Superpowers, Part Two

Editor’s Note: For this series, Jim writes about our superpowers — the ones that we in the live entertainment business have — and their corresponding forms of kryptonite-like weaknesses.

In the live entertainment business, we have superpowers. I talked about one recently.

Sadly, as Superman knows, sometimes those superpowers come with superweaknesses. Today, we’re talking about a superpower that has its own very powerful kryptonite, and how to make sure you use the power and avoid being wiped out by the weakness.

Live entertainment’s second superpower is commitment. On Goldstar, tens of thousands of people review shows that they’ve seen every month. The average rating (on a five-point scale) is 4.2. That’s pretty good! In fact, it led me to coin this saying: “An average night at a show is way better than a good night sitting in front of the TV.” But why is that? The ratings are pretty consistent: Big shows, small shows, theater, sports, music, high budget, low budget, people generally have a pretty darn good time when they go to any show or event. (There are exceptions, naturally.)

Why is that?

Part of it is simply that live entertainment is a great experience, and it’s all very visceral. Not just that, but most venues do a pretty darn good job with whatever event they’re putting on. You guys and gals in the content side of the business are awesome. But part of it is that by going to an event, by physically moving yourself to a location and setting aside a block of time, and sometimes forgoing quite a lot of money, you, the ticket buyer, are making a big commitment. And when people make commitments, they get protective of the thing they’ve committed to.

Let me prove that to you. You’re probably not an expert painter, and you probably don’t have a lot of experience painting coffee mugs. Let’s suppose you came by my office in Pasadena, Calif., and we set aside an hour to talk about ticket-pricing strategies. But we weren’t just going to sit at a boring conference table. Oh, no. We were going to sit at a work station with a full collection of paints and brushes and a beautiful unpainted coffee mug for each of us to work on as we talked.

We’d chat for an hour, and then by about the time we’d finished, we’d be putting the final touches on our mugs. Probably, they’d be pretty crummy, as objects of art. They might not fetch much money in the open market. We might even have a hard time giving them away to somebody.

But, by crackey, they’d be ours. Our creations that we had committed to, including time, energy and thought.

If at the end of our meeting, I carelessly bumped into the table and knocked your mug to the floor and broke it, how would you feel? You probably don’t even need a coffee mug, and you probably didn’t really think you did an amazing artistic job on it, but you’d also probably be a little upset. If I knocked my mug off the table, you’d be far less upset, I bet.

Because your mug was made with your commitment, and so it became more valuable to you by far than if someone brought you an identical mug and just handed it over.

In live entertainment, the trip, the travel, the cost, the mental energy, and everything else that goes into being at a live event creates mental commitment on the part of your customer. It’s extremely powerful because they want the event to be the greatest experience of their life, or at least their recent past. They’re not neutral. They’re in your corner.

Contrast this to a Netflix viewer, who can flip effortlessly from thing to thing. No investment, no commitment. Sure, they want the show they’re watching to be good, but if it’s not, who cares? There are thousands more just a click away …

Harness the power of that commitment. Reward it. Reinforce it. Wow them. Thank them. Remind them what the experience was like.

This is super important, because the superweakness is a big one. More than ever, this is a showstopper, quite literally.

The corresponding weakness that comes with this superpower is inconvenience. Live entertainment is damned inconvenient. You have to go to a place at a time and sit there for some amount of time, having traveled, parked, faced crowds and lines, and whatever other indignities a person has to go through to go from the comforts of home to a show.

In the past, maybe this mattered less. If TV has three channels and there’s no internet, the inconvenience wasn’t as powerful. Going to a show was roughly as inconvenient, but your alternatives were way worse and far fewer. Those days are gone like new episodes of Friends.

It is far easier to do nothing than to do something. Inertia is the villain in our story, live entertainment nation. Most people are always going to choose NOT to go to a show than to go, but that’s OK, because we don’t need most of them. Just more of them.

How do we deal with this superweakness? Respect it, because by respecting it you are respecting the effort made by your patrons to come to your events. By all means, do whatever you can to make it easier and to close the convenience gap, but you can’t remove it all. It’s in the nature of our business. What you can do is demonstrate awareness and appreciation. I think for example the 7:00pm curtain on Broadway shows true respect for this superweakness. It’s inconvenient to sit around after work until 8:00pm to see a show, so some shows changed the curtain to 7:00pm. Brilliant.

So in summary, use the commitment to reinforce that your patrons made the right decision to come, and work to both minimize but then also respect the inconvenience that your customer is going through.

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