In Joffrey Ballet's win-win with Groupon is a lesson for Chicago's cultural institutions, Jones recounts how the Joffrey used an online deals site to sell 2,338 (discounted) season subscriptions in 24 hours:
Those subscriptions were sold at a deep, deep discount (61 percent less than usual). And because the Joffrey had to split its take with Groupon, the loss in revenue was even greater. This terrifies many cultural groups. But if those seats were going empty anyway, what the heck?
The smarter arts organizations are realizing that you have to give people a deal. No one wants to pay the sticker price in this economy. Raise the ticket prices and you see fewer people. Give folks a break, and they'll maybe pay more next time and buy a profitable drink at intermission. At the Playhouse Square Center in Cleveland, they just completed a big study on why certain orchestra seats were always empty during the first couple of nights of Broadway tours. They decided to fill them at any cost — thus you can now subscribe to seven Broadway shows in Cleveland for less than $100. Those empty seats are now occupied by warm bodies.
Bodies that talk to friends. Bodies that send passionate e-mails.
Jones fairly describes the downsides of the Joffrey using the Groupon site (like handing their marketing spiel over to the site's editors: “Grown from local soil rich with diversity, steel slag, and saxophones stuffed with meat, the company grew from an ensemble of six dancers into today's world-class, immaculately produced mainstay”). And presumably people who bought full-priced subscriptions might be a little brassed off. But it's an interesting example of an arts brand allying with a consumer site (NZSO and TradeMe, anyone?) to get their products in front of a new set of eyballs.