Someone asked on Twitter "are the arts a luxury good?"
I believe that most of the live performance arts (theatre, dance, classical music, etc.) are a luxury good. I could probably make a case for other art forms as well.
Luxury isn't just about ticket or admission price, even though that is a factor. It's also about having the extra income to afford the things surrounding the art, parking, dinner after the show, etc. Plus you need to have the free time necessary to see the work.
So you need the benefit of free time and extra income. To me, that is what makes these sorts of things a luxury good. That's why I believe that we can learn a lot from how other luxury goods are marketed.
That's what I was thinking when I was at the Ritz Carlton in San Juan a few days ago. Let's start with the basic problem every hotel in the area has:
1. There are a lot of rooms available
2. Price is very visible. Due to the abundance of travel sites you can easily compare prices and get the lowest one if you want.
3. Hotel rooms are basically the same. Sure, there is a some variance in terms of room size, quality of furnishing, etc. but most rooms have the same general layout.
So how does the Ritz Carlton get away with charging 2 to 3 times as much as some competitors?
They understand that they are dealing with people who have money and time. Because they have money and time they also have options.
Service is the thing they use to stand out. They invest heavily in training their front of house staff (reception, valet, bell desk, etc.) and they have a clearly defined, high standard, for how that staff should treat guests.
It's the little things. If you ask someone where a bar, restaurant or bathroom is they don't just point, they walk you to the location. If you stay there more then a day, someone is going to learn your name and use it regularly.
These things don't cost anything, but they make a huge difference.
Contrast that to the level of service patrons of the arts often get. How often are patrons, even those paying $100's per ticket, rushed through a lobby? How often are box office people encourage to get people off the phone as quickly as possible?
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
How often are ushers, box office people, etc. considered the lowest rung of the organizational totem pole? Not only are many of them the lowest paid but they have the least amount of clout/respect within the organization.
If service can separate organizations like the Ritz Carlton, Zappos and Southwest from the pack what can you do for an arts organization or an individual artist?
That's a question worth exploring.
Maybe it's time for the arts to have a service revolution.