Wednesday, March 28, 2012

metaDRAMA: "Feesability"

You're at work and you decide to check your e-mail. Somewhere along the line, you must have gotten your e-mail address on one of these various blasts, but that's OK, because the stars have aligned and, lo and behold, you're actually interested in the show on offer. The website's a little wonky, so you call, and -- wow, it turns out there's hardly any wait at all for a human representative when you're prepared to throw down for a ticket. Except . . . that deal isn't quite as advertised, is it? There's small print, but it doesn't say anything about the not one, but two service fees. And suddenly that "special promotional rate" -- while still below "market" value, whatever that is, since the show hasn't opened yet -- isn't so special. It's already shot up by 25%, and if you want to get anything at the theater, or dine out in the neighborhood, it's going to get even more expensive. And then, instead of purchasing the ticket, you decide you'll go to the theater, instead, though who knows when you'll have time to do that. So maybe you just won't see the show after all. In the short term, it hardly matters; someone will buy that ticket, right? The point here is, you won't. And maybe the fee rubs you the wrong way, like having to pay to check a coat after you've already paid the cover charge at the club, or finding out that you need to get bottle service if you want the bartender's attention. Maybe the next time you get a blast for a show that you want to see, but it's at this particular theater, you decide it's not worth the trouble. Maybe you stop going to see shows altogether.

In this way, a theatergoer's trust slowly erodes. They're either worn down to the point at which they'll see anything, for any price, or they're jaded and hyper-selective. Neither is really good for the industry, because after one too many bad shows, after one too many stretched budgets, they'll have discouraged the people who were once oh-so-starry-eyed for the stage. They'll have burned those bridges. And somewhere, it started with a needless and needling fee, yet another barrier to seeing live entertainment, yet another reason to stay home and watch Smash (or worse) on the sofa.

So the next time you reach out to your supposed fans, the next time you try to offer them a deal, when you try to work out an arrangement to help the audience you want meet the costs you need to charge, don't pull a bait and switch. Just tell us what you want, and we'll let you know.

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