Bums on seats is a popular phrase in theatre marketing which underlines the reality of the theatre world. Just like any business, it has a dependence on revenue with actors to be paid, producers to be rewarded and facilities to meet standards that will satisfy even the most fickle audience members. Even the most celebrated West End musicals suffer this desperate need to put bums in seats, but the task is made considerably easier that London theatre tickets can be bought online.
At first glance, it may not seem such a major coup for the theatre world, but online ticketing has been a positive boon for the industry. The West End has a long history of success, and despite the advent of DVDs, movie downloads and a host of other modes of entertainment, it continues strongly today. But there are reasons why Billy Elliot tickets are still in demand 6 years after the musical show arrived in London, and why dirty dancing tickets are being sought 5 years after its opening night.
The advantages that come with online ticketing are many, but four in particular reflect the true value of that mode of purchase. They are accessibility, speed, advanced planning and avoiding the queues.
Accessibility is key from the perspective of both the theatre and the theatre goer. Theatres need to be able to reach out to the public to ensure that the widest possible market is tapped into. A show may have a market of millions if they concentrate efforts in London only, but that number increased to tens of millions if efforts expand nationwide. By placing tickets for sale online, citizens of Liverpool, Newcastle and even Edinburgh become part of their market. What this means is that, in an era when nationwide travel is relatively hassle free and certainly faster, there is a far greater chance of filling theatres over a longer period of time.
From the point of view of a theatre lover, the fact that the West End is accessible to someone in Edinburgh is a major attraction. Most theatre lovers would harbour an ambition to go to a West End play or musical, and securing tickets for their favourite show online allows them to realise that ambition with ease. Making the journey to London and staying for a weekend is an added bonus to the main event.
Another advantage is speed, with securing tickets now taking a matter of minutes rather than requiring the minor expedition it once did. Even for Londoners, a decision to attend a show could only be acted upon when the box office was open, and even if a booking could be made over the phone, a caller faced the risk of waiting for lengthy periods. All that is needed today, however, is a few minutes on the internet, the relevant personal and credit card details, and a booking number with which to collect the tickets at the theatre on the night.
Of course, for tourists or professionals from out of town, internet booking has made it possible to arrange entertainment for a specific evening well in advance. Occupying their time after conference hours can be a challenge for professionals. With tickets secured in advance, the itinerary can be made much clearer. Tourists, meanwhile, may include a night on the West End on their list of things to do. Booking before even arriving in the city helps to streamline their busy touring schedule. The fourth advantage of purchasing London theatre tickets online is the fact that queuing is avoided. It is perhaps the most unpleasant aspect of the traditional visit to the box office, particularly when demand for Dirty Dancing tickets, for example, can have a person waiting for hours before even reaching the box office window. Even the jaunt from home, through traffic and crowds, adds time to the task, making the disappointment should the sold out sign suddenly appear all the more cruel.
Purchasing tickets online has more than four advantages, whether it is for West End productions or movies in a Manchester cinema. The ability of the internet to expand markets means that The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera and Billy Elliot tickets are being bought by more than just Londoners, ensuring a longer run and greater success are enjoyed by the producers and cast alike.