Price perception, ticket prices & booking fees

Several articles in the media this month about ticket pricing, especially the escalation in prices in the West End. For example, this interesting article in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago. It’s such a complicated area. There are lots of extreme examples of very high and very low prices.

I think it’s fanciful that commercial producers are using airline pricing models to make lower price tickets more accessible – their only obligation is maximising income. But of course there is some marketing mileage in being seen to be accessible – it helps generate the kind of media coverage we’re seeing again now. Where there is an element of public subsidy, there is more likely to be a balance between financial & social objectives.

What seems to be missing from these discussions is a consideration of price perception. Everyone has a different ‘value for money’ threshold; a different frame of reference. Low prices can be off-putting and cheapen the experience. High prices can be justified by a rarity factor, but again this is in the eye of the beholder.

Meanwhile, the issue of booking fees (or whatever you call them) remains a lottery. The most interesting one I’ve seen in recent times is the decision by the New Theatre and St David’s Hall in Cardiff to charge a fee for all transactions – even those made by cash in person at the box office. So it’s now impossible to purchase tickets at face value. I had previously understood the rules to be that you had to offer a fee-free option somehow (usually cash in person), but now that’s been ignored. If it’s impossible to pay £20 for a £20 ticket, is that still a £20 ticket? Discuss…

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