presented a fascinating point of view on all of this at Butts In The Seats in a post from 1/18/2012. Whether intended or not, Patti presents a potentially useful option to help groups take a permanent step back from current pricing levels without looking like they’ve been gouging ticket buyers all along.
Patti ponders the notion of Placebo Pricing; which, in a nutshell, is a permanent discount offered off of artificially inflated prices.
Although Patti examines the notion from a general pricing point of view, his ideas could easily provide the foundation for strategic solutions geared toward reducing attendance barriers related to average ticket prices.
Can it really be as easy as having a perpetual 50% off sale?
We are all aware on some level that when a store has a sale with deep discounts, the original price they are quoting was probably inflated. We may grouse and think it is a little dishonest, we are still out there buying from that store on a regular basis.
And this feeling of being in a dishonest situation can be ameliorated by providing sincerely good service (leavened, perhaps with a little bit of the personality that appeals to the specific customer). The other thing is, no one actually ever pays full price, even accidentally, and everyone knows it. That isn’t something you can know for certain when it comes to airplane tickets, a pricing model it is often suggested performing arts organizations adopt.
So the big question is, do you take advantage of customer psychology to provide audiences with a satisfying experience?
Oh, actually, you already do in a thousand different ways with your marketing, pricing and other practices. Question is, do you do something so blatant?
Given that in some cases the placebo effect works even in the face of full disclosure, it is tempting to try out such simple way to create an experience. Many ticketing systems, including my own, make it very easy to print one price on the ticket and set the actual price much lower.
This has terrific potential as a solution because it allows orchestra to focus on the core concepts of doubling down on their strongest asset: the concert experience.
In the end, the devil is certainly in the details; not the least of which being what to do about reduced earned income from lower ticket revenue. But this is still a fascinating notion and one that deserves attention from one or more of the major philanthropic funders out there who are interested and willing to help an orchestra with the combination of a hot concert experience and crack marketing team put something like this into place; then write a paper about the entire process and subsequent results.
Let this rattle around in your head a bit and weigh in via a comment with your thoughts.