I think Ashley’s point about being “careful during these tough times not to de-value the concert experience through extreme discounting” is really important. The downward spiral of discounting (and the consequent devaluation of the single ticket price and subscription offering) is a dangerous one. We have only just managed to climb out of a deep hole dug over many years by regular special offers and steep last minute discounts. We probably all need to be vigiliant that the recession does not force us into making decisions that we will pay for over many years, as better times return.
Another thought I will offer is about choice. As people look to to use their precious disposable income more and more carefully, flexibility will be uppermost in people’s minds. In a video interview on this site Paul Boulian suggests that moving away from fixed subscription series is the worst thing orchestras could possibly do in terms of building commitment. I respect Paul’s views and experience very much, but I don’t agree with this. We live in the age of choice, and the world of orchestras is one of the few consumer environments where we still cling to the bizarre notion that our customers should not have a right to choose what concerts they go to!
We abandoned fixed subscriptions three years ago, in favour of a simple pick-your-own, the-more-you-buy-the-more-you-save matrix and the result has been the opposite of Paul’s prediction - increased audiences, increased number of subscribers, increased loyalty, and people buying more concerts, not fewer. That said, the UK is definitely a different environment to the US, with much less pronounced subscription tradition and much less customer sensitivity about keeping the same seats. So whether it would translate to a large US organisation is unclear. But in a recession, consumer choice is always