What Would Beyoncé Do? What Queen Bee can teach us about pricing in the theatre industry.
Soaring demand for hot-ticket festivals, gigs and, of course, West End shows are sparking a spending boom – despite the cost-of-living crisis. Customers joining the queue to secure tickets to Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour, were informed they were 234,835th in the queue.
Live music has been a hot topic recently, both in the headlines and on social media. In October, Glastonbury Festival startled fans by announcing a 26% increase in their ticket price – up to £340 – and this week has seen some backlash to the prices for Beyoncé’s tour. Similar to dynamic ticket pricing in the West End, surge pricing – the act of selling tickets at a price that fluctuates with demands – has become more common with high profile artists such as Taylor Swift.
Even outside of surge pricing, 77% of the British public believe the price to see live music is too expensive.
Value perception is of course completely dependent on a person’s situation and their interests. Whilst 53% said a fair price for a ticket would be £40 or less, the majority of gig-goers have paid at least twice as much, with 37% having paid over £100 a ticket and 9% over £200. This shows that for the right event, people are willing to pay premium prices.
With the combination of the cost-of-living crisis, rising prices, and higher student loan repayments, younger people are generally more price-sensitive and savvier about finding ways to save money. This is particularly evident in the growing popularity of FinTok – practical personal finance TikToks – that are teaching young people how to make their money go further. Content tagged with #personalfinance has garnered more than 4.4bn views.
However, in the latest research by YouGov we are actually seeing that young people are willing to pay premium pricing for gigs. 18-24 year olds are the age group most likely to view £100 or more as fair for a live concert ticket, and are the most supportive of surge pricing for concert tickets.
Across many of our campaigns however, we see that audiences over the age of 45 will generally purchase at a higher average ticket price. For one show in particular the average ticket price for audiences over the age of 45 was 14% higher than those under the age of 45.
So whilst life stage can impact value perception of an event, when comparing pricing levels in live music and theatre we know that one of the main factors is the simple economic principle of supply and demand. Particularly in the case of long-runners, where there is confidence that the show is here to stay, potential customers are more likely to be able to find a price point they are comfortable with if they are willing to purchase further out. In the Stage’s 2022 Ticketing Survey, the average cheapest ticket price for musicals was £23.92 and for plays was £20.92. The same cannot be said for the other live entertainment events where tickets can sell a lot quicker due to scarcity of supply, and hot demand.
However, although this gives the impression that theatre audiences are more price-sensitive and that their value perception is lower, this isn’t necessarily the case. The Stage’s annual ticketing survey reported that the average cost of the most expensive tickets available for West End productions is £140.85, up 21.3% on 2019. Whilst the average top price for long-running shows has fallen since 2019, the average has been brought up significantly by newer kids on the block, with one show raising some eyebrows for utilising dynamic pricing to the tune of £400.
Whatever your viewpoint on those price points is, it does prove that theatre holds the potential to be the “hot ticket” in town and can in fact command higher prices in the same way as a high-profile artist.
So how do we, as marketeers, create hype and heat around a production to keep audiences engaged, and the demand for tickets high? We put it to the team at Dewynters for their views!
Richard McDermott, Deputy Director of Creative Services
Theatre brands need to create an emotional connection but increasingly, they also need to behave with the confidence and clarity traditionally associated with the live music industry. Bold messaging and a strong audience focus have always been a hallmark of music industry advertising but advances in audience insights and creative testing are now becoming invaluable tools in building more responsive and impactful theatre brands. Pushing forward into spaces not usually occupied by theatre advertising and making bolder and more confident media choices are also increasing the reach and scope of theatrical brands. While there are no magic bullets, ultimately a brand that looks and behaves like a ‘hot ticket’ has a greater chance of being one.
Paul Goodman, Social Media Director
From the comments and questions we receive each day via social media we see more and more that audiences are expecting theatre productions to behave like live music and comedy gigs. Before tickets are on sale, audiences are asking for dates, venue and pricing, as well as recommendations for where they can eat and stay when they visit the theatre. They want to book their annual leave and check the cost of travel before they even have a ticket. This is especially true for fans of household name musicals and bookers who are hoping to see their favourite screen star on stage.
Anne Ewart, Managing Director
As personal finances are increasingly squeezed, live entertainment is having to work hard to reassure that a night (or afternoon) out is going to be great value – no matter whether your budget is £25, £75 or £175+ for a ticket. Creating hype around a production or event is key to this reassurance. The exciting opportunity for all theatre marketeers is how we can learn from the good and the bad of large-scale music industry on-sales: how can we optimise the way we speak to our audiences via creative, social, PR, media, insights and sales channels? By building positive hype around new and longstanding productions we tempt the fans and broader audiences to behave outside their normal patterns. Even in these stretched financial times we are still seeing that with the right hype, people have little resistance to when they’ll attend an event or spend on a ticket!