Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goldstar is not a discount outlet for tickets (GINADOT)

I write about Goldstar a lot. Part of it is that I like them and think they provide a useful service, but part of it is that I think many theaters misuse the service to their disadvantage.

To the customer, Goldstar is a place where they can get a ticket for half price. But to the theater company, it should be a place where they can get their theater and production info in front of people who might not otherwise have seen it.

If your goal is to offer half-price tickets in order to be nice to a particular group (students, TBA members, whatever), just offer them directly yourself. Surely your ticketing system allows you to set up special-priced tickets with "Promo codes" that you publish to those groups. (The open-source ticket system I created for Altarena Playhouse, Audience1st, does this.) If you’re putting stuff on Goldstar, part of your goal is to get new audiences. (Yes, part of it is to get user-written reviews and publicity, but there are sites that offer user-written reviews without having to sell discount tickets, like  Yelp and SFTheaterBuzz.)

There’s an easy way to check if Goldstar is working for you or against you. When their will-call lists are delivered, check to see how many patrons are already in your patron database vs. how many are new.

If most Goldstar customers are new to your list, Goldstar is working as designed. If most of them are already on your list, you’re selling half price tickets to people who should be targeted as subscribers—Goldstar has already served their purpose with them, and it’s time to bring them into the fold. 

Even worse, one of the benefits of subscriptions (though hardly the only benefit) for the patron is a discount price, but patrons who showed their faith by subscribing will be understandably upset if you then flood the marketplace with discount tickets that makes the cost of single-show attendance the same or less than the cost of subscribing.

And yet, you’d be amazed how often after a show the director or actors will come out and do an ask, and they’ll say “If you liked the show, tell your friends to get tickets on Goldstar.”  That makes no sense to me; they should be telling their friends to get tickets, period, and if the show sells well, Goldstar ought to have very few tickets for sale. Otherwise, all you’re doing is training your potential customers to wait until you get desperate to put butts in seats, and start dumping half-price or comp tickets onto outlets like this. Once that happens, you’re fucked. You basically have established the half-price point as your retail price point, and it’s all downhill from there. Victory is achieved when you’re selling enough seats that you no longer need to offer any significant ticket volume through these discounters.

Goldstar’s idea of enticing new users with a “behavior-changing” discount of 50% is a good one, but there’s no reason to gratuitously leave money on the table.  Keep an eye on your Goldstar will-calls and make sure they’re working for you, not against your long-term growth.