I Value the arts

Monday, 11 June 2012

Feature: Royal Court Sells Friends Down The River

In tough economic times for the arts, membership schemes provide much needed support. Not only do venues benefit from the income such schemes bring but it engenders a sense of brand loyalty from customers in a highly competitive market.

As loyal supporters of your venue you want to keep members on side but it looks like The Royal Court has scored something of an own goal with its announcement of their new season.

A frequent complaint from Royal Court members in the past was that the new season announcement was frequently made only 30 minutes before tickets went on sale, leaving little time to consult diaries and plan your season’s theatre going.

There was therefore something of a collective sigh of relief when the season was announced the day before tickets went on sale.  As emails landed in inboxes it looked a bumper season, with new plays by Jez Butterworth, Caryl Churchill , Martin Crimp, E.V.Crowe, Tarell Alvin McCraney and Lucy Kirkwood.

It is only when scanning further down the email that the good news fades. Under the entry for The River, Jez Butterworth the following is printed in bold text;

Due to anticipated demand we regret that there are no Friends, Stage-Taker or Ice-Breaker tickets available in advance for this production.. ….. “ 

The mail goes on to explain that there are ‘simply not enough tickets’ for friends and supporters to book tickets.

Instead the theatre will be selling the show on a day ticket basis, releasing that day’s seats at 9am daily.
That’s all very well for those with time to either queue or battle the IT to try and obtain tickets each day but what about those who live outside London or whose work schedule precludes them for dropping everything at 9am each day?

Dissatisfaction soon began to be voiced on Twitter and The Royal Court responded….
“We hope this way is fairer - meaning anyone can see the show (not just high level supporters). It's an intimate 3-hander & JTU best suits the play artistically. It's a v small capacity & if sold in advance there wouldn't even be enough tix for members to buy 2 each. We wanted everyone to have a fair chance of seeing Jez's new play.Day seats available online and in-person.”

Fairer yes if you can drop everything at a moment’s notice but judging by the twitter reaction today it’s not a policy that will win The Royal Court many fans.

Did anyone in The Royal Court’s development team seek any feedback before implementing this change of policy?

Membership isn’t cheap but while no scheme can ever guarantee availability for popular shows, there seems to be a complete disregard for loyal customers here.

I for one have today emailed The Royal Court to explain why I won’t be renewing my membership when it expires later this year, transferring my support to organisations who listen to their supporters. I have yet to receive a reply….

RevStan has also eloquently shared her views on the subject here

UPDATE: I've now had a reply from The Royal Court - details here


pcchan1981 said...

Should the run be longer: Yes

Will the 'upstairs is the best place to host this intimate 3-hander' argument be forgotten when this moves somewhere else: Yes

Is it a bit of a slap in the face to memebers: Yes

But as a non-member, I don't have a huge problem with it. I'm sure most people will be able to find a couple of days in the run when they are free at 9am. And simply not everyone who wants to see this will be able to.

I like my idea, just put things upstairs on sale with no playwright, cast or title only the description and then hardened theatre goers will book and all these Johnny come latelys who fancy seeing the new Jez Butterworth or Sally Hawkins won't say they didn't have an equal chance.

nick730 said...

What's been a bit buried under this as well is that members now have NO advance access to ANY £10 Monday tickets Upstairs, those are all now day seats.

The RC seem to think its friends and members all belong to that part of the audience who rattle their jewelry instead of clapping, when in fact for a lot of us it's an expense worth paying so we can save pennies on £10 seats in the long run. So for those of us this is another slap in the face. Two years ago membership got you advance booking to all £10 tickets, now it gets you access to 50% of them, on 50% of the shows, not including the harder-to-get ones. I wonder, if every membership renewal email had to prominently include a list of membership benefits that had been taken away since the last year, how many people would renew?

nikki said...

Being a Royal Court (RC) member I think for this show it is fair, especially when you have a membership that outstrips capacity. When you look at bigger theatres like National Theatre who have 3 tier priority booking for members, by the time public booking opens most of the best dates and cheaper prices (preview) are gone (especially on shorter runs)
I think there are just snatching for answers with their rebuff of it being staged upstairs because of it being an imitate 3 hander, when a play like Constellations (2-hander) being transferred to the Duke Your Theatre (when I heard this, I was a bit complex on how it will work having seen it at RC in Feb)
But I agree with nick730 I’m not happy that "all £10 Monday tickets Upstairs" are now not avail to members in advance – I think releasing 50% of tkts to members worked.

It is all a marketing poly YES – RC have to compete and make money! DCMS and ACE are cutting back on the arts dramatically. It’s more than likely that the show will transfer to west-end and RC will see their member right – I love the RC and have faith in them!

I just hope we don’t end up like NYC where theatres not touts charge £300+ for premium seats

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