It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have been using all of my connections to get tickets to Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney as they tour this spring. If you are a “friend” of the venue, you get to buy before the public. Those with a particular credit card get to buy before that, and those who are members of the fan club get the chance to buy first.
For some artists there are “premium packages” that offer reserved parking, great seats, an exclusive t-shirt and lanyard, and a cocktail party. Some people have to be on the floor; others don’t mind the upper levels, because that is what they can afford and they know it will be a show worth seeing.
As I was waiting at Will Call before a recent Springsteen show, I noticed two guys going from window to window asking if there were two tickets available, and where were they located. There were actually some decent seats that had been turned back in, but they looked at each other and said, “Nah, we will wait until the band releases its tickets.” They knew the band held some great seats for family and friends, and released them for sale shortly before the Boss took the stage.
For a second, I thought to myself, “What if they get better tickets than me?” Then I revised my thinking, realizing that I chose not to take the risk and am more content as I eat a bite before the show knowing that my good seats are waiting for me when I get there and knowing I will experience a great show.
Other than the fact that the sale is online, there are no scalpers (except sometimes the agency) and that I will end up dancing in the dark, concert ticket sales have a lot in common with selling spots in media sales. There is a limited number of seats, just as there are a limited number of avails, so management of the inventory is critical. They have to cover their costs just as a station does, which makes pricing vital. And the return on the investment had better be worth it!
So how does a media sales manager get the most out of their tickets — their inventory?
- Know what dollar figure you need for each program, each daypart, and each spot length to make budget. If you have a yield management system, these metrics are readily at hand, but it is up to you to analyze what you typically sell and price based on supply. Concert tickets cost less for the upper level and more for seats closer to the stage. If the show is a sellout, only the premium package may be available if you just have to see that show. Be sure the market will bear your pricing and that you are asking for enough to make your goal.
- Premium pricing includes more stuff. Your top clients get the lunches and t-shirts. A premium sponsorship should include some lesser-demand spots. If you are charging a premium rate, give the client more than a high-cost spot to make them appreciate the ROI.
- Offer your best clients the first chance at your best inventory. True fans should be rewarded. Reward your station’s true advertising fans by giving them first crack to buy spots in the playoffs or morning drive.
- Know there is a little wiggle room. Just as the fans know the band tickets will be released, if your inventory is squeaking, know that the chances are high that someone won’t make the copy deadline, or someone won’t mind if you give them two spots at another time to make up for the need to bump them now. BEWARE: Be cautious about making this a habit, because I am betting that those guys waiting for the good seats sometimes lose out on getting to see the sold-out show. You don’t want to be the cause of good clients who are disgruntled because you continually bump them or can’t get them on after agreeing to the order.
- Recognize that your inventory is perishable. Once the band goes home, the tickets are just paper. Once your day is over, that opportunity for x pairs of eyes and ears is gone. If you find you have a spot to fill, resist the urge to lower your rates below what your “fans” are paying, but do consider selling it to a great client at a fair rate. Also consider upgrading that key client’s spot from the rafters of fringe to a prime time seat.
With concert tickets, you know you are going to pay more for the best seats, and a show with British nobility will cost more than the one-hit wonder. Your advertisers realize they will pay more for prime spots, and a top rated show will be more expensive than the one that won’t be renewed next year. Use your yield and inventory tools to help you get the most from your empty seats…er, stop sets. Then, sit back and enjoy the show!
By Kitty Malone, Efficio Solutions Manager of Client Services