Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Crowded Fire Gets 'Free Night' Right

Perusing Chad Jones' Theater Dogs blog this morning and saw this:

"Crowded Fire has announced that for its next production, Wreckage by Caridad Svich, running May 9 through June 6, there will be free tickets for the unemployed."

Bingo. Well friggin done. This has been an unofficial, never-made-public (til now) policy at PianoFight since we started. Usually it plays out something like this:

CastMember: Hey, my friend really wants to see the show, but he's broke.
PianoFight: How broke?
CastMember: Dead broke.
PianoFight: Dead broke?
CastMember: AIG broke.
PianoFight: All right we'll put him on the comp list.

If somebody really can't afford to see the show, but is dying to do so, then we'll comp 'em. Crowded Fire is doing it more officially by asking for a pink slip or unemployment check to verify the ticket buyer's brokeness.

This is great, and the company should be commended for doing so. This is the type of community building idea that benefits everyone - the ticket receiver gets to see a show for free and Crowded Fire has now made a fan for life who, if he likes the show, will definitely come back and pay once he's back on his feet.

Furthermore, it's a far better and more effective idea than the much ballyhooed "Free Night of Theater," which encourages companies to give away their product in the hopes that it will attract a new audience.

How are the two different you ask? It's a psychological difference. By offering free tickets to the unemployed, Crowded Fire is helping out a specific subset of people. The tickets aren't free for everyone, just those without jobs, who should get a little help in these tough times. And because Crowded Fire is helping them, they're far more likely to return the favor by paying for a show down the road. If you give away the product to everyone, it's no longer a special favor, rather, it's a marketing gimmick, and the recipients of that marketing gimmick are less likely to return the favor as it wasn't really a favor to begin with.

All in all, Crowded Fire is doing a great thing with this promotion, and I'd be curious to know the numbers on it. Always a pleasure to see local companies getting it right.

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