The Economy Affecting Ticket Sales
It's no secret that the economy has taking a turn for the worse and is slowly spreading into all aspects of business. As we continue to see
massive corporations file for bankruptcy due to the declining economy, one has to wonder how long it might be before smaller companies,
specifically the arts and entertainment venues begin to feel the pinch.
There are many articles and opinions circulating about the future of live entertainment and how it might be transformed by the current state in which we find ourselves. The good news is that over the last 9 years, the National Endowment for the Arts reported significant growth for non-profit theatres across the country. As the economy drove forward, more monies were available from donors, corporate sponsorships and grants feeding a boom in the local arts. The bad news is that no one is quite certain what will happen as the economy continues to worsen, the unemployment rate goes up and people begin looking for ways to tighten the belt and trim the fat. As we have said before, and was recently noted by Helen Hayes, the CEO and President of the organization who recently conducted a study in DC said, "In an uncertain economy, art is often among the first things to be eliminated from discretionary spending."
Towards the end of 2008 we were already seeing signs of what might be the tip of the iceberg. It was reported that New York's Public Theater announced it was postponing a major play by John Guare because of a loss of funding. If the New York Public Theatre is facing a loss of funding what does this mean for everyone else? There are many other instances where theatre companies are scrambling to find funding to stay afloat. The prestigious Milwaukee Shakespeare Company who shuttered their doors for the foreseeable future to due the loss of their largest donor Argosy. The current crisis on Wall Street forced Argosy to withdraw its grant of $925,000.
The current crisis does not seem to discriminate and is not only affecting larger theatres, such as the previous examples, but is starting to take its toll on academic theatre and dance as well. A recent blog stated that lack attendance at the University of Mississippi in Oxford has been attributed to lack of funding for advertising. With ticket sales comes revenue, which allows you to spend on advertising to get more people in to increase revenue. When low attendance creates less money a vicious cycle is started. Like many other theatre companies across the US, U of M is looking for alternative ways to create buzz, increase audience and generate additional revenue.
All is not lost however, and history shows that live entertainment has for the most part weathered previous recessions. But entertainment venues might have to re-evaluate their price point to entice a larger number of people to attend shows. "People are feeling like they're depriving themselves of fun they would be having by buying a new car or taking a trip," says Tom Adams, president of Adams Media Research. "So they feel fully justified in continuing to spend on more cost-conscious kinds of entertainment." Since most theatres already offer many different types of discounts to shows they may be able to create awareness of these programs which would create a quick cash injection while at the same time giving customers the opportunity to enjoy themselves while saving a few bob.
It will be imperative that these venues look out side of their normal patrons for future ticket sales of they are to stay afloat. Venues should always look for ways to increase audience and build their base, which will ultimately force them to get creative. As we move into 2009 not all theatres are currently feeling the crunch, however as the new seasons start to open many may be in for a rude awakening. "The frightening thing for small arts organizations is that because we exist with such a small margin for error, by the time the impacts of an economic crisis like this are fully realized, the damage may already be done," BETC co-founding member Stephen Weitz said.