by 99 Seats
Chad Bauman, Marketing Director at the Arena Stage, has written a post detailing the history and importance, once again, of dynamic pricing in non-profit arts organizations. It's...well, go read it and then we'll discuss.
Did you read it? Good. Okay.
As you can tell from the above posts, both Isaac and I have pretty strong feelings on dynamic pricing, feelings backed up by the likes of Diane Ragsdale and Adam Thurman. Others have different feelings, as clearly Bauman does. I have the utmost respect for the Arena Stage (full disclosure: they have paid me twice to blog for them) and the work they're doing. Absolutely love them. But this...let's say this: I find Bauman and his post extremely unpersuasive.
So, first, some questions for Chad, if he wants to answer them:
- You casually say that the critics of dynamic pricing have been proven wrong by the experience of theatres in D.C., but offer no evidence to back it up. What evidence do you have?
What kind of audience tracking have you done during the Arena's use of dynamic price?
Are the low price tickets going to low income audience members?
Are the people who wind up buying the high priced tickets coming back to buy low price tickets for the next show?
Has your audience racial/class make-up changed since instituting the dynamic pricing?
Is your earned ticket revenue actually up over last year?
If so, what are the theatre's plans for that increased revenue?
Are the low price tickets going to new buyers or to repeat customers?
These are the concerns of the anti-dynamic pricing crowd. If you can't answer them, then you really can't say "the negative ramifications as foreseen by some experts" haven't been seen. You also, without saying if the earned revenue is up, can't say that the idea works.
Secondly, and more important, your piece is an argument for non-profits to behave in the same manner as for-profit entities that don't have the same responsibilities or nature. If we're looking to The Producers as our business model, what exactly is the difference between the non-profit and the for-profit world? That our top price is a little bit lower? Is that what we want to be true?
Your list of the options available to non-profits to weather the Great Recession seems to assume one thing: the work doesn't really matter. It's just about ways of maximizing profits for the same work you were doing before the downturn. Which is the great fallacy and mistake of the institutional mindset. The non-profit theatres decline in tickets sales and earned revenue and audience support was well on its way BEFORE the Recession hit. The same factors that led to that decline exacerbated the effect of the downturn: out-of-touch management, cookie cutter productions aping and importing work from outside of the community, over-reliance on one small segment of the population. A theatre could save itself by, you know, doing other things. Instead, it seems like the institutional response is "make more money from what we're already doing." And a total willingness to sacrifice access to bring in more money.
You say a non-profit is judged by "by their capacity to produce art, and to make that art as accessible as possible without sacrificing excellence or their ability to compensate artists at reasonable levels." How are you living up to that standard?