I was excited to have contributed to the discussion session ‘Venues and Producers: New ways of working’ at last month’s Theatre & Touring Symposiumand to have provoked some new ideas around possible incentives that both producers and venues need to offer each other in order to achieve mutual success.
TRG Arts is an international, data-driven consulting firm that teaches non-profit and commercial arts organisations a patron and loyalty-based approach to increasing sustainable revenue. By developing patron loyalty across our venues (getting our audiences to come back more often and to invest more while doing it), both producers and venues can build their sustainability and generate more reliable revenue over the longer term. There’s enlightened self-interest on both sides of this discussion: producersneed thriving venues with loyal audiences for their product, and venues need great product to keep their audiences coming back.
Producers and venues should be looking at the long-term together.
During the Symposium discussion, I suggested that producers and venues should be thinking more about the bigger picture together, rather than only thrashing through details from opposing sides. Producers benefit when a venue has a loyal, early booking audience, yet many place pressure on venues to reward disloyalty with last-minute offers to fill the house and/or are reluctant to give advance discounts to incentivise a venue’s most loyal bookers and members. Creating earlier purchase behaviour helps drive demand and full houses, benefiting all.
Pricing strategy is another sticking area, but here, too, the discussion feels stuck in a time warp from ten years ago. Strong pricing strategy should 1) increase access and ensure houses always look full, even when demand is low, and 2) and maximise income when demand is there. Both parties should stop obsessing about the top price and gross potential (while important, let’s face it: we rarely hit it) and focus on ensuring there’s a smart spread with affordable prices at the bottom, intelligent location and volume in the “messy middle” of the price table, and smart dynamic pricing practices put in place that benefit both parties.
I get it. These negotiations can be complicated and there’s a lot at stake. But our observation from more than 20 years of working in the touring theatre market in North America and for a few years here in the UK, include that…
Producers can help venues be more sustainable and entrepreneurial by:
- Supporting more aggressive and smart pricing changes (including providing real incentives for venues to use dynamic pricing) and inventory management (holding off selling seats until a show is in demand).
- Supporting venue discounts for subscribers and/or members that help build early demand for shows and sustainability for venues.
- Cooperatively investing more in marketing. The truth is, most shows don’t sell out, but could they get closer, generating more audiences for future product? Our consulting observation is that top-line revenue and audience growth is being left on the table due to lack of investment. Is that OK?
Venues can create more positive relationships with producers by:
- Remembering enlightened self-interest about cooperation. Your venues and markets need be in demand by producers; it helps ensure you get the product you want for your audiences and communities.
- Investing in best practices and capacity building on your teams. Savvy marketing and box office staff are a pleasure to work with, not just for your communities, but also for producers, who take on a ton of risk.
- Remember: relationship, relationship, relationship. Visit your producers and partners and get to know them. Investing here will warm relationships which will help ensure that producers are more open to new strategies you might cook up.
Do you have any thoughts to share? Or want to find out more about TRG’s work in the UK developing patron loyalty and revenue with venues and producers? Tweet @jrobinsontrg @TRGArtsUKor contact me at LetsTalk@trgarts.com.
CEO, TRG Arts
TRG Arts is an international, data-driven consulting firm that teaches executive leaders, arts marketers and fundraisers a patron and loyalty-based approach to increasing sustainable revenue. Experts in the arts sector for more than 20 years, TRG Arts has gained a reputation for achieving results and working to build successful business models for non-profit and commercial arts organisations.