LITTLEJOHN COLISEUM SITS on the beautiful Clemson
University campus in Clemson, South Carolina. We would be considered at
best a secondary market. The slowly recovering economy has all of us
venue managers wondering when the economy will finally turn around and
our public will have some additional discretionary funds to buy tickets
to our events. As we are all charged with increasing bottom lines and
filling seats, we have to work together to change the philosophy on
comps, papering and BOGO’s (buy one, get one free). Our team at
Littlejohn Coliseum has discovered a few things that make this process a
benefit to the venue and the artist.
I know we have all had shows where we were planning on
selling thousands of tickets and for some unknown reason the tickets
just don’t move as expected. So you try spending additional marketing
dollars and make a last ditch push but it really doesn’t help you move
tickets. So what now? The agent calls you and says that you need to
start doing BOGO’s, comping and maybe even papering the show. All venue
managers hate this call and in most cases don’t want to load up our
market with free tickets or discount them the week before the show. We
all know that the second our market thinks we will always discount right
before the show everyone will wait to buy their tickets at the last
second. Venue managers count on those early sales numbers to plan and
make sure they have adequate staffing and production for the show. So
what do we do at Littlejohn Coliseum? We print our own vouchers to use
instead of giving out hundreds of comp tickets. The voucher must be
returned to the box office the night of the show properly signed by one
of our facility’s employees. The box office employee will then print
them a comp ticket of a section that needs to be filled.
Many of you may ask why go to the hassle of creating
vouchers when you could just give away those tickets – here’s why.
vouchers? You can easily code
your vouchers so you can track who actually used the tickets. For
example, if you gave 50 tickets to three different companies or service
groups in your community you could easily track which group actually
used the vouchers. Also, I have noticed that taking a voucher to a
business and signing my name to validate it in front of them is better
received then me giving them a handful of comps. Most people don’t
understand the cost of giving away free tickets. Most of the people that
receive vouchers from me think of it more as a gift certificate instead
of a ticket that didn’t cost us anything. Also, that additional face
time gives you a chance to make an additional contact in the community
and explain why you are able to give away a few free tickets.
Another reason we like using vouchers is that people
are less likely to scalp or sell a voucher. A fan is less likely to buy
a voucher created by the facility for fear of it being counterfeit or
against the law.
The artist and/or tour management also like the idea of
the voucher once you get a chance to explain it to them. In our
experience it has not been hard to sell them on vouchers. The reason
being is that most of the time the artist wants a certain arena seating
section full. In most cases you can’t guarantee that if you give comp
tickets to someone that they are going to come and fill those empty
seats. However, when someone brings their voucher to the box office to
be redeemed at the show you can immediately feel comfortable that those
seats will not be left empty. If you need to fill section 101 before
section 102 the box office staff now has the control to fill the seats
at the request of the artist’s management. You no longer have the
problem of 20 people in one section and 40 in another section with
numerous seats left open with comp tickets that didn’t get redeemed.
Our box office manager Alanna Waldrop says, “The
voucher takes care of the fan and makes sure that the tickets are being
used and not wasted. Also, I have control over where I’m seating those
fans. In most cases it adds work for the box office but seeing that fan
with the large smile saying ‘I really got a free ticket’ is worth it in
the end.” The voucher also gives you an additional way to communicate
with the fan. The voucher can be used to discuss where to park, how to
sign up for the fan club, or even market some future events in your
facility. Be creative and make papering, comping or BOGOing a beneficial
piece to your facility. Next time you have to paper or give out comps
for a show, try creating a voucher and create some of the same benefits
we enjoy here at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Dusty Saine is assistant general manager of
Littlejohn Coliseum at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina.
Contact him at email@example.com.