These days, Broadway shows make available complimentary tickets to various entities that are distributed by marketing agencies. These comp tickets are offered with the understanding that they will not be sold by these entities. But by golly, often times they are sold.
Why does it matter? It matters because a sold comp ticket is a ticket not sold via legitimate means. The show does not receive the revenue from these sold comps. These tickets are distributed with the understanding that there will be bodies occupying these seats. The reason is so that these people, seeing the show for free with these comp tickets, will spread good word of mouth and increase interest in the show, with the hope that this will translate into increased sales.
With the help of my friend Bob Kelly, a retired box office treasurer, I came upon information that linked the sale of comp tickets to a specific private Facebook group. He had obtained access to this private group, and passed along key info regarding dates and quantities of tickets being offered that enabled me to nail down, without a doubt, what was going on.
Over the past week, I have found that people with these tickets, allocated by the marketing agency to other entities, have been sold. How? I asked them! When these people came to collect their tickets, I simply asked how they got them, and how much they paid.
While I've now presented this information to theater executives for them to decide the best path to take, I remain amazed at the scope of this operation. Apparently, this illicit resale of comped Broadway theater tickets has affected all theater owners, and most shows, from the biggest hits, to the also rans. Who is to blame?
Well, those wonderful marketing agencies must be the first to be looked at. As Broadway marketing has evolved, there is simply no control at all on how many comped trade tickets are made available, and to whom they are offered. Is there any sort of under the table financial remuneration involved between the agency and the comps recipients? Is the specific marketing executive simply free lancing for extra dollars? As things stand, there's no way to know. I predict that everyone will deny any knowledge of the existence of this "system". They'll be shocked, shocked, that trade comps have been offered for sale. Whatever happened to the notion of knowing one's customer?
In any case, the marketing agencies are collecting huge fees from the shows that employ them for not much in return. Hits are hits, flops are flops, and no marketing agency has ever made any significant impact in either direction. In all cases, the audience decides what will be a hit and what won't.
In addition to the piles of money wasted on these useless agencies, we now see that they are further leeching more money from the shows they work for by allowing the diverting of comped trade tickets to brokers for sale to the public, in competition with the shows themselves. Is general management to blame as well? There's plenty of blame to go around.
It's time to clean house.