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Is the Art/Team More Important Than the Paying Customer?


Tomorrow night, Matt Wolff from Ticket Time Machine is hosting a Happy Hour in DC at the Rocket Bar from 5-7. 

I’ll be there for a few minutes so swing by if you are in the area. 

My blog was just named one of the top 50 “business growth” blogs in the world by Feedspot

Yay me! 

I’m not satisfied with number 19. I’ll be taking aim at number 1.

To the tickets!

Art or customer? Who should lead your thinking?

Aubrey Bergauer posted a short video clip on LinkedIn talking about the need to serve the customer first. 

This shouldn’t be controversial. 

But Aubrey has a point that people might come at her for her take. 


Because for too many people, the art comes first. 

It is sacred. 

It is also wrong. 

Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 

Neither do sports/theatre/concerts/etc. 

You have to begin with the customer. 

What does the customer want? Need? Value? 

What will they spend their money on? 

What will they give their attention to? 

This is the question that I feel is often neglected. 

I was in NYC last week, walking around Broadway and near other arts venues. 

They all shared a common challenge:

  • The ads were written with the most anodyne and generic language possible. 
  • If you stripped the name from many of the productions, you could have been anywhere, seeing anything. 
  • A lot of the advertising was written or created with a sense that if you didn’t already know why you should be going to the theatre, a concert, or event, you were the one in the wrong. 

In my brand management classes, I teach students that a few important things here:

  • The job of marketing is to sell: tickets, ideas, products, services, booze, etc. 
  • You are not your customer. 
  • If the message isn’t getting through, it is your fault, not your potential customers. 
  • Gaining attention is the biggest challenge that most businesses have. 

None of this is meant as a way to undermine the importance of art or any event. 

It is meant to highlight the necessity of staying close to your customer through:

  • Surveys
  • Conversations
  • Focus Groups
  • Feedback

Do you have to do all of these?


Is one more important than the other?


My advice is always start small. 

Ask questions that are open-ended and aren’t tilted towards confirmation bias. 


“Why did you pick this production?” or “What brought you to the game/show tonight?”


“Wasn’t that a great performance?” or “What about that game?” 

The difference is likely to come in the freedom of finding the root cause of the buyer’s action over the narrowing around a specific part of your event. 

How do you handle these kinds of conversations? 

Let us know in the ‘Talking Tickets’ Slack Channel.

The big key is that focusing on your paying customers and fans doesn’t mean you ignore or neglect your art/team/performance. 

It means understanding what people want so that you can make sure you package your performances in a way that is likely to reach the buying public where they already are. 

It isn’t one or the other. 

It is both. 


Do you know someone that is struggling with understanding what their customers/subscribers/ticket buyers want now? 

Share this ‘Talking Tickets’ with them.

Share Talking Tickets! 

Does market research get batted down in your organization?

Are you fighting the battle of “Follow the DATA?” 

Is there some other aspect of understanding the customer that is a challenge for you? 

Let me know your question and I might just use it in a future episode of ‘The Business of Fun.’


  • Nik

    October 11, 2023 - 1:24 pm

    As someone involved with a lower-league soccer club in the area, the Chicago Fire’s decision to scalp the ticket prices for Messi’s eventual no-show has been a blessing. Now we can run promos about price, and people have an anchor. We end up looking really good at those prices!

    • wakemanconsulting

      October 11, 2023 - 1:27 pm

      Price anchoring is an excellent point!

      When you have a direct comparison…you can make a lot of good things happen.

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