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NYC Ballet PricesAudience Member Goes on Strike


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#46 richard53dog

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 06:00 AM

Let's see. Premium orchestra seats at the Met can go for more than $200-300 depending on location.



Very true, but the Met hasn't collapsed their pricing scheme into a narrow range.

I just subscription brochure and the MEt is still selling Family Circle tickets for a subscription price of $25 (except on Saturdays) Single ticket sales may be a bit higher. But the MEt is giving their audience plenty of options from those who can afford the $350 seats and want a really good view and those with really tight budgets who have the choice of "cheap seat" or "no seat".

Shame on NYCB. If they didn't program so many substandard pieces, they might sell more tickets and not have hundred's of seats empty. How did the Balanchine black and white sell, huh? Maybe that should give a hint to the artistic administration.

#47 Eileen

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 06:15 AM

Shame on NYCB. If they didn't program so many substandard pieces, they might sell more tickets and not have hundred's of seats empty. How did the Balanchine black and white sell, huh? Maybe that should give a hint to the artistic administration.


I took advantage of a discount program to get seats to black & white at $55. I know when repertoire is not going to sell at retail.

#48 Amy Reusch

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 06:45 AM

When Balanchine ballets are presented by every high school (or ballet school) in the land, they will be able to charge Broadway prices. This is essentially what they have going for Nutcracker.

I'd really love to see them charge 1970s prices 6 months in advance, 1980s prices 5 months in advance, 1990 prices 4 months in advance, 2000 prices 3 months in advance, 2011 prices 2 months in advance and scalper prices the week of... With student rush for the under 27 the day of.... Seems like this would reward loyalty and fill the house while building buzz and maintaining some degree of exclusivity for those who thrive on that.

#49 Eileen

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 06:56 AM

When Balanchine ballets are presented by every high school (or ballet school) in the land, they will be able to charge Broadway prices. This is essentially what they have going for Nutcracker.

I'd really love to see them charge 1970s prices 6 months in advance, 1980s prices 5 months in advance, 1990 prices 4 months in advance, 2000 prices 3 months in advance, 2011 prices 2 months in advance and scalper prices the week of... With student rush for the under 27 the day of.... Seems like this would reward loyalty and fill the house while building buzz and maintaining some degree of exclusivity for those who thrive on that.


You reminded me of a golden moment in my younger life, when I was in college and could not afford to sit in the orchestra. I was standing in line before the performance for a ticket, and a stranger offered me without charge an orchestra ticket she couldn't use. It was for the shockingly expensive price of $20. This was probably around 1981-82. I was so grateful. Imagine - $20 for an orchestra ticket 30 years ago!

#50 puppytreats

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:12 AM

The Yankees, like all major league baseball teams, play 162 games in a regular season, half of which are at home and all of which are televised. Yankee Stadium seats 50,000 (52,000 if you count standing room), so I don't think scarcity really explains the ticket prices at Yankee stadium. Even a seat at the tip-top of the grandstand will set you back $30.

The sad fact is, live events are expensive -- even when a lucrative television contract provides a substantial subsidy!

Although ... you can see some mighty fine dance (and bona-fide downtown dance stars) for next-to-nothing at venues like Dance Theater Workshop or, for a little bit more than next-to-nothing, at venues like the Joyce. You'll likely get recorded music and minimal sets and costumes, and yes, sometimes the choreography is just plain awful. But it can be just plain awful at Lincoln Center too ...




- I don't think this strategy has proven successful in baseball. Stadiums are routinely empty. Major revenue derives from television broadcasts. Expensive seating permits corporations or the very wealthy to buy the good seats to the exclusion of average or poorer individual fans. This way, the best seats can be obtained without competition, and interaction can be limited. These decisions occurred before the recession. Major discounts followed after the initial failure when new stadiums opened and were left with empty seats. Therefore, pricing in the sports arena does not serve as a valid or good comparison.

#51 Trini

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:28 AM

Good points. Sorry to hear the house is not filled which may have something to do with the house prices. Maybe NYCB should decrease prices in the house to 3rd and 4th ring prices and leave the 3rd and 4th rings alone. BTW the third ring is always full or near full on the days I attended. Do not know about the 4th ring but the few times I have sat there on single ticket purchase it was full too. I think that NYCB is going the way of all entities now, emulating for profit companies with shareholders, that is the changes happening in all nonprofit companies, education, health care etc. A business model that emphasizes the bottom line above all. Hope is that it can retain the spirit of adventure and risk taking with high level of choreography that its founders envisioned. Hard to do if profit reigns supreme, but not impossible, I hope. I wonder what Balanchine and Kirstein would have done? From what I read they always seemed to have unique perspectives when times got tough, like they are now economically (and for the theatre goers too, not just the NYCB).

#52 Drew

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:40 AM

I took advantage of a discount program to get seats to black & white at $55. I know when repertoire is not going to sell at retail.


...I am curious just how well the Balanchine black and white week sold--and whether it sold at retail indeed. I had also assumed that the reason NYCB is scheduling more full length works is that those are the top sellers even if they are not the works I (and many fans) most want to see them dance.

