Drew McManus had an article at Adaptistration the other day called Placebo Pricing and the Ticket Price Quandry; he points to Joe Patti's Butts in the Seats article Info You Can Use: Forget Dynamic Pricing, Use Placebo Pricing. Both articles are well worth a read, followed by some contemplation as to how events are priced and why.
Ticket discounting is rampant in various ways. Some presenters just plain have inexpensive tickets, from amateur choruses to the wonderful Old First Concerts. Others have rush ticket programs, such as the senior rush and standing room tickets at San Francisco Opera or the $20 rushes at SF Symphony. I showed up for that Susan Graham recital expecting to pay full price, but got a very nice rush seat instead; probably if I'd gone to the Eco Ensemble program Saturday night, I would have gotten the same deal.
For the last several years, San Francisco Symphony has had a big more-or-less half-off sale around the end of January. I know people who buy short subscriptions for the fall and gamble that they'll be able to get discount tickets for the spring. I've taken advantage of that sale myself a few times, but this year I bought most of my tickets up front at subscriber prices. There have been some exceptions; for instance, I don't have tickets to any of the chamber music programs coming up, and I bought a rush to see Shostakovich's 14th Symphony.
I know why presenters offer these discounts: it's better to sell a seat at a discount than to have it empty, for all sorts of reasons.
But I heard about a particular San Francisco Symphony offer today that I have to admit fries me just a teeny little bit, hence the "audience resentment" part of my blog title. Among the many tickets I bought last fall, after quite a bit of hassle, are tickets to three programs in the American Mavericks series. They're orchestra seats that I bought at the subscriber price which gets something like $10 or $15 off per seat.
As of this week, SFS is offering a $100 pass to all of the American Mavericks programs. You buy the pass in person or over the phone, then redeem the pass for tickets anywhere in the house other than Loge and Side Box, subject to ticket availability.
You also get a CD and a DVD.
Now, the fact that this pass is available at all means that very likely I can get rush seats for any concerts I don't already have tickets to. But it is an unusually blatant discount; for a third of what I paid for three seats, a gambler who waited can get into nine concerts.
Of course, nothing is keeping me from buying the pass and going to a few additional concerts. It's just....maybe rewarding the wrong behavior, when a subscriber starts kicking herself for having bothered to buy tickets in advance.