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New Policy for NYCB Student Tickets


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#1 britomart

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Posted 01 May 2002 - 08:56 AM

Hello all, and I hope this is the right spot for this post..

I am writing to let BalletAlerters know that NYCB has changed their policy about student tickets. Rather than simply presenting proof that one is a full-time student, one now needs to show proof of age. Student tickets will only be sold to people 29 and younger.

As a Columbia University student who just turned thirty and a former professional dancer, I am concerned about what appears to be a very prejudicial decision, especially considering the fact that many dancers do not have the opportunity to attend college until their late twenties or thirties. We have a very large population of former dancers at Columbia, many of whom are over 29. Besides this section of the student population, many of the people pursuing their graduate education are also over 29, and living on reduced budgets. I would think that NYCB would want to encourage this population to attend the ballet, but this new policy communicates exactly the opposite message.

I have contacted several people at the NYCB administration to attempt to find out why this new requirement was instituted, and unfortunately, they did not know. In fairness, they were extremely helpful, and also indicated surprise that an age restriction had been implemented. I was told that they would welcome feedback about the new policy, and that this feedback could be emailed to clanders@nycballet.com. I believe I speak for many when I say that the support of dedicated, intelligent ballet viewers and supporters like yourselves would mean a great deal both to students who already love the ballet, and those who have yet to be exposed to it. Ballet companies continuously try to distance themselves from the art form's reputation as an elitist one, and I believe that NYCB's decision on this matter is a bad one for the company as well as for its viewers.

Sincerely, britomart (amy rodgers)

#2 BW

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Posted 06 May 2002 - 02:23 PM

Your last sentence says it all. It does not make any sense at all. Thank you for telling us. My email is on its way.

#3 sneds

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Posted 06 May 2002 - 06:22 PM

Hi!
My e-mail is on it's way too. I'm not old enough to be affected yet, but if I start grad school (they allow grad students to get student tickets too) this fall, I will be 30 before I graduate.

Kate

#4 BW

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 07:35 AM

I just thought I would share the response I received to my email to from Director of Research and Online Media
:

Thank you for your interest in New York City Ballet. I would think that
dancers as a class of consumers would care deeply about maintaining the
financial viability of dance companies. NYCB must raise over $19 million this
year alone, in part, to keep prices as reasonable as they are (less than
Broadway, far less than the Metropolitan Opera House). In a post-9/11 world
that is harder than ever before. Dancers, like everyone else, do earn a
living. Most begin before the rest of us. Income distribution begins earlier
in the case of most dancers and ends earlier. Most, if wise, have savings.
What they choose to do with them, as is the case for everyone, is a matter of
personal choice. The argument that enabling Student Rush attendance for any
"student" regardless of age--in their 30's, 40's 50's, or 60's--will somehow
prevent "graying" of the audience is clearly without merit. What you are
asking is that former dancers, as a class of consumers, be given a price
advantage. There are other low-price alternatives for attending New York City
Ballet in addition to Student Rush. The Company makes available the Fourth
Ring Society where tickets can be secured for $12 each with a $15 annual membership.

Sincerely,


I have to admit that I'd forgotten about the Fourth Ring Society. :D

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 07:40 AM

Thanks for posting that, BW. I think it's impressive that the writer seemed to respond to your email in particular, and made a good case for the company's reasons for this policy.

The Fourth Ring Society does provide a very reasonably priced alternative.

#6 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 08:20 AM

I do agree with the comment that Fourth Ring Society is an alternative, but I think the company might want to rethink its response, especially something like this:

Dancers, like everyone else, do earn a living. Most begin before the rest of us. Income distribution begins earlier in the case of most dancers and ends earlier. Most, if wise, have savings. What they choose to do with them, as is the case for everyone, is a matter of personal choice.


That's ignorant enough of the reality of dancers outside of NYCB to verge on callous. NYCB dancers are among the highest paid in the country; the income level for dancers is far lower for the vast majority of them, most barely earn a living, and full time college education will cost far more than any earned in their career. Most are barely able to pay their rent on their salaries, much less have any sort of savings.