When I read on this board that it's Swan Lake that's selling fabulously at NYCB, I have to ask if the audience really IS what it WAS at NYCB not when it comes to this or that individual (I consider myself an 'old timer' as would many on this board), but on the level of numbers that make a real economic difference to their bottom line.

That said, I think it is very unfortunate that the company has introduced such an abrupt change and caused such distress and anger; and it may not serve them well. I do think the issue is not profit, but sustainability on their current scale (size of company, length of seasons, range of repertory, production values, costs of State/Koch theater, pay-scale for dancers etc. etc. (I guess they might cut staff or staff pay w/o the audience noticing--much--but that's only a small percentage of costs). It has been a long time since this has been the City Center NYCB...but perhaps adjusting the scale would be a better solution than making it impossible for the less well-heeled to attend. It's hard for me to say since I don't know just how greatly it would have to be adjusted and I don't know what the contract issues are. And I remember the anguish when the company laid off a handful of dancers a few years ago.

In that context it's also hard for me to make a serious economic/marketing analysis of what the company is thinking (whether I would agree with it or not): perhaps, depending on what Dan Wakin can find out (probably not much), certain questions could be addressed: is the company's "loyal" audience all that loyal as a group or has it been dropping off in recent years anyway? Was a bigger audience in the expensive seats more or less subsidizing the cheap seats for years--and now, has that subsidy dropped so that the cheap seats are becoming harder and harder to sustain? Do they have hard data about where their audience is growing and does that play a role in the changes etc. etc.?

Regarding the Met: There may still be 'cheap' seats at the Met but I believe they are substantially further away (and I would say worse) than even the 4th ring at NYCB...much worse than the 3rd ring.

#53 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 09:47 AM

Well, the Yanks may be the exception -- they sell out every game at home and often do on the road as well.

#54 richard53dog

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 10:27 AM

Regarding the Met: There may still be 'cheap' seats at the Met but I believe they are substantially further away (and I would say worse) than even the 4th ring at NYCB...much worse than the 3rd ring.



Yes, they certainly are worse than any seats at the NYST, certainly further from the the stage. But at least there is a low cost option for the really cash-strapped.

Also, I wonder what impact this will have on standing room, we are talking about the extreme limit of the cash-challenged. Will that stuill be sold (I have to admit I'm still unclear if the prices have just been really raised on the 3rd and 4th ring or if they will be just not sold for certain perfomances.

#55 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 10:27 AM

Regarding the Met: There may still be 'cheap' seats at the Met but I believe they are substantially further away (and I would say worse) than even the 4th ring at NYCB...much worse than the 3rd ring.


The Met's a peculiar place. The acoustics in the Family Circle (the uppermost ring) are actually splendid -- better, I think than in the front of the orchestra -- but the action on stage does look like it's taking place in a galaxy far, far away. It's not exactly an immersive theatrical experience, but I've enjoyed opera from up there. I can't imagine sitting there for the ballet, however.

I have no idea what NYCB is thinking. Do they save any money by closing down the top of the house? If not, why not let folks sit there? (I know I'd vastly prefer the front of the third ring to the back or sides of the second. But then I prefer the mid-back of the orchestra to the front, so I my seating preferences may be unusual.) A half-full house is a half-full house no matter how the audience is distributed.

The follow up subscription brochure I got does show pricing by section up through the second ring, but states that "new subscriptions are not currently available in Orchestra E or the 3rd and 4rth rings" and shows no pricing for those sections. Do they perhaps plan on transitioning subscribers further down into the house so that they can free up the top of the house for sales of much cheaper single tickets? In other words, if you want good cheap seats you have to take your chances with single ticket purchases -- you can't lock them in with a subscription.

During the recent contract negotiations, the dancers' representatives kept mentioning "the broken subscription model," but didn't say much about how it was broken. I'd love to know what they meant. Perhaps this latest tactic is a way of grappling with whatever the perceived problem is.

#56 Slant

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 11:07 AM

...I am curious just how well the Balanchine black and white week sold--and whether it sold at retail indeed. I had also assumed that the reason NYCB is scheduling more full length works is that those are the top sellers even if they are not the works I (and many fans) most want to see them dance.

When I read on this board that it's Swan Lake that's selling fabulously at NYCB, I have to ask if the audience really IS what it WAS at NYCB not when it comes to this or that individual (I consider myself an 'old timer' as would many on this board), but on the level of numbers that make a real economic difference to their bottom line.

That sad, I think it is very unfortunate that the company has introduced such an abrupt change and caused such distress and anger; and it may not serve them well. I do think the issue is not profit, but sustainability on their current scale (size of company, length of seasons, range of repertory, production values, costs of State/Koch theater, pay-scale for dancers etc. etc. (I guess they might cut staff or staff pay w/o the audience noticing--much--but that's only a small percentage of costs). It has been a long time since this has been the City Center NYCB...but perhaps adjusting the scale would be a better solution than making it impossible for the less well-heeled to attend. It's hard for me to say since I don't know just how greatly it would have to be adjusted and I don't know what the contract issues are. And I remember the anguish when the company laid off a handful of dancers a few years ago.



I would mention that City Ballet is handling so many variables right now that can screw up their cost model.

For one thing, with the loss of City Opera at the Koch Theater, City Ballet is unsure of how much those costs may get shifted to them - and how many dates can be filled by other performing arts organizations to offset those costs. At least for this fall, the prospects are not good for filling dates that City Opera has vacated.

Second, even though they just completed contract negotiation with AGMA for the dancers, it is only for two years. In fact, they will have to commence negotiations for the new contract with the dancers once again in 2012.

All this fuels the uncertainty in their budgeting and forecasting. I would really like to know how many subscribers also are donors. Whether big or small, any contribution would be valued. It's usually the the 80/20 rule. If there were a broader base of donor support for NYCB, maybe they could strive for greater price stability in tickets.

#57 miliosr

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 03:55 PM

I do think the issue is not profit, but sustainability on their current scale (size of company, length of seasons, range of repertory, production values, costs of State/Koch theater, pay-scale for dancers etc. etc. (I guess they might cut staff or staff pay w/o the audience noticing--much--but that's only a small percentage of costs). It has been a long time since this has been the City Center NYCB...but perhaps adjusting the scale would be a better solution than making it impossible for the less well-heeled to attend. It's hard for me to say since I don't know just how greatly it would have to be adjusted and I don't know what the contract issues are. And I remember the anguish when the company laid off a handful of dancers a few years ago.

Your post gets at the true heart of the problem. As insulting and counterproductive as the price increases are, they are only a manifestation of the deep cost problems the company has. It is tied to a particular theater that it is having trouble filling on a nightly basis, it has very high labor costs, it maintains and presents a very large (and expensive) repertory, and it is committed to presenting new (and expensive) works. The nearest thing I can compare City Ballet to is M-G-M circa-1949. That was the year when the famous photo was taken of the studio's enormous roster of stars. But within five years, many of those stars were gone and the studio was contracting rapidly. One reason it contracted so rapidly was because its costs became too high to sustain.

In that context it's also hard for me to make a serious economic/marketing analysis of what the company is thinking (whether I would agree with it or not): perhaps, depending on what Dan Wakin can find out (probably not much), certain questions could be addressed: is the company's "loyal" audience all that loyal as a group or has it been dropping off in recent years anyway? Was a bigger audience in the expensive seats more or less subsidizing the cheap seats for years--and now, has that subsidy dropped so that the cheap seats are becoming harder and harder to sustain? Do they have hard data about where their audience is growing and does that play a role in the changes etc. etc.?

I can't answer your questions but I can offer my purely anecdotal view from attending the matinee performance of Jewels on June 11th. I was surprised to see that the audience (in addition to the almost complete lack of racial/ethnic diversity} was largely middle-aged or older -- the early 20s to early 40s cohort appeared to be entirely absent. Again, my observation is anecdotal and may be entirely unreflective of the "normal" attendee. But, if the audience at that matinee is reflective of the larger audience, then the company is not attracting a materially significant new audience to replace the current audience when -- forgive me -- it dies off.

#58 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 07:01 PM

...I am curious just how well the Balanchine black and white week sold--and whether it sold at retail indeed. I had also assumed that the reason NYCB is scheduling more full length works is that those are the top sellers even if they are not the works I (and many fans) most want to see them dance.


At the three performances I saw that first week, and the matinee of the last day the theater was FULL. And enthusiastic. And very young.

I am aware that a very high percentage of audience members are middle-aged (like myself) and older. We are very aware that if the Company is to survive, they must reach a younger audience. The question is "how?"

For at least the last 10 years there have been "audience surveys" given out after performances, asking about the viewers' age, how long he or she has been coming, how many performances they attend per season. So the Company has all that information at its fingertips. The things that they have attempted to draw in new audiences (the casual photos this year, in the past years the extreme contortions on bus stops, etc.) don't seem to have worked. They keep switching marketing companies and doing whatever these people tell them to do -- and usually these companies have NO idea what ballet is about, and what would draw new people in. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the Corporate hot-shots on the Board of Directors are behind these mis-guided efforts.

#59 abatt

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 04:07 AM

The average age of ballet audiences seems considerably younger than opera audiences. They have played up as much as possible the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker is now on the NYCB Board. Her picture is in the press every time she attends a NYCB gala. This seems like part of their effort to attract a younger audience. Now if they could get Lady Gaga on the Board, that would be a coup.

#60 puppytreats

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 07:42 AM

I have read SJP state that she was told that she had to do nothing to join the board, not even attend the meetings (I am paraphrasing). Apparently, her directorship was for the purpose of media attention. I have read elsewhere that directors must meet certain financial requirements, such as level of donations. I assume these criteria create many problems. Certainly, directors cannot fulfill their fiduciary obligations under the law by not overseeing decisionmaking and by failing to attend meetings. Allowing these statements to go public exposes the organization to further risk (much greater risk than twitter statements by dancers, under the social media policy). Maybe a competent, devoted, qualified board of directors, interested in nonprofit goals rather than vanity and social status, would advance the company's goals.


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