Arts presenters propose recession deals

Posted on: February 17, 2009

In Saturday’s (2/14) Wall Street Journal, John Jurgensen reports, “Many cultural groups, hit hard by the recession, are slashing prices at the box office. It’s a controversial tactic in the arts world, where profits are always hard-won. But by offering low prices on high culture, the new crop of deals provides an attractive access point, especially for casual fans.” Jurgensen surveys the packages presented by several organizations around the country, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, among others. “To sidestep a potential pricing trap, the major arts presenters in Portland, Ore., formed a temporary coalition to boost attendance citywide. A ticket stub for a February performance at one of eight local groups can be turned in for a deal at any of the other participating groups. … The idea was hatched by Elaine Calder, president of the Oregon Symphony, who sent an email to her local colleagues last November that detailed her plan to pull in patrons who might be staying home instead of, say, taking a ski vacation.” Although drops in the endowment and donations put pressure on paid attendance, “Ms. Calder says she’s more focused on audience size than margins. ‘Nobody feels good in a half-empty house. Audiences feel better when their decision is validated by the full seats around them,’ she says.”