Cheaper By The Dozen, But I Only Have One Set of Eyes And Ears To Experience It

Seth Godin made a post about leveraging the power of word of mouth by incentivizing sharing with friends.

Krispy Kreme grew to become a doughnut behemoth in the US. The formula was simple: Scarce supply, high short-term taste satisfaction, and a dozen priced almost the same as just four.

As a result, most people bought a dozen. But few could eat a dozen, and you can’t really save them, so you realized that sharing a warm doughnut was the way to go.

Carmine’s restaurant in New York was the hot ticket for decades. One reason was that the only way to get a reservation was to come with five other people. So you needed to talk about it.

He goes on to talk about how a book he worked on about climate change, The Carbon Almanac, has priced pre-orders to make it cost effective to share copies with others.

The general concept is a springboard for ideas for arts organizations, which much like Krispy Kreme, offers a product with an ephemeral lifespan. Offering tickets/entry fees and memberships at prices which incentivize sharing the experience with friends–and intentionally promoting it within that framework provides exposure to a broader range of people.

While providing free admission to an event can also serve to expose your work to a broader range of people. One – surveys show that people who attend free admission events are ones who would have attended anyway. Even if they bring a friend, the friend may not be incentivized to return and pay for admission in the future.

Second – charging some form of admission creates an associated value with the experience. If tickets are $15 but five person pass costs $50, two people may technically be getting in for free, but the group is more likely to think of the tickets being $10 each.  The pass created a situation where two people who might not have attended now have.  If they have a good time, any of the five may not balk at paying $15 in the future when the pass or four friends aren’t available. (Or they may work to invite some new friends along.)

The venue I am at does something along these lines with movie passes which are good in any combination – an individual to 10 movies, five friends to two movies, two friends to five movies. Tickets are $5 regularly and with the larger passes I think you end up only paying $3/ticket. We end up selling quite a few of the passes and have a lot of them redeemed at each screening. It has been relatively easy to administer and worthwhile overall.

Reading Godin’s post has me thinking about how we might structure pricing and experiences for other events to encourage people to share then with friends.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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