Ticket Prices At Modern Art Notes

Long time Adaptistration readers know that issues related to ticket price are a fundamental topic. Along those lines, my ever-sharp AJ blogging neighbor Tyler Green is producing a must-read collection of articles with his recent salvo of spot-on observations of ticket price issues in the world of art museums…

First, there are a set of articles which unravel the mountain of spin coming from some Denver Museum of Art executive managers. If that’s not enough, he even takes some much needed jabs at the Denver mass media establishment by calling them (or perhaps more accurately, their editors) out on their lack of coverage on this topic.

Next, Tyler examines what I think is an out-and-out sinister pilot program by the Smithsonian to begin eliminating the access-for-all policy in favor of a tiered access system so as to accommodate a planned butterfly exhibit. Oddly enough, the Washington Post reports that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, stands behind the idea.

"This exhibit sounds like a wonderful addition to the Smithsonian collection, and I’m happy to hear that they have found a creative way to make it available for visitors to enjoy," she said.

I must have missed something, when exactly did charging admission to something become "creative"? Thanks to Tyler for helping to bring this to the forefront.

I don’t really mention my non-music Arts Journal colleagues as much I really should, but Tyler’s articles on this topic is simply too relevant to the orchestra business to inadvertently overlook. These articles are, by far, the best writing on the topic appearing here at Arts Journal in recent months.

Every orchestra executive and board chair out there needs to think long and hard before blaming falling revenue on ticket prices and hatching price-hike schemes that only hurt your least affluent patrons. Such actions are, at best, short-sided and, at worst, reckless.

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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1 thought on “Ticket Prices At Modern Art Notes”

  1. A funny thing happened in San Fransisco yesterday — there was no horrendous traffic jam.

    The city was expecting transportation chaos because of the fuel tanker that crashed into an overpass support and burned, collapsing the bridge. So somebody got smart and public transportation was free the next day. And people took BART and all, and there was no chaos.

    OK, so here’s a hypothetical situation. Let’s pretend that I’m a music lover and I need my daily fix of the stuff. I can get it during the week by listening to recordings and on Saturday night by going to the concert. But the price of the concert goes so high that I hesitate to spend the money for tickets. What should I do? The answer is obvious: stay home and listen to records.


    Depends on how you look at it. If the need is to hear music, it doesn’t matter what the source of that music is. Shoot, when I started my sentence as a musicolic, I’d get my fix from the noisy, distorted, four-and-one-half-minute-segment travesties ensuing from 78-rpm records. The difference between a fix via the hi-fi and via live concert is a matter of degrees.

    To tip the decision of live versus canned in favor of live, the live music has got to offer more than just the fix. And maybe we will someday figure out what that is. But I will say this: such an incentive will have to be verging on the miraculous if it is to offset today’s high ticket prices; the truth is, we ain’t gonna find it.

    Once we lower prices, the search for incentives becomes feasible.

    I grew up in St. Louis. The Art Museum was free. The zoo was free. Ten percent of the seats at the Muny Opera were free. Young couples could afford to take their kids to see the paintings and sculpture, to see the animals, to see “The Desert Song” and “Show Boat” and “Louis the XXIV” and “On Your Toes.” Some of those kids are now taking their kids to such places.

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