The Ticket Price Formerly Known As Excessive

An article at CNN.com yesterday reports that Prince recently announced fans will be able to purchase tickets to his upcoming series of concerts in London for much less than the last time he came to town…

According to the article Prince was quoted as saying,

"Last time I was here, a lot of people didn’t get to see me, so we’re trying to make it affordable for everybody,"

Furthermore, Prince said he will change each of the 21 planned shows so fans will have more incentive to attend multiple shows and if that weren’t enough Prince is also going to give away copies of his new album to everyone who attends the shows.

Although there are plenty of dissimilar issues between the orchestra business and the type of shows Prince produces, there is something to be said for the elements Prince decided to focus on when planning these shows:

  • Ticket Price: it was too high so he decided to lower prices
  • Diverse Concert Format: the message here is that he doesn’t play the same old stuff over and over again so there’s a reason to come back.
  • Complimentary Recorded Product: well, that should be self explanatory.
  • I find it intriguing that Prince decided to examine the same core elements for his shows which are central to this business and the similarities are simply too strong to ignore.
    Consequently, of particular interest is the reason Prince said he was doing so many engagements in such a short period of time and why fans should come back,

    "We play so many different styles of music, it’s really hard to get a full dose of what we do unless you come to several shows."

    Sounds like an orchestra to me, perhaps someone out there should pick up on that line and use it in next year’s marketing material. In fact, I think it could be modified to function as Adaptistration’s new tag:

    Adaptistration examines so many different topics in this business, it’s really hard to get a full dose of what is done unless you come back every day.

    I like that…

    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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    2 thoughts on “The Ticket Price Formerly Known As Excessive

    1. Interesting, Drew, thanks for picking up on this.

      A few quick observations: first, I noticed that, while reduced from his last tour, Prince’s tickets will still be the pounds sterling equivalent of $62. That would be a top-tier ticket price for MOST American orchestras, and I would assume that goes for every seat in the house at a Prince show. Orchestras, on the other hand, usually offer a wide range of prices; 4, 5, or 6 different options, from “top dollar” to bargain.

      With regard to changing the programs, so it’s not the same old thing over and over: one can make the case that that’s what orchestras do already. Orchestras stay in one venue (mostly) and invest a lot of time and financial resources in preparing different programs for their community. A top pop act, on the other hand, typically works up one show that can then be repeated verbatim all around the country. We all know there’s a lot less investment in rehearsal time when an orchestra learns one program and plays it 12 times on tour, as opposed to learning 12 different programs to play in its home venue.

      Finally, I’m glad to see you come out with a favorable comment about complimentary recorded product. Most orchestras would do this kind of thing in a heartbeat, but, although it has relaxed somewhat recently for limited pressings, the union still lives in a world of upfront payments, which oftentimes keep these kind of projects from happening.

      While there may have been very good reasons for that approach in the past, the times are changing, and musicians and managements alike need to find ways to work together to use what should be the most powerful marketing tool at their disposal – their own performances.

    2. Thanks for bringing up that first point Paul, I think an important point to note that I left out of the original CNN article is that Barbra Streisand ticket for an upcoming London concert were more than five time what Prince was charging. As such, I don’t think comparing Prince’s ticket price with orchestra ticket prices is entirely applicable; instead, looking it compared to other ticket prices in the same market has more merit.

      I also agree that the general variety of orchestra programs from week to week is more like what Prince has changed his concert format to. However, orchestras don’t really promote that fact quite enough. I would also go one step further to suggest that orchestras should consider playing around with different formats for similar concerts on different evenings.

      Finally, I’m not entirely convinced that the players are the behind preventing orchestras from distributing comp recordings. I would be surprised to learn that the musicians, producers, engineers, etc. on Prince’s album weren’t paid for their work in making the recording. Instead, I’m willing to bet that Prince simply took a hit himself on potential sales profits. Unfortunately, orchestras aren’t set up the same way where a single individual can absorb a financial loss although I would suggest that with the rate music directors are paid, it wouldn’t be a bad step for them to fund a once-off give away like this (after all, they are usually the individual’s who profit most via career advancement from how well an orchestra’s CD sells/reviews – think about it, how many times have you seen a conductor’s face on the cover a CD?).

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