Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals – the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company – with Abigail Trabue.
VIEW FROM THE MEZZANINE
PerformInk Publisher Jason Epperson’s take on the business of producing theater.
First—welcome to this new PerformInk column! I’ll be writing regularly on the ins and outs of producing, marketing, or anything else I want to rant about! I want to kick off this week with something that’s boiling my blood at the moment—Goldstar.
If you aren’t aware, Goldstar bills itself as a “discount club” which allows its members access to big deals (usually half-off) on tickets to events all across the country. Since it launched, Goldstar was a great way to get a lot of people to the theater fast, but like many of the discount sites that have outgrown their discretion, Goldstar has become a problem.
See, many of us bought into this idea that Goldstar peddles—if we get them in the door cheaply the first time, we can convert people to full-price paying customers in the future. The problem is, there is no mechanism for that to happen. We get no customer contact info from Goldstar. We can’t even contact them through Goldstar, send a thank you email…anything. And our dependency on Goldstar has only created an ever-increasing group of Goldstar patrons. A show that gets great Goldstar customer reviews gets promoted by Goldstar, so we’re encouraged to get a lot of people through the door early for even less than half-price, sometimes even free, just so they will go on the site and write a review of the show.
Some of this was actually a great help to many small shows who just didn’t have an advertising budget. It was a way to get the word of mouth going, get people talking, and fill in empty seats before reviews came out. The problem is Goldstar has become much more publicly visible lately. They are now doing a ton of advertising for specific events, essentially competing with their own clients for the same customers.
They are now doing a ton of advertising for specific events, essentially competing with their own clients for the same customers.
I really started noticing this a few years ago when looking at reviews of shows on theaterinchicago.com. It’s a site built as an SEO machine, and it is consistantly at the top of every google search for anything related to Chicago theater. They aggregate reviews, and list pretty much every show in Chicago. If your show is on Goldstar, your listing says “Click Here for Half-Price Tickets” all over it.
More recently, I started noticing a lot of Facebook ads trying to sell my own show to me. Clearly they are doing some heavy remarketing (internet advertising that follows you based on stuff you have clicked on and your interests). And then it was brought to my attention that a show I am managing was listed on Groupon. I haven’t listed a show on Groupon for years, so my ears perked up…it turns out the Goldstar has now partnered with Groupon, and is listing shows on Groupon without any opt-in from their clients.
Goldstar has now partnered with Groupon, and is listing shows on Groupon without any opt-in from their clients.
Now, Goldstar has announced that they will be doubling their sales commission from 5% to 10% of every ticket sold. This is on top of the $5 or so they charge directly to the customer. We’ve created a monster. This is a company with no product of its own, that instead takes our product, which we willingly hand over, sells it at half-price publicly, and takes a decent chunk of the sale. We can’t be blind to this anymore. Chicago in particular (Goldstar isn’t quite as big of a deal in New York and elsewhere) has created a situation where our customers are now on Goldstar. That’s where they live; that’s where we go to get them. It’s hard not to list a show because there are a lot of people who only buy shows on the discount site.
So what do we do? Well, we stop listing our shows. But we have to do it together. I’ve been hearing some grumblings about exactly that—theaters jointly or not deciding to drop out—but nothing concrete.
Our $5 and $10 discounts have become meaningless, and it’s time to stop the bleeding.
And don’t get me started on the late, rude, entitled Goldstar patrons that think the sun revolves around them…