“Roughly 40% of tickets go unsold each year. We’re talking [on SellingOut.com] about how to sell out shows.”

This is a tweet that my Twitter account (@goldstarjim) tweets automatically from time to time as a way of telling people who might be interested in following me what I’m likely to be discussing.

It’s a compelling way of imagining the challenges of being a live entertainment marketer. Just think of all those seats going unsold!

Photo Credit: "audience," © 2009 PROAlper Çuğun, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Photo Credit: “audience,” © 2009 PROAlper Çuğun, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Lots of people see this tweet, and some of them reply to it, which is great. I love hearing how people react to this idea, and there are some good and thoughtful ideas, even from people who don’t have any experience in the business.

But the most common response is some form of the one I got the other day:

“Tickets are overpriced. Duh.”

That’s actually a relatively polite version of what I occasionally get. Who knew people could get so angry at a statistical fact?

(Of course, we all knew that. It’s the internet, where ‘angry’ is the default setting.)

But that’s OK. I’d rather hear an angry reaction than none at all, but I do want to talk about the assumption that’s being made by my angry Twitter followers:

It’s all about price.

I don’t believe that it is. I don’t even believe that it’s mostly about price. I say that because I’ve spent a lot of time on the question of why people don’t go out, and I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with prices.

Here’s a little experiment I’ve done about 200 times, with virtually always the same result: Ask a friend to name five ticketed live events taking place in your town this weekend. Not ones they’re going to, not ones they like, just any event happening this weekend.

Unless you run with some real mavens, the answer you’re most likely to get is: “I don’t know,” or “I think the Lakers are playing” or “Springsteen is touring this year.” Some people can name one; a few can name two.

Only real aficionados can name three. Hell, I can barely name three, and I’m the CEO of Goldstar!

And if you don’t know an event exists, price can’t possibly be the reason you’re not going.

(And here’s a tip: There are LOTS of great events that are $25 or less. LOTS.)

Yes, there are times when people don’t buy tickets because those tickets are too expensive. These are rare, and most events that are expensive enough to price some people out are also ones where the demand is high. It’s perhaps ironic, but it’s also true.

Price is important. I’ve spent years thinking about it and building a business on it, but the No. 1 reason (of several) that people are not at a live event is because they are unaware.


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