Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Inspire tickets

With the last period of booking for our Inspire tickets having passed I thought it would be a good moment to recap how we got to this point and why the system we have was introduced. First, though, a comment about the costs of calls to our 0300 number. The 0300 numbers are designed for  charities, not for profit and public sector organisations who wish to have recognisable, memorable numbers. Calls to 030 numbers are included in any bundled and mobile tariffs. Any additional minutes costs 1.5p per minute. There has been some concern that those who have had to wait on the telephone will have been charged a great deal. If you have a bundled mobile package with minutes then the call would not have cost any money other than using up minutes on that package. One caveat to that is if you are calling from aborad of course.

We introduced the telephone only system because the previous system of having them first available online, and then half online and half on the phone was unfair to those who did not have internet access. Given the nature of these tickets, it is entirely possible that some people taking advantage of them do not have access to the internet. We also stopped the ability of patrons to visit the box office since clearly those who live nearer have an advantage. Finally, we introduced caps on the number of tickets per person for the season. all of this is designed to make the Inspire tickets as fairly distributed as possible.

Clearly, people find the need to be on the telephone all day to be tiresome and we understand the frustration this causes but the demand is such that this would probably still be the case if we had 100 people on the telephones! Having said that, we are entirely unhappy that people have to spend so long on the phone and then run the risk of not being successful in acquiring tickets. If we could process calls more quickly that would be preferable then at least people havent wasted too much of their time and we recognise that.

But how to improve things? We will look at it again but be assured no matter what system we come up with, there will be many who will be dissappointed; with so many people wanting the Inspire seats that is inevitable.  We have looked at postal ballot but that feels like a retrograde step and requires a lot of cost, effort on the part of patrons and a great deal more administration. Email ballot or internet forms would help that but would people be convinced of the fairness of ticket distribution? I am more than happy to listen to suggestions.  Clearly, when offering several thousand seats at £12, there are going to be those who miss out but making it fair and easy is our primary goal.

feedback and suggestions can be sent to info(at) operahollandpark.com.


Vecchio John said...


some of those complaining loudest may not be those for whom the Inspire tickests are really designed.

The opera habitues will really be focused on deals and booking deadlines. If they are really keen to see the productions maybe they should fork out for a full price ticket like the rest of us.

I see the target of Inspire as the inexperienced or new opera goer, students and those on low incomes.

If you can afford to visit foreign Opera Festivals at premium prices you can afford to pay OHP's relatively modest prices.

Ruth said...

I agree somewhat with Vecchio John, but as long as the difference between an Inspire ticket (£12) and the next price up (£39.50 plus booking fees) is so great, I will continue to find it very difficult to justify the expense of full price tickets. My average spend per opera ticket anywhere (including Covent Garden) is £20-£25, and if there were an option of advance booking at this sort of level at OHP, I would be happy to pay this amount and leave Inspire tickets to those who really can't afford any more than £12.

I completely understand the need for a company of OHP's size to cover its costs, and in fact if the Inspire seats could be funded by a premium of a couple of pounds on all the other tickets, that's something I would support and pay. Nobody ENJOYS spending anything up to an hour or two on the phone for cheap tickets, and if the mid-price tickets weren't more than three times the price, many like myself would be perfectly willing to pay more to avoid the hassle.

As you know I have been an ardent supporter of OHP's work for more than a decade (at which time the tickets were all one price) and am also an advocate of funding the availability of cheap tickets. I just think there's a massive hole in the lower-middle end of your pricing structure at present which needlessly funnels middling-income patrons into the market for Inspire tickets.

I don't know what the answer is, and I do consider OHP to be inherently good value. But some food for thought, perhaps?

Michael Volpe said...

Yes, Ruth you are probably right in that our tickets take quite a leap from the Inspire seats to the next price band. In all of this, we forget that the Inspire seats are priced like that because they are subsidised. However, in our moderate house of 1,000 seats, the balance is a difficult one. We always look at pricing and guard very carefully against top end hikes which have nevertheless significant effects. A difficult conundrum that we constantly seek to solve.

Vecchio John said...

Part of the issue of the seat pricing is as Ruth says the lack of mid range seats. You can pay £39.50 and be right next to the £12 seats. Would it be possible to choose your seats with on-line booking, as you can with practically every house these days, as I have paid nearly top whack and found myself right at the front towards the side with a miserable view through the brass section?

I think there are good grounds for grading the range of prices to reflect the position of the seats.

This not carping as I have been a regular since Mike and James took over the running, and well before that too. My experience of the Imperial Opera Company's La Boheme in the 60s nearly put me off opera for life and what OHP are now producing is top level.

Anonymous said...

You say "We also stopped the ability of patrons to visit the box office since clearly those who live nearer have an advantage."

And yet a significant proportion of your funding comes from RBKC, which in turn comes from local residents' council tax!

Shouldn't you in fact be making it easier and cheaper for RBKC residents to obtain tickets? Not everyone is a W8 millionaire. There are plenty of poorer residents in the northern part of the borough. Why should we subsidise £60 tickets for people on corporate jollies who could pay twice that, when we can't afford tickets for ourselves?

This really is a case of the poor subsidising the rich. I am going to ask the council to withdraw your subsidy since you have made it clear you have a deliberate policy of excluding the local people who pay your way.

Michael Volpe said...

All i can say again is that the Inspire seats are priced like that due to being paid for by donors, not because they are poor seats so the price disparity will always occur. The nature of our house set up sort of dictates that we will always have this leap but we are looking at our price bands all the time and we are aware of the way things are.

Anonymous, you have a very strange interpretation of the situation.you might like to know that our free ticket scheme of 1200 free seats for young people and 500 for elderly people takes in a great deal of local, underprivileged residents. The council may well dictate that only local people can acquire £12 seats but that isn't the policy at the moment so we try to distribute as fairly as possible. You should also know that many of those using the Inspire scheme are elderly, local people who nevertheless cannot easily visit the box office and would therefore lose out. When they visit the theatre they make quite involved plans in order that they can have a safe and pleasant night out. Do you expect those people to jostle and queue for hours should we make the tickets available in person? Be careful what you wish for. The simple truth is that of our sold tickets, about 20,000 go to local people and on the various schemes such as free tickets and Inspire seats, 40-50 percent are occupied by local residents - a lot of people. You might also want to look at the Inspire annual report here http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/pdf/Inspire_Report_2010.pdf which gives information about the incomes, location and motivations of participants. It also gives information about the schools and groups we work with.

OHP is now a national resource located in the Royal Borough and our brief is to contribute not only to the local area, which we do enormously, particularly with Inspire and with the income we generate for local business but to the wider London cultural world.