By Jim McCarthy Jul 11, 2012 1 comment

What Does a Ticket Really Get You?

People buy tickets.  The names of many organizations in live entertainment reflect this, like Ticketmaster and Stubhub.

But I’ve always believed that the ticket is the last thing we should be talking about, and the last thing buyers care about.  Let’s start with that: nobody places value on the piece of paper you’re given (sometimes) to allow you entry into a show, except the odd collector here and there.  It’s not the thing.  Who really cares about that ticket?  You certainly wouldn’t pay for it, would you?

Of course not.

So it’s not the physical ticket.  That, we’ve established.  Surely, you say, it’s the show you’re buying.  Two hours of entertainment and excitement is why you’re putting your money down.  Well, that certainly seems right, but let’s dig a little deeper.  Is it really?

At TED 2010, I heard something that made me think twice about that.  It was a talk by Daniel Kahneman that said that we actually have two “selves”: the experiencing self and the remembering self.  The experiencing self is in charge of what’s happening to you right now, and the remembering self looks back on things that have happened to you in the past, which, you’ll note, is a lot more stuff that whatever you’re experiencing right now.

So to change up one of Kahneman’s thought experiments to suit this blog post, here’s another question:

If you could go see your “dream” show or game in the best seat in the best venue you can think of, how much would you pay?  Got a number yet?  Ok, now that you’ve got a number, I’ll add a wrinkle.

Suppose you could go to the show just as I’ve described it, but you were told that you would never remember a single second of the experience afterward.  What would you pay now?  Would you even bother to go?  Most people significantly drop the price they’d pay for a show that can’t remember at all.

So if a ticket isn’t about getting two hours of entertainment (after all, it’s still entertaining, even if you don’t remember it), that can’t be the whole answer either.

Then at TED 2012, I heard Tali Sharot say something that changed my thinking on this yet again.  (Go to about 5:47 in the video if you just want to see this part, but the whole thing’s good.)  She said “anticipation makes us happy.”  Again, I’ll modify her example to suit our industry.

If I told you that you could have that dream ticket above but the show would happen whenever you choose, when would you want your dream show to be?  Right now?  Tonight?  10 years from now?

Her data and our experience at Goldstar suggests to me (your mileage may vary on this) that you would choose to see that show in a 2 to 4 days.  That’s right…not immediately and certainly not a long, long time from now, but you’d wait a while.  Why?  Because thinking about what fun the show is going to be is part of the fun, just as talking about it afterward is part of the fun too.

So let’s break this down.  When you buy a ticket, you’re buying:

-a physical ticket (usually)

-the anticipation of the show

-the entertainment of the show

-the memories and reflections that follow the show, including talking about it with other people

-And I would suggest one more: you’re buying something different about yourself, an upgrade on yourself, if you will.

What do I mean by that?  If you go see Warhorse or the NBA Finals, you’re making yourself into something slightly different.  You’re introducing a powerful new dimension into your brain’s wiring.  You’re building a new room in the house of your mind.  If you see something funny, you are funnier. If you see something smart, you’re smarter.  If you see an amazing athletic contest, well, you’re not exactly more athletic, but you somehow feel you’ve taken on some of those qualities.

That’s right.  A ticket to a great show or game or event is not just entertainment, but a personal upgrade.  That doesn’t even take into account the other personal benefits, like stronger relationships and more in common with the people you go to the event with or a deeper connection to the place where you live and a better understanding of the world around you.  We throw those in as a free bonus, like those potato peelers that come with all Ronco products on TV, but far more valuable and long-lasting.

So forget about the ticket.   On second thought, don’t.  Save them. Collect them.  Put them somewhere where your “remembering self” can dig them up and look at them because even though they’re not worth anything by themselves, as a way to experience this all over again, they’re pretty good.

I might run out and buy a scrapbook for mine right now…

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1 Comment

  • Arne

    Generally agreeing with Your line of thoughts, I’d divide “the memories and reflections that follow the show” (A) from “talking about it with other people” (B). A is internal, B external; A depends on one’s ability of seeing, listening, absorbing, analyzing, …, an event (this ability is not present in everyone), whereas B depends on one’s relations to other people and one’s communication habits.

    Sure, A and B can be connected – after a great concert experience, it’s normal to talk about it with friends. But A can occur without B, and B without A.

    B could also be related to “be seen at the venue”, which is the most important value for certain patrons in certain concerts: – no understanding at all for the event, but craving “I was there!”. Actually, I think that’s the reason selling most of the really expensive seats.

    PS – I’d have chosen my dream event to be in 2-4 weeks. Just for the records.