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The Editor’s View: Honesty is best policy on ticket prices

SOLT's ticket office in Leicester Square, London. Photo: Thinglass/Shutterstock.com SOLT's ticket office in Leicester Square, London. Photo: Thinglass/Shutterstock.com
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West End ticket prices are a thorny subject.

Part of the reason for this is that there’s not a lot of clear data available around how much tickets actually tend to cost the end user, or indeed what most people are actually paying for their tickets. This is due to a mixture of a lack of transparency, an increasingly prevalent discount culture, and the fragmented nature of West End theatre ticketing. Seats are sold through multiple channels, often at wildly different prices.

In the face of this lack of clarity, there is an understandable focus on the price of the best seats in the house (fuelled in part by the media and surveys such as ours) and the bottom price tickets (fuelled by producers trying to convince the public that their offering is affordable).

But, of course, most shows have tickets at a range of price points, and most people end up paying somewhere in-between top and bottom price.

So why do consumers, producers and reports, such as the one we feature this week, focus on top and bottom-price tickets? Because that is the data that is easily and publicly available.

There is a lot of resistance within the West End community to publishing box office takings and attendances for individual shows, but this is an area where it could clearly be of benefit. In New York, you can work out what the average ticket price paid is for every show on Broadway by dividing its weekly gross by its audience figures.

The West End does itself a disservice by not being more transparent – at least around individual shows’ average ticket prices. We know that the average price paid across all major London theatres is about £43. But this figure mixes together tickets for subsidised theatre, opera, dance et al with the commercial West End. There’s no way of knowing what the average prices paid for individual shows are (is Show A actually more expensive to see than Show B?), nor what the average price for a West End musical or commercial play is. And there’s no way of calculating it using publicly available information.

That means that the only figures that the media and the public can compare easily from one show to the next are the top-price tickets and the bottom-price tickets. We’d get a fairer perception of the true cost of a West End ticket if producers were willing to make more data publicly available.

Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk

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