Ex ch-ch-ch-ch changes!

David Bowie got it wrong.

For what we heard in response to this article about what was in the way of people seeing more theater, it’s not changes people want.

It’s ex-changes.

We had several theatergoers say that they would be more willing to see more theater if there was more flexibility with their purchase AFTER they clicked “buy now.”  

Makes sense.  The modern world has more demands on our schedules than there were fifty . . . even twenty years ago.  

Things come up, right?  They do for me, and I’m sure they do for you.

And if you can’t exchange tickets, and you’re not 100% certain you can attend, what do you do?  You WAIT.

And there lies one of the contributing factors to why people aren’t buying tickets in advance any more.

So we should allow exchanges, right?

Well, hold your horses, Mr. Bowie . . . exchanging tickets ain’t that easy.

First, a little known secret . . . most ticketing companies DO exchange tickets. It’s just not advertised.  It’s kept on the down-low.  (I’d prefer it was put on the “up high” myself and shouted from the rooftops.)  So a TIP to all you theatergoers out there . . . if you NEED to exchange, ask.  Often they’ll make it work for you.  (No guarantees, of course, so don’t say, “Ken told me you would!”)

Second, it’s not easy to exchange tickets in any of our sister industries either.  (Oh, I should explain, by sister industry, I mean any business that deals with what I call “perishable inventory” – or inventory that, after a certain time, goes to a value of zero.  For example – airlines.  Once a flight takes off, that empty seat is worthless.  Golf course tee times.  Concert tickets.  Dinner reservations.  And  yep, Broadway tickets.)

Why isn’t it easy?  Because any of these industries may have a hard time reselling that ticket. And the income may be lost.  What if 100 people decided to exchange their tickets a day before a performance – and the show didn’t have time to sell those 100 to other people?  The show might take a big hit.  (Now you see why our industry has historically NOT advertised any type of exchange policy.)

But something has to be done . . . because as my exploding inbox of comments showed me, our audience wants it. 

Airlines ALLOW exchanges . . . for a fee.  Covid taught them to be more flexible, but it still costs $ to change your flight.  And if that flight is sold out, expect to pay even more.  (They work from the model that since they may LOSE money on the ticket you are leaving open – which they may not have enough time to resell – they are going to make up for it on the change fees or change in ticket price.)

This would be the easiest solution . . . so let me ask . . . would you pay a change fee to be allowed to move your tickets? 10-20%?  

Or should we just allow them for free up to a certain day and time before a performance?  “Exchanges allowed up until one week before the performance except in the case of weather, etc.”

What do you think?

Are exchanges necessary?  And given the challenges of our perishable inventory industry, how do you think we should offer it and protect our fragile economic model?

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.