While the Fourth Ring Society members and Student Rush ticket buyers may not provide NYCB with much revenue, they are the loyal fans who go as often as they can. Even if it's reasonable to want to preserve your income stream, I hope they will be careful about the ill-will they might engender on the way. Maybe it's not probable statistically, but today's over-30 graduate student really could be tomorrow's donor.

NYCB has a right to preserve an income stream, and also a right to attempt to target student discounts to those who receive benefit from them, but I'd think a far more empathetic reply would be wiser. NYCB has always done a good job of providing affordable tickets by several methods, including the Fourth Ring Society and a liberal standing room policy, but I was frankly a good deal more sympathetic to NYCB's position before I read this response.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 08:31 AM

I have no way of knowing how many students are really students who can't afford the tickets and how many were like my classmates at Georgetown when I was in graduate school there -- 30 and 40 year olds with very good jobs who took one night course a semester and one of their chief motivations was to get a student ID so they could get the student discounts. (This isn't supposition; this is from hearing them talk!)

I can also be somewhat sympathetic to the company from personal experience in a parallel universe. When DanceView was Washington DanceView, we were under constant pressure to cover everything -- not just review it, but run big features and interviews on all local companies, big and small. (Well, yes, but you can't do 30 of them in each issue and one has to choose.) I was constantly getting letters and phone calls literally demanding coverage and lecturing me on how I had a duty to the community -- yet very few dancers subscribed. They wanted the magazine free, too. Some probably couldn't afford the $2 it then cost per issue, but many certainly could.

I'm sure there are students for whom the new policy is a hardship, and there are undoubtedly students who do not abuse student IDs. This post is just to say there is another side :D

#8 justafan

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 09:21 AM

When I first read this thread, I thought "well, why should 30-year-old grad students pay less than anyone else?" Using that logic, we should all pay based on a "needs" basis, which of course is not only impractical but, imo, not right.

Then I got to thinking about my own journey to becoming a ballet fan, and I remembered that I first started going to dance performances regularly when I was an undergrad. "Twofers" to Alvin Ailey, Joffrey, and some other modern dance troupes were distributed in college offices and I figured I'd go. That's not quite the same thing as discount student tickets, but I could imagine that students might call the box office inquiring into student discounts and be told simply that they were unavailable.

My point is that the Fourth Ring society is a great alternative for people of more limited means who are already interested in NYCB and plan to go more than once a season. Those who are just beginning to sample the cultural experiences of the city might simply bypass NYCB, to NYCB's likely detriment.

I do agree that the response to the query was somewhat rude and defensive (even if I agree with some of its sentiments) but I wouldn't hold it against the NYCB management in general. In my experience running large scale web sites and magazines, the person who responds to email -- regardless of title -- might not always be someone with the political skills necessary to deal with the public . Strange, but true.

#9 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 09:28 AM

I think you're quite right Alexandra, and I know it from similar experience - some people who use a student (or senior) discounts to my concerts really need it, some take it simply because it's available. It's not that simple to target a discount so that it covers the people who need it without letting others through the cracks. And on the producer's side, people forget that imany organizations large and small depend on earned revenue from subscriptions or ticket sales just to survive.

I was considering making a single "low-income" discount at my own concerts (because that really does target exactly whom I want to give a discount to), but the problem is, I think people would find it humiliating. If there are any marketers out there, I think a discussion of the theory behind ticket discounting might prove quite enlightening.

I think NYCB has a point trying to keep discount misuse to a minimum. The trick is to try and enforce it without engendering ill-will or bad publicity.

Justafan - I do think any not-for-profit organization (such as NYCB) should provide its benefits to people who might not be able to afford a full-price ticket. It's part of the point of being a not-for-profit organization. And as you rightly point out, in the long run, it's to the organization's benefit as well.

#10 sneds

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 09:47 AM

Hi!
I have not received a response from NYCB...I am intrigued as to how they will respond to my particular e-mail.

First of all, I would think that the student rate is (and if not should be) restricted to full-time students, since part-time students (like those Alexandra mentioned) are more likely to be able to afford full-price tickets.
Also, remember that unlike 4th ring memebership, student tickets are for whatever seats remain-sometimes orchestra/2nd or 3rd ring.

