I learned today via a post on Twitter from TRG Arts that the University of Michigan will stop using dynamic pricing at their football games as a result of protests from the general public.
The article talks about negative feedback from alumni and students as well but much of that relates to a separate issue with season and student tickets which were more expensive, but not subject to dynamic pricing.
Living as I am in Ohio, I am obligated to suggest that this only goes to illustrate the inferiority of the Michigan football program.
What really interests me about the policy change was that two years ago I wrote about how University of Michigan and the Cincinnati Reds were going to be using dynamic pricing for their games. I took a quick check of the Red’s website and they will continue to use dynamic pricing during their 2015 season.
My post two years ago emphasized that value is not price presenting some thoughts on that concept. As I looked into University of Michigan’s decision to eliminate dynamic pricing, my effort to determine where the balance between price and value became further complicated.
If you look at the bottom of this article, you will see students protesting with signs invoking tradition over money and the university brand. But if you read my original article, I note at the time tickets were already on sale on the secondary market for far more than the published price, prior to single tickets going on sale. At that point, the only ones who had them were season ticket holders and maybe some students.
While not everyone is going to try capitalize and sell their tickets to hot games on the secondary market, it is clear that some of the tickets are more valuable than what you paid for them. Shouldn’t you be happy about getting such a great deal?
As much as you may want to complain about students and alumni being malcontents who want to maintain the status quo rather than acknowledge increasing costs and value, there really isn’t any difference between them and the people who comprise your audiences.
Except maybe they are much more passionate about football than your programming. (Which is why I can’t have shows on Saturdays in the Fall.)
I suspect one of the biggest factors in whether people will tolerate dynamic pricing or not is the level of investment they have in the activity and how strong the sense of community is. The Cincinnati Reds and Broadway shows can probably get away with it because people expect to pay more or less dependent on the popularity of the event.
College football isn’t just a sporting event, it is entwined more deeply with personal identity. For students and alumni, it is directly associated with your occupation for four plus years. You didn’t just live in a locality with sports teams, all the buildings you occupied all day in were owned by the entity that owned the team. All the people you worked, ate and played with everyday were members of that entity.
There is going to be so little distinction between value, price and identity that change to any one of these will result in a strong reaction.
It probably doesn’t help that the university was requiring $150 donation to be considered for season tickets with no guarantee you would get some and no refund if you don’t. (And this is a very common practice among larger university sports programs, even ones that don’t perform very well.)
I don’t think University of Michigan’s decision should dissuade an arts organization from considering dynamic pricing in itself. I think it points to the fact that you need to consider the level of investment your potential audience has in your work and what the tenor of that investment is.
For some, a higher price may only increase the sense of investment as it indicates a greater level of personal prestige. Not surprisingly, for others it will be a sign of exclusionary elitism. Other communities may barely notice the prices changed since they weren’t paying attention to begin with.