Barrington Stage Company begins 'dynamic pricing' its tickets
PITTSFIELD -- The Barrington Stage Company has adopted a new ticket pricing strategy this season that allows the nonprofit to maximize the revenue that it earns from hit shows and indirectly offer more lower-priced tickets.
Known as "dynamic pricing," a strategy first developed by the airline industry in the late 1970s, the method allows the nonprofit to either raise or lower prices for shows at its two Pittsfield performance spaces -- the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage on Linden Street and the Blatt Performing Arts Center's St. Germain Stage on Linden Street -- based on advanced ticket sales.
Under the new policy, BSC will only consider raising the cost of the highest-priced seats when advanced ticket sales reach 80 to 85 percent of capacity, said Artistic Director Julianne Boyd. At that point, she said, the price of a premium ticket for a musical at the Mainstage, for instance, could climb from $65 to as high as $80.
That's exactly what happened during the recent Mainstage production of "On the Town," which ran from June 12 to July 13. After the third week and it became obvious the show was a hit, BSC raised its highest ticket prices to the $80 range for some performances.
But that's as high as prices will go, Boyd stressed. "We're never going to go to $100 a ticket," she said.
BSC is the first Berkshire County theater company to adopt dynamic pricing, which Boyd said has been used by theaters in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles for many years.
The nonprofit decided to implement the policy this year on the advice of TRG Arts of Colorado, which provides consulting and pricing strategies to arts and cultural institutions across the country. TRG Arts did not return a telephone call seeking comment, but the agency recently formed a pricing strategy that helped New York's Albany Symphony Orchestra reverse a seven-year decline in subscriber sales.
According to TRG Art's website, the Albany Symphony Orchestra has experienced a 118 percent increase in subscription revenue during the last two and a half years, and a 21 percent rise in per-ticket revenue. The Albany Symphony could not immediately be reached for comment.
At BSC, half of the nonprofit theater company's $3.3 million annual budget comes solely from ticket sales. The rest comes from fundraising.
"We offer so many low-priced tickets that we have to make ‘X' number of dollars to keep us going," Boyd said. "In offering lower priced tickets, we're also taking advantage of a hit show that's gotten great acclaim to make a little more money so that we can continue to offer lower priced tickets.
"A family of four could have seen ‘On The Town,' in the orchestra, for $70," Boyd said. "How do I pay for that if I have 45 people on payroll for that show?
"We pay for that now by offering more lower priced tickets so if the show is doing well we can say to the people who can afford the main orchestra or good seats in the mezzanine, ‘Could you pay a little more?' "
If advanced sales don't reach the 80- to 85-percent level, BSC uses other means to absorb the cost of offering more lower priced seats.
"We have to balance it out in some other way," Boyd said.
Boyd said the new policy also is designed to encourage people to buy tickets early, or to buy season ticket packages. According to BSC's 2013 ticket brochure, pass holders can save 31 percent off this season's regular ticket prices.
Decisions to raise the top ticket prices are determined on a weekly, not nightly, basis.
"When we have very few tickets left that's when we raise the prices," Boyd said. "We want to reward the people who bought tickets early, and we don't raise the prices until it's obvious that if you sell 80 to 85 percent you have a hit show."
Conversely, dynamic pricing allows BSC to lower its ticket prices if a show isn't selling well. Boyd said BSC would consider implementing that policy if advanced sales for a production were between 45 and 50 percent of capacity, but added, "we haven't had to do that yet this year."
To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
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Founded: 1995 (moved to Pittsfield in 2006).
Venues: Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, 30 Union St.; Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, 36 Linden St.
Ticket prices: Mainstage, $20 to $65 (musicals) $20 to $58 (dramas); Blatt Center: $40 (matinees), $46 (nights).
Preview ticket prices: Mainstage, $15 to $20; Blatt Center, $15.
Tickets for Barrington Stage Company's Mainstage productions range from $20 to $58 and $20 and $65, depending on the show. This season's dramatic productions of "The Chosen," and "Much Ado About Nothing," contain a top ticket price of $58. BSC will only consider raising the highest ticket prices for those plays by $10 to $15. "The Chosen" runs through Aug. 3, and so far top tickets for one performance were offered at $68.
Twenty-dollar tickets are available for all three of BSC's Mainstage productions this year. BSC added a third preview performance at the Mainstage this year for which every ticket is priced between $15 and $20.
The Mainstage contains 520 seats.
Blatt Performing Arts Center's
St. Germain Stage
Tickets for all seats at the Blatt Center are $40 for matinees, and $46 for night performances. Ticket prices for this year's two preview performances at the Blatt Center are $15. The St. Germain Stage has 114 seats.
Tickets for BSC's Youth Theatre Productions are exempt from the new pricing strategy.
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