For the past few months, the SPCO has been experimenting with on-line coupons to reach new audiences. This is part of our multi-year plan to expand our audience using non-traditional and grassroots methods. We give more than 100 classical music concerts each year in ten locations around the Twin Cities. Just about half our concerts are performed at the Ordway Center in downtown St Paul; the remainder are in surrounding communities, including Minneapolis. One hundred concerts translates to a lot of tickets, and our goal is full houses for every single concert. We are especially eager to fill unsold seats with new audiences, and so we have been trying many different ideas to learn what works for us.
Last week we had some interesting results with a (not Groupon) online coupon offer, which seems especially timely because of the news stories last week about Google and Groupon (click here for the NY Times’ Freakonomics blog entry, “Why Groupon works.” ) Here’s some history. In May 2010 we had our first on-line coupon venture through Groupon, and sold about 80 coupons for a specific concert last season (of which 60 were actually redeemed for tickets). Our next test was through Travelzoo. In October, we offered an inexpensive two-concert “flex pack” for the current season, and sold more than 500 of them — a very good result (we won’t know the redemption for a while since the passes are good for a few more months). But then last week we had an even more fun experience. We offered a season pass for Thursday and Friday night concerts for the rest of this season through Living Social, and sold more than 1400 passes — an amazing number for a one-day sale!
It will take some time to see how many coupon purchasers redeem their coupons for tickets, how many purchasers turn out to be new to our audience database, and how many attend again without the benefit of a coupon. We know now that short-term, we are seeing a significant gain in new audiences through these and other non-traditional and grassroots methods.
Media reports about the public’s waning interest in classical music concerts would do well to more carefully examine what’s being done to lower or remove barriers to attendance. Our work is showing us that when concerts are accessible and affordable, more people will attend, and more frequently. Of course it starts with giving memorable, riveting concerts, otherwise new audiences will not return! We have our SPCO musicians to thank for their exciting performances that give new audiences plenty of reason to look forward to their next SPCO concert.
If you are having good results from online coupons it would be interesting to hear about it.