Less Attendees=Increased Satisfaction

Last week when I was writing about the ticketing trends being forecast for the coming year, I accidentally omitted an additional point from the article I found pretty interesting.  Apparently, during the pandemic, many attractions like  zoos, aquariums, museums and theme parks found that customer satisfaction increased when capacity restrictions were in place.

“Guests readily adapted to new procedures, which does not surprise us because it is consistent with what we have seen in our practice for many years,” Digonex’s Loewen says. “[Operators] also realized some of the business benefits. For example, when you limit the number of folks that can get into the attraction at a certain point of time, they saw all their guest satisfaction scores go up, and many of them saw all of their other per-cap revenues grow significantly. When it is less crowded, when people are having a better time, when they are feeling better about their visit, they tend to spend more on food and beverage and at the gift shop and on ride tickets.”

There have already been signs of these trends. Disney has apparently indicated they won’t go back to pre-pandemic attendance numbers. Similarly, the Louvre Museum is reducing admissions from 45,000/day to 30,000/day ““in order to facilitate a comfortable visit and ensure optimal working conditions for museum staff…”

Some US National Parks are requiring timed entry reservations from April 1-October 31.

So there is a good possibility other entities may start to use restricted admission as a customer satisfaction strategy in coming years. For some there may be a benefit to positioning their organization as an alternative activity for those who can’t gain admission to such places.

Creativity For Solving Problems, Not Monetizing

Diane Ragsdale recently made a post about the design and intent of the Masters of Arts in Creative Leadership program she is leading at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD).

In answering the question about why one would study leadership at an art and design college, she writes:

Creativity is consistently ranked as one of the most important skills for navigating the complexities of the 21st century….Creativity was equated in business schools with the scaling of innovations towards the ultimate goal of stimulating economic growth. I didn’t want to hook beauty onto that value chain. I would sometimes quip: This beauty course is not aimed at putting beauty in service of business. My aim is the opposite. I want leaders to put business in service of beauty.

[…]

The creation in creative leadership as we are interpreting it at MCAD is based in a foundational premise that there are ways of being, doing, and knowing that are inherent to artmaking and design that are both undervalued by society-at-large and incredibly valuable at a moment in which we are looking at the “end of the world as we have known it” and the need to make a new one

I have often written in opposition to the prescriptive approach to the arts as a way to solve problems, similar to how Ragsdale alludes to the interest of businesses to monetize creativity for the future. Essentially viewing it as a tool to be used and thus if it doesn’t yield expected results within an expected time frame, the problem must be you are using the wrong type of creativity for the job.

As most in creative fields know, it is something you practice over a long period of time rather than learn in a seminar and then go home trying to apply. No one thinks you can become highly effective at an athletic pursuit without a lot of practice, analysis of performance and negotiating bottlenecks. People focusing on employing creativity need to go through a similar process, including possibly getting past a mental wall no less imposing than one a marathon runner may need to push past.

In my post yesterday about improv helping people tolerate uncertainty and reduce social anxiety, I took pains to call attention to the fact the people conducting the study intentionally engaged professional theatre artists to teach improv to students. This is not to say that therapists and counselors can’t effectively teach students to use improv. As the study authors allude to, there is a difference between the approach of someone teaching you improv to fix something about you and the approach of people who practice and teach improv in order to get better at improv.

Yes, the theatre artists likely knew they were there to help prove improv can help people better cope with uncertainty and anxiety, but the whole study gets contaminated if the scientists are frequently talking to them about expected outcomes. So it is likely the theatre artists were jazzed to be getting paid to teach and share about improv for 10 weeks and the prospect that it might provide a model for improving the mental well-being of kids made the experience all the more satisfying.

80 Years Before TKTS – The First Discount Ticket Booth In Times Square

Little trip down memory lane to an entry I did referencing Joe LeBlang, the owner of a tobacco shop whose entrepreneurial mind created NYC’s first Times Square discount ticket service in 1894, long before the 1972 opening of the current TKTS booth. (h/t again to Ken Davenport)

At the time shop owners would be given tickets if they agreed to place show posters in their windows. LeBlang collected the tickets his neighbor shop owners weren’t going to use and resold them at a discount and split the profits with the other shop owners. He became so successful, not only did theatre owners come to him with their unsold tickets, but the US post office had a special division dedicated just to his business.

Despite the fact they were providing him with tickets, show producers had a love-hate relationship with LeBlang, though they shared a mutual dislike for ticket brokers (Yes, apparently secondary market resellers have been a problem for over 120 years):

Leblang and the Producing Managers’ Association

Today it’s known as The Broadway League, but in 1905 it was called the Producing Managers’ Association and Leblang’s relationship with them rotated between adoration and contempt. Most Broadway producers were personal friends of Leblang, but loathed his business model, which they charged lessened the value of their product.

They made a number of attempts to run Leblang out of the business, but as Leblang went on to save a number of Broadway shows from closure he became an integral part of the Broadway show landscape.

Leblang’s War on Ticket Brokers

Leblang and The Producing Managers Association made no secret of their dislike of ticket brokers, which they agreed alienated the ticket buying public. Leblang devised a way to limit ticket speculation; his proposal in 1919 wasn’t readily accepted, but later on elements were used by Actors Equity as a barter to begin Sunday performances.

Adding A Throwaway Option Can Solidify Decisions

Many arts organizations are seeing a drop in ticket sales and subscriptions this year which got me to thinking about a TED talk Dan Ariely did about how unwanted options helped helped people make a decisions, in some case spending more than the cheapest option.  I had done a post about it some years ago and thought about how it might be applicable to subscriptions.

Offer people options that don’t have value to nudge them toward purchasing more a bigger subscription package than they might have. I don’t know that it would transform a lot of single ticket buyers into subscription buyers unless we are wrong about flexibility being more important than price. A mini-subscription that offered flexibility and appeared to be a great value might have some success in getting single ticket purchasers to commit.

I also wonder if offering non-premium options with your show helps make them look more attractive than your competitors’. Ariely talks about another experiment where they offered people the option of an all-inclusive trip to Rome or Paris. In this case it is really apples and oranges since the two cities are in different countries have have so many different attributes to value. Once they add the option of going to Rome but having to pay for coffee in the morning, suddenly people preferred [all-inclusive] Rome over Paris by a larger degree due to the lesser option being available.

It doesn’t seem logical to me to think that given the option between the symphony and a free cocktail at intermission and the opera and a free cocktail at intermission, that people would flock to the orchestra if a no cocktail option for the same price was offered. But as Ariely points, out the decision being made are not entirely rational.