Many Moving Pieces Means Many Opportunities To Remove Friction

One thing I like about Broadway producer Ken Davenport is that he is constantly trying to identify barriers to attending shows on Broadway. Not just his, but any show. He has the rising tide raises all boats perspective. Recently, he wrote about how he started a conversation with group sales agents and buyers who arrange tickets for groups attending Broadway shows to figure out what problems they face when it comes getting those butts into seats.

Some of the issues had relatively easy fixes. Groups like to book shows about six months in advance, but tickets aren’t on sale that far out. Okay, Davenport says, we can start selling tickets nine months in advance. Another issue was that every theater owner has a different payment policies in terms of when deposits and balances are due. Davenport figured he would need to work on getting the owners of the different chains to agree on a uniform policy.

While that might be a tough task, the third impediment that came up was a little more tricky. Group sales agents said that it is hard to sell a new show as it is, but without images, videos, it becomes even harder. But as Davenport notes, with new shows the content may not even exist because the show hasn’t been cast and some of the show elements may still be in development. But he wants to figure out a way to make it happen.

What videos, photos, etc, tell the potential buyer who/what we are before we’re up in front of an audience? Movies use trailers. What can we do . . . and what can we do to make sure it’s available those 9 months prior to when that group comes?

In the process of discussing these problems, he noted that he was able to answer the demand for meet and greets with Broadway casts on the shows A Beautiful Noise and Harmony which he produced. Apparently people are willing to pay a fair bit for the opportunity. There isn’t a price list on the Harmony page I linked to, but for A Beautiful Noise, they charge between $1500 and $3500 for groups up to 50 to meet in the theater or rehearsal room for up to 30 minutes. Pizza and soft drinks are available for an additional $500.

For $7500, they will rent a room in a nearby restaurant for a meet and greet with up to 50 people with wine, beer and appetizers provided.

I know a lot of readers are probably wishing they were in a position to have people pay a few thousand dollars for a meet and greet. There may be some places outside of Broadway operating in an environment that creates a sense of occasion that could pull it off.

Depending on how many groups take them up on the last option, that is sure to make the production a lot of allies among local restaurants. If they weren’t already talking up the production to customers, they would probably start.

This particularly resonated with me because in some communities in which I have worked, I have regularly emailed all the area restaurants to make them aware when ticket sales were good for shows in the upcoming week so that they could bring more staff on. Even with that, there were occasions where some restaurants had to close early because enthusiastic crowds ate and drank them dry.

Recently, some art galleries told me they see a surge in visitors when we have shows. While I don’t believe it results in immediate sales, (I haven’t see anyone come to a performance with paintings tucked under their arms), hopefully it will result in something down the road.

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. (

My most recent role was as Executive 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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