However, I still think that NYCB is ignoring the financial reality that many younger AND older undergraduates and grad students face. Just because one enters school later on, it does not mean that one has more financial resources-money saved goes to tuition and living expenses, since some post-grad study precludes being able to hold more than a very part-time job. These are the type of people who may only be able to attend a peformance a season-4th ring membership is not a bargain.

And I would agree that the response is very callous when it comes to the realities of most dancers.
Kate

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 09:50 AM

I think what Leigh wrote -- "It's not that simple to target a discount so that it covers the people who need it without letting others through the cracks" -- is at the nub of this. If I were used to getting a particular discount, I'd be very upset if it were discontinued.

I also agree with all the comments that have been made (on this thread and others) that if tickets were cheaper, more people would go. One of the biggest losses, I think, to ballet companies is the regular viewer who would go not just to each program, but to each cast. That's certainly what I did in my standing room days -- and I could do it for TWO DOLLARS a night! This is 20 years ago. Standing room is around $20 here, and I don't think most salaries have gone up 10 times in the last 20 years.

At $2 a night, I could easily afford $16 for a whole week of standing room. I couldn't have afforded $80 a week -- $10 was the cost of an orchestra seat then. (Personally, I'd rather stand than see anything from the fourth ring, or even third ring. The second tier at the Kennedy Center (in essence a third ring, because there's a box tier) is to high for me. I don't want to only see patterns, I don't want to watch ballet through opera glasses the whole night, and I hate heights!)

I always wished there could be the equivalent of a Frequent Flyer program for ballet fans. At the Kennedy Center, on all but the most popular nights these days, the last few rows of the center orchestra and the back sides of the orchestra are often empty. I'd rather see those seats filled. But again, there's the problem of how to structure it.

#12 Juliet

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 11:38 AM

Am I correct in thinking that Student Rush and student discount tickets are $10?
Fourth Ring society tickets are $12.
You ask for a yearly membership ($25) as a birthday/holiday present and save the aggravation for the Met prices, I'd think!

NYCB tickets are a BARGAIN when one looks at the prices at Kennedy Center, and right across the Plaza at the Met....the Kirov tickets for the upcoming run in July are right up there in the Upper Regions. ABT tickets at the Met are no bargain, unless one sits up with the gods.

I don't mean to sound callous, and I do understand the thrust of the objection, but tickets for a movie right up the street on 68th are $10.

Come to Washington and we'll show you ridiculous ticket prices....;)

#13 Estelle

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 02:53 PM

As someone who turned 27 recently and realized in the last two years that in France there are a lot of things which are cheaper for students under 27, 26 or 27 (or often for everybody under that age), in cultural institutions but also for trains, subway, or even insurances (and turning 27 doesn't make you become magically richer), I can understand Britomart's original message... :)

And while I understand the fact that the NYCB does need as much money as possible to balance its budget, I'm afraid that if I had received a message with that tone my reaction would have been something like "next time I'm able to make a donation, I'll give it to some other institution" or even "next time I have to choose between two programs, I'll chose another one". There were ways to explain they did need more money without writing something so rude and sounding like "you stupid, you should have saved more money and shut your mouth!" :)

Most French theaters do have lower prices for several categories of people (depending on the theaters, it might include people under 18 or 25, students, people over 65, unemployed people, large
families, etc.) Considering that those institutions are subsidized by the state, the regions or the cities, it sounds quite normal to me that they should make some effort to be available to as many people as possible. The Paris Opera is an exception: there are special prices for students, people under 26 or over 65 and unemployed people but only for the seats which are left 15 minutes before the show (which means that there often are no such seats, and that when there are some, you have to stand up for at least one hour to hope to get one). Also there is a "under 26" special price, but only for a handful of shows every season (and for the dance it's mostly contemporary stuff), and only at the box-office and for a limited number of seats, so in all the years when I was in that age category I never could use if once. Considering that the Paris Opera is *by far* the most subsidized cultural institution in France, I find that policy a bit shocking.

#14 BW

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 04:36 PM

I am really glad this has engendered some lively and thoughtful responses. I hope you all will email them to the address that britomart gave us at the beginning because, maybe, just maybe it will sink in.

Your reactions are all slightly different which is great. I think you can guess what I wrote so I'm not sure if it's necessary that I post it...maybe I should just for the sake of accuracy in the media ;):

My first email.:It has come to my attention that NYCB has a new policy regarding "student" tickets and that there is now an age limit of 29. Since most dancers do not start their college education until their mid 30, or even later, it seems very short sighted to limit the age group in this way.

Let's face it, unless they were very fortunate they are now living on limited funds and thus cannot easily foot the higher ticket prices that the general audience pays. It would seem to me that in order to keep the audience from going completely gray, one might want to encourage students, of just about any age, to come to the ballet by keeping at least their ticket prices reasonable. Plus, students with any luck "grow up" to be a more moneyed class eventually...and will become your greatest supporters.

My response to NYCB's email. I'm sorry to say that I wimped out a bit here!
I appreciate your quick, personal response to my email. And, you do make a good point about the Fourth Ring Society - I'd forgotten about that one!

Just so you know, I am a supporter of NYCB and I am not a former dancer - although my young daughter hopes to be a professional one day. I realize there is much we do not know about the financial workings of an organization such as NYCB and that maintaining NYCB and helping it to continue to move forward must be a daunting task. I realize now, that my initial email might have been a bit presumptuous and I apologize for that, if that is how you perceived it.

I just know that many ballet companies find that they are not reaching as broad an audience as they would like - broad in the sense of socioeconomic terms and that it is important to keep in mind the long-term view of audience growth and financial participation. As you say, financial choices are made at different times in one's life. Perhaps you are right that a certain group should not be given special treatment but I hadn't really envisioned giving a discount to a student in their 50s! Where does one draw the line? I take your point - that defining line of demarcation is a tough one. Many places my 7th grade daughter is not considered a student and thus I pay full price for her....and I may be just as strapped as the ex-dancer.

I appreciate your writing back to me and have now adjusted my thinking a bit...although I am still sympathetic to some of our "starving artists".

The last response I got was much more polite :) Thanks for your note. Understanding all round always helps.


As I said, I wimped out. I hope that others will send their own emails and/or real letters to others besides this particular person, for as I think it was Leigh who said - often the people who answer these sorts of emails are not skilled in the arts of diplomacy or longterm fundraising! :)

#15 britomart

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Posted 07 May 2002 - 07:37 PM

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who's responded to this post, and especially, those who have contacted Carol Landers. I am going to email the larger Columbia community as well--it may actually intrigue enough people that NYCB ends up with more viewers, rather than less!

Ms. Landers also reminded me about Fourth Ring Society. It certainly is a good alternative to student rush, but that still does not mitigate the fact that one's student status is "taken away" in the eyes of NYCB because of one's age. I thought Leigh's response was very well-said--many, if not most dancers spend their careers making ends meet, and then take out a huge amount of money to attain a college education.

As already stated, an equal concern of mine is the larger student community. It's rather amazing how many graduate students are over thirty for various compelling reasons. Among those I know, one is grand master--not very wealthy, but the subject of the film "Searching for Bobby Fisher"--another was an EMT for years, and is now in medical school at Columbia--a huge commitment both in terms of time and money. Should either of these people be denied student tickets?

The world has changed a great deal. People change careers and pursue postgraduate degrees at every age. This is to everyone's advantage: it represents an increase in possibilities and in flexibility for us all. I understand that the arts community is trying to survive in a post-9/11 world, but it, like all of us, must be ready for its changes. One of these is the reality that people have more than one career (even, in many cases more than two) in their lifetime--sometimes out of desire, sometimes out of necessity. Ideally, I would want ballet (or, more accurately, ballet administrations) to have the flexibility to survive this world as well. To do this, it must be aware of what those changes are. That is why your responses and opinions are so important. If nothing else, it's informing the company's administrators of the existence of changes against which it might otherwise be insulated.

In short, it's about more than the extra $2!!!java script:smilie(';)')
wink

Thanks again to all, and I'll keep you posted!! (hopefully about performances too!)

britomart


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