SOR 043: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Free Tickets

How you give away tickets can mean the difference between increasing future ticket sales and shooting yourself in the foot.

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Giving away free tickets can be a polarizing topic. Most (although not all) theatres would prefer to be selling all of their tickets, but when does it make sense to give away a complimentary ticket?

I’m not focusing in this episode on press passes (always good) or providing comps for your cast and crew (an operational issue – not marketing). I’m talking about giving away tickets to people in your local community with the objective of growing your audience.

The real problem with giving away tickets is that it has the potential to devalue your offering. You don’t want to create the impression that your production isn’t worth paying money to see.

In this episode:

  • why anyone would paper the house – the need behind it makes a certain kind of sense
  • what papering the house actually does – it isn’t effective at growing your audience and can actually hurt your future marketing efforts
  • training your audience on the value of a ticket – if you tell your audience they should expect your tickets to be free or discounted, they will believe you
  • the message behind free tickets – how different setups for free tickets send a different message to the general public
  • the rule of thumb for examining free ticket ideas – Does giving away this ticket make tickets to this show seem more desirable or less?

Items mentioned:


Your experience: Think about the last time you gave away tickets. How did you do it, and do you think it ultimately helped you?

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