Mystery score

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dear Arts Administrators and Fellow Ink-Stained Wretches:

I pay for my tickets to almost every performance I attend that I'm not reviewing for SFCV. Along the way, I have the same experiences, good, bad, or indifferent, that typical arts patrons have.

It occurs to me that if you're a reviewer for a daily paper or other publication, or if you're an arts administrator above a certain level, you're not paying for tickets often and you're not having to deal with limited box office hours and recalcitrant web sites. I mean, does David Gockley have to call anyone other than Peter Gelb to get a seat at the Met? Does MTT sit in Balcony Rear at SF Opera or the Met or Avery Fisher Hall? They do not. And when Anthony Tommasini comes West for a long weekend, he calls the press office at the opera, not the box office.

I'd like to suggest that each and every reviewer and arts administrator go through the exercise of ordering tickets from an arts organization or three, just to see what it's like. In fact, if you're an administrator, make sure you try ordering a single ticket, a subscription, and a large number of single tickets - three different orders - from your own organization.

I have not very fond memories of ordering a pair of tickets to ten San Francisco Symphony concerts a year or two back. This involved a ridiculous amount of clicking, because of the particular design and purchase path of the SFS web site, to the point that I nearly timed out my session. I just went through something similar, only worse, while buying tickets to the LA Opera; in this case, the problems were an even longer purchase path and the problem that their ticket-buying system does not show you all available seats. You have to compare the ticket you're assigned with a PDF, and if you don't like it, try again, but in a different section. It's pretty tedious.

I have to think that if arts administrators were going through this, their organizations' web sites would be better designed. I have to think that reviewers might publicly complain if they had to buy their own tickets and had these sorts of hassles.

So, in the interests of improving the user experience - no, let's call this "making it easier to buy tickets" - I strongly, strongly encourage you to try out your own web sites and see how well they work.

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