FROM TC: Is your organization experiencing flat or decreasing sales at your middle price point? It's not just in the arts. On Saturday, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported on retail market trends:

The stores that are being negatively affected are those geared toward the middle-class consumers. "(Nationally, for) Nordstrom, Saks and luxury retailers, their sales are trending up," Roxanne Stevenson, SVP of retail for Colliers International, said. "Discounter sales are trending up. Where you are seeing sales that are flat or maybe decreasing are those concepts in that middle price point. They're the ones that seem to be suffering right now."


Commentary: We bought the middle price. If I did it over, I'd buy cheap seats.

Top 50 'Mom Blogger' Jessica Gottlieb on her eponymous blog, 1/2/13

We went to see Love at the Mirage. It was Mr. G's first Cirque show. The kids and I have been to four or five of them and we enjoy it but we don't quite rave about it. Also I like the Beatles but I don't love the Beatles. Love is different. It was spectacular. The music was the Beatles unlike anyone has ever heard the Beatles and the stage show had more dancing and less acrobatics than most Cirque productions; that might be one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. It's a small theater with half of the action happening overhead. We bought seats in the middle price point. If I had it to do over again I'd have bought the cheap seats.


Commentary: Online fees may drive middle price point buyers to cheaper tickets

Andrea Edmunds,

You think you've found a great deal to Wicked, then the next thing you know, they've added on as much as $50 in fees and suddenly, you're paying a lot more than you ever originally planned upon paying. It's difficult to say the least, and extremely frustrating to say more. Sometimes, these fees come out of nowhere and then you're back looking for even cheaper tickets just so you can afford to pay for all the extra fees. From service charges to facility fees, some websites seem to look for any excuse to add on a little more to your ticket price. So we did some research on what the top ten online theater ticket sites charge in their fees for tickets. Because it is so popular, we decided to check out Wicked...playing at the Gershwin Theater in New York on December 23rd. We went with one mid-price ticket for the same exact seat across the board, to show the average amount of fees that are tacked onto that one ticket. The fees differ with each ticket because most fees are based on a percentage of the original price of the ticket, which differs by site. Here is what we found.


Commentary: Why is the middle of the art market vanishing?

Kyle Chayka,, 1/25/13

As if we didn't have enough trouble preserving the middle class, the middle of the art market is the latest topic of debate among members of the art world's commercial side. Why is the high end of the art market constantly booming while the lower and middle sectors suffer? At times it can seem like the giant blue-chip galleries are sucking the oxygen out of the room: The galleries are in all the headlines; their contemporary artists are making auction records, opening museum shows, and starring at fairs everywhere you look. This comes at the expense of less widely heralded artists and smaller galleries. Let's look at a few hypotheses on the issues at hand.

It's the Collectors. Art critic Mark Newman in The Mirror blames mega-collectors for the booming high-end and embattled middle of the market. Smaller collectors (the traditional doctor and lawyer set) are being pushed out and artists aren't getting the nurturing they need -- it's either sell in the millions or nothing.

It's the Dealers. ARTINFO's Shane Ferro notes: "The big dealers and deep-pocketed collecting families have almost complete control over the markets of contemporary art's most expensive artists." The edge of the bubble (if it is that) is being pushed by aggressive dealers who keep prices moving upward.

It's the Commercial Landscape. On his blog, middle-market dealer Edward Winkleman noted that large galleries are really into poaching right now -- stealing high-earning artists from galleries who often depend on their sales for the rest of their program. The poaching is "destabilizing the landscape," Winkleman writes.

It's PR for Tycoons. ARTINFO's Ben Davis calls the art market a Hobbesian combination of "nasty, brutish, and short." But that's not all. He argues that buying art may also provide a genteel, culture-friendly image for the wealthy that they use to draw attention away from the sources of their money.

There's no one answer here, and the middle market will continue to persist, as passionate strugglers always do. But what might be facing us is a choice: Do we want an art world full of Gagosians, Hirsts, and Koonses, or do we want something less flashy, more intellectually considered, perhaps less fashionable?


Commentary: Can your ticket price list's design influence middle price sales?

John Morell, Funworld magazine, Nov 2012 issue

When guests walk up to the ticket booth of an attraction and look at the menu board, just how do they make a decision?  "It's a complicated process involving how the brain reacts to various stimuli," says Bill Main, a restaurant menu designer who has worked with businesses in other industries, including theme parks. "[We] look to see how people react to various colors, fonts, and presentations, and you select those that will appeal to your target guest." Menu engineering is the restaurant industry's term for crafting a list of offerings that are both visually appealing and subtly designed to nudge the customer into choosing a more expensive item on the menu. "This concept applies to virtually any type of 'menu' that's presented to a customer, whether it's in a restaurant, at the gates of an amusement park, or at any business in between," says Gregg Rapp, a menu designer. When listing items, the experts say it is best to keep the number of choices to three, and no more than five. "What happens is our brains cause us to look at the first item, then drop to the second item, and then the last one," says Main. "When you have that list of items I always recommend putting the most profitable one first, the next most profitable one last, and the least profitable packages stay in the middle." This leads to another menu technique: using the middle of a menu to present the package you would like customers to focus on most. "In the 1970s, marketers found that when selling washing machines, the product that was in the middle price point generally sold better than the higher and lower cost item," says Ryan Croson, a marketing specialist. "Customers want value, but they don't want 'cheap.'"


Commentary: Why I sell most of my merchandise at a middle price point

Stand-up comedian Phil Johnson on his blog Big Wiz Bang, 12/9/12

I just finished a show where I doubled my take for the night on merchandise sales.  I'm not getting rich off it, but I can usually do that or better on about 75% of my gigs.  Tonight I was getting $250 for the show and sold $266 worth of merchandise.  Not bad for a redneck bar in a town of only 1200 people. So let me tell you my strategy. Your goal should be to have a merch option for everybody that wants to take a souvenir home.  And make no mistake, that's what it is.  A souvenir.  They may or may not get around to ever listening to your CD.  Some do, some don't.  But it's a cool autographed thingie from a fun night out. Two things happen when you have different price levels to catch as many people as possible.  You'll get the people who spent most of their money on beer already with a low cost option.  And you'll get the people with money to spend more because they want more than one thing. My basic options are a $20 DVD, a $15 t-shirt, and a name-your-own-price CD.  I sell more of the t-shirts than anything.  Both because it's the middle price point and because people like funny t-shirts.  Most comedians are good at this.  Note to bands: Most people don't really care to have a t-shirt of a band that nobody else has heard of unless they're hipsters or tastemakers.  A shirt that has a funny saying or an interesting picture will go a long way to building your bank account.  We sold very few "Roadside Attraction" t-shirts.  But I've sold a ton of my "Be Yourself... Unless You're An Idiot" shirts.
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