Everything’s Easy When It’s Not Your Problem

Imagine you’re heading to the airport. It’s going to be a long line to check-in, a long wait at the gate, and a long, crowded flight. Not only that, but at the end of that flight is a connection … and then another wait at the gate, another long crowded flight. And when you get there? You’ll stand around that metal carousel and wait for your little bag to come sliding down the chute, so you can head out to the street and get in another car, to get the place you really want to go.

Sounds bad, right?

I can make it much better, with one very simple change.

You’re not heading to the airport. Someone else is. Someone you know and like, but not you. You’re texting with them from the comfort of your sofa, as they describe the travel ordeal ahead of them. Oh, you feel for what they’re about to put up with, but it’s not the same.

Everything’s easy when it’s not your problem.

I love going to shows: concerts, theater, opera, sports, pretty much everything. I don’t like intermissions. Why? They’re just a break in the action, barely enough time to do anything but race to the bathroom or maybe guzzle a drink. Not everyone agrees — some people like intermissions — but it’s not my thing.

Recently, I was talking with colleagues in the live entertainment marketing world, about 30 of them, and the subject of intermission came up. Did patrons like them? Did they want them? Was there a trend toward no-intermission shows?

Strangely, there was almost unanimous agreement that patrons LOVE intermission, so much so that audiences, they report, are on the verge of open revolt if a show doesn’t include a little break about halfway through.

Really? This doesn’t square with my feelings, but fair enough. On the other hand, it doesn’t square with what I hear a lot of people say. Not minding intermissions, yeah, I get that, but a passionate, universal love of intermissions?


So I asked the group: “Raise your hand if your audiences prefer ‘no-intermission’ shows.”

Zero hands.


“OK, now raise your hands if YOU, personally, prefer ‘no-intermission’ shows.”

About 2/3rds of the people in the group stuck those hands in the air.

I made a puzzled look and said, “So most of you prefer ‘no-intermission’ shows but NONE of your audiences do … hmmm?”

The audience laughed. They got the joke.

When you’re working on the show, the intermission doesn’t matter much to you. It’s a revenue driver, has a lot of operational value, and it’s a chance to catch your breath and re-set.

And sure, some patrons like intermissions, but all of them?

I think not, and I think my little survey proved it.

Because the fact is the inconveniences of intermission — delay to your evening, the bathroom lines, the general “what the heck do I do for 15 minutes when I came here to see a show?” feeling — just isn’t your problem when you’re on the selling side of a show. So it’s no biggie.

But on the selling side of a show or anything else, it’s not your perception of this that matters. It’s the person it’s made for, the customer, whose perceptions matter.

And for those with the urge to angrily send comments defending the sanctity of intermission, you don’t have to. I am very sure that in some cases, it IS the audience’s preference, especially in YOUR venue. For sure, in yours.

But we know for a fact that some people would happily do without an intermission, even a majority, in our sample of high-end live entertainment marketers at least.

Everything’s easy when it’s not your problem. Except it’s your job to make your patrons’ problems your problems!

OK, now I need to take a 15-minute break. Which way’s the bar?

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