The Center Row Symphony Orchestra

Just in case you didn’t think airline travel could get worse for anyone in this field, new dynamic pricing schemes designed to squeeze added revenue out of a shrinking pool of customers is starting to crop up at some US based carriers. It’s become common to see the front half of coach class seats go for a premium rate but the new trend is to tack the same premium fees onto all aisle and window seats.

According to a report in the 6/7/2012 edition of CNN.com Delta, American Airlines, US Airways, Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant are adding as much as $29.00 for aisle and window seats for each direction.

If you’re a cellist, you already have to purchase a bulkhead and/or window seat ticket because of existing airline restrictions, so get ready to pay even more for that inconvenience. And if you’re an 80 piece orchestra, you can expect to pay no less than an additional $1,500 per leg for domestic tour airfare if they opt for an airline that utilizes premium dynamic seating structure; more if you can’t manage to find enough middle seats available on any respective leg (as if musician seating assignments wasn’t fun enough already).

And speaking of airfare; is anyone even attending the League conference in Dallas right now? I checked out the official conference twitter [sws_css_tooltip position=”center” colorscheme=”rosewood” width=”200″ url=”javascript:void(0);” trigger=”hashtag” fontSize=”14″]#orch2012 [/sws_css_tooltip]  to see what was up and was sincerely shocked at how little conversation is going on given that it’s one of the larger nonprofit performing arts org service organizations. Oh well, perhaps that simply means there wasn’t much to miss.

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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0 thoughts on “The Center Row Symphony Orchestra”

  1. Another way to look at it of course is to realize that you are actually receiving a $29 discount if you are willing to be sandwiched into a middle seat. Airline pricing is very competitive, and this is one way of showing a slightly lower fare in websearches.

    There is a lot to complain about with airlines, but this does not rise to the top of that list, at least for me.

  2. 1. Ridiculous dynamic pricing. Let’s just hope the supermarkets don’t catch on. Great way to trash customer relations in my book so, except for business travel this summer, I will be driving my car which always costs the same.

    2. There probably was not much to miss.

  3. I suppose if they reconfigured prices a bit to make the center row an actual lower fare over previous low fares, that would make more sense but that doesn’t appear to be the case. But this will still end up as a time and revenue suck for arts groups doing touring, especially if they don’t have the resources to use a third party tour management group to take care of all of this.

    If anything it has the potential for becoming an interesting case study for comparing airlines that adopt this policy against those who don’t vis-a-vis customer loyalty (which I believe is a League conference session topic), customer satisfaction, etc.

  4. Airlines are barely making any money. The business is hyper-competitive. They keep doing all this incremental a la carte pricing because if they were to just increase fares across the board, Southwest would clean their clocks.

    And because they’re so competitive, they have to follow each other closely (as you can see from multiple adoptions of this practice all at once).

    Either they have to charge more for every seat, or they have to charge for bags, or aisle seats, or window seats. Yes, it is no fun that airfare costs more when you tack on these extras, but we’ve enjoyed lower-than-sustainable fares for some time now. It can’t hold.

  5. Exactly right. What the airlines advertise are the cheapest possible fares (in this case for discounted unpopular seats) with upgrades possible at additional cost. As a largish personage that hates those middle seats, I will happily pay $29 more for the assurance that I will not be cramped for two to four hours.

  6. In defense of the League (as though they need defending – hardly) – it was actually a very interesting conference, I thought much better than last year. And, many people who tweet were there, though almost none of them were actually tweeting, which did seem a little weird.

    They seem to have de-emphasized the social media sharing from the conference. The hashtag was included on materials, but not promoted much. Not sure if it was an intentional diversion from that focus, or just a product of focusing on something else. Would be interesting to know.

    I did attend some really great sessions, and tried to share some of that via Twitter. 🙂 But, alas, when there aren’t many people participating, it isn’t as much fun to tweet and re-tweet.

  7. Thanks for the firsthand account Lacey and it’s too bad there wasn’t a larger push for tweeting sessions; in fact, it would have been nice to see each session get a hashtag so anyone interested would have an easier time following.

    But you’re spot on about being one of a handful of tweeters during a conference; it doesn’t take much to feel like like the Twitter equivalent of the sound of one hand clapping.

    Which aspects of the conference seemed better compared to Minneapolis?

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