Accessible pricing my arse! Theatre tickets are too expensive!

Sam Freeman, 3 October 2012

Called the session: Sam

Attended the session: Sam, Rachel, Amber, Adrian, Porl, Tracey, Marje, Graeme, Samantha, Richard & Abbie.

Summary of discussion:

Question came from a worry that simultaneously tickets are too cheap and too expensive for different socio-economic groups and whether there are any solutions to this. It was noted that more expensive tickets prevent an organisation from taking risk (because of the value paid and the negative impact on the audience's feeling about the venue as a consequence).

Airline style (dynamic) pricing was mentioned - tickets ranging from £12.50 - £32.00 depending on the time of booking. It was felt this could be useful but perhaps prevented a clarity for the audience about the cost of a night out. We then wondered if a ‘tough shit’ attitude might be occasionally necessary to meet financial demands placed upon organisations.

Talked about different strategies of allowing in new audiences: A Night Less Ordinary (the scheme that gave away tickets for free) was thought to be a nice idea but perhaps negative because it distorts or creates an unrealistic view of ticket prices.

Perhaps what is needed it to show that every ticket is subsidised - how much of a £20 ticket is subsidised by ACE or Local Authority Funding? There was a worry that this would cause negative reaction around the programming of some shows that are for niche audiences. Would identifying the subsidy have an implication of quality for the audience.

There was conversation about ticket fees and all the add-ons that pile up on a night out at the theatre. There was a consensus that ticket fees are bad, but also an understanding that the ticket fee exists anyway it is merely hidden from sight.

Season tickets were suggested as a way to make visits more accessible, but this hit upon dealing with multiple producers and programmers - “Why is my show subsidising that show!”

There was an appreciation that balancing a budget is harder and harder - Customer salaries are stationary, price of living is increasing, staff wages are decreasing, budgets are being squeezed, shows are more expensive, actors rates have gone up, BUT STILL theatres are expected to increase their income. Philanthropy is difficult for small venues as they lack the prestige of say, The National Theatre. Actually what we need are some new ways to access this funding - but with limited staff and no budget.

It was noted that in the US, arts philanthropy from audiences has been decreasing - we're now competing against other venues as well as big charities (Oxfam, Save The Children).

The question of Pay-What-You-Think-It's-Worth was asked. Perhaps a good way of increasing income for some shows?


Local Authority, Pricing, Arts Council, arts council, Shows, Arts council, shows, ACE, pricing

Comments: 1

Edward Barrett, 4 October 2012

What ‘expensive’ means is obviously relative - but the ticket price clearly affects audience demographics. I went to see

Mary Poppins in London a few years back, and there was barely a child in the audience. Obviously, the West End is aiming at a different audience anyway; but I couldn't help wondering what effect ticket prices had.

Another question - perhaps prompted by the ‘season ticket’ idea above: why is it that a £40+ ticket for a football match is accepted as normal?