How To Win Over Twenty-Somethings: Wine, Snacks and Cheap Tickets

Today’s guest post is written by Daniel Pesick, Associate Product Manager here at Patron Technology.

Get young people to attend your shows

Much time and effort is spent making sure students want to and can afford to come to your shows. This is great! But what happens when students are no longer students and yet don’t really have the extra dough to spend on tickets?

It’s in our twenties that we really solidify our routines and spending habits for the rest of our lives. (And who better to speak about this than someone in their twenties like me?) Will the performing arts be a part of my routine? They will be if you, as a performing arts organization, engage your twenty-something audience with programs and events designed specifically for them.

Think about it: the most passionate portion of your audience might actually be those who are no longer eligible for student discounts. Many twenty-somethings desperately want to see your performances, and, given the current economic climate, probably can’t afford your $75 tickets. (If your organization’s tickets aren’t that expensive, keep reading! There’s plenty that you can be doing, too!) So how do you get this audience to show up? Try doing what literally every major theater company in New York City has done: start a discount ticket program and social group for twenty-somethings!

I spoke with Caitlin Baird, who manages the 30 Under 30 program for Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC). 30 Under 30 offers two $30 tickets to anyone age thirty or younger to every performance of every production MTC produces. According to Baird, the program “launched in 2008 with an effort to solidify our commitment to building a younger audience for the future and engaging them in a deeper way.” It’s free to join, and all of the communication happens via e-mail.

But 30 Under 30 does more than just offer discounted tickets. At least once during the run of each production there’s a free post-show party that all 30 Under 30 members are invited to. Tickets for these nights sell out almost immediately. There’s wine and snacks (two things that will guarantee attendance), and often times appearances by cast and crew members. (Suggestion: Have a local shop sponsor the party by providing wine. You’ll get free booze and they’ll get free advertisement.) The parties aren’t exactly exclusive — anyone who’s in their twenties and bought a 30 Under 30 ticket for that evening can show up — but they definitely feel fairly private and special. It certainly felt that way the night that I was able to rub elbows with John Lithgow. Baird is excited about these soirees; “The parties are very popular,” she says. “We’ve noticed we have some return visitors who come back to the parties, so it’s been great to develop relationships with them.” She’s thrilled by the sense of community that’s building within her program, and she should be!

MTC isn’t the only organization doing this kind of program, and you should check out some of the others while deciding what types of benefits you want to offer your twenty-something audience. Roundabout Theatre Company’s HipTix, Playwrights Horizons’s Young Memberships, and The Steppenwolf’s RED Card are all excellent and varied examples of these kinds of programs. And the American Museum of Natural History occasionally hosts Tweetups, which while not specifically targeted at this age group certainly create a similar sense of community, and in my experience could possibly be the best way to see the museum. A recap of one such event can be seen here.

But how can you tell if your program is successful? Even if a ton of young people show up for free booze, it’s difficult to know how many of them you’ll actually be able to convert to full-on subscribers once they’ve aged out. Baird admits she doesn’t yet have any answers for this; 30 Under 30 is only about 5 years old, so this data simply doesn’t yet exist.

While MTC works out the next steps in engagement for this group, Baird points to some other evidence of the program’s worth. Across the board, MTC has noticed an increase in ticket sales since 30 Under 30 launched. And perhaps the most telling number of all is 30 Under 30 membership. What started as a program of only 200 people has grown to 12,000 in just five years. If those are 12,000 twenty-somethings that MTC wouldn’t have reached before, then this is obviously a major win.

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