Reader Response: A Student’s view on ticket price

It’s funny how quickly we forget what our lives were like in our younger years. Recently I’ve been criticizing the industry for high ticket prices that exclude many young patrons. Several orchestra administrators have written in to remind me that their orchestras (as do most) offer student rush tickets for around the cost of a movie ticket. Although I did point out in the earlier article that these tickets have restricts and are few in numbers, I forgot how absolutely frustrating and demeaning an experience obtaining those tickets can be…

Art from LA wrote in with his very poignant first hand experiences in
how obtaining rush tickets at the LA Philharmonic can both frustrate
and spurn tomorrow’s steady patrons and donors. And his experiences are
not limited to LA, after reading his note I remembered all to well the
similar experiences at the Baltimore Symphony when I was a seriously
broke college student just trying to go see my teachers perform.

rush and discounted tickets exist; however, getting them often entails
two to three hours extra time waiting in line or waiting around just to
get them. The procedures for how to actually get student tickets are
often murky, and it is often difficult to obtain accurate information
about how the programs work. Additionally, seating is also often a
crapshoot; student rush while the Los Angeles Philharmonic was at the
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion often put us in the acoustical dead spots of
the auditorium – not the ideal location for people attending a symphony
for the first time. The rush programs are also not very well
advertised, so many people simply don’t know they exist – even if
they’d be willing to put forth the extra effort to get the tickets.

those ineligible for student tickets, the lowest ticket price often
puts them in the far upper balconies. And even if the acoustics are
sometimes better up there, my friend who might not know as much about
the symphony simply feels removed and detached from the entire
experience, walking away thinking "what was so great about that"?

So yes, there are lower priced tickets, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be getting the experience that the orchestra would like you to get. Repeat business might not be so insured if the first experience wasn’t all it was cracked up to be."

should be a paid audience development consultant for LA Philharmonic’s
marketing department.  It’s also a wonderful example of >dynamic
, giving you a much broader
long term examination over the approach so many orchestras follow. You
don’t make a sound case for building a strong future audience by
offering rush and discounted tickets if you end up making those younger
buyers feel separated from the rest of the patrons once they get to the
hall. It’s also a useful example of how a good idea can suffer from
poor implementation. But that’s a topic for a future blog!


A good alternative to the problems of traditional rush and discounted tickets are the initiatives at the Toronto Symphony and Nashville Symphony. Further discussion about their programs are also on the coming soon, so stay tuned.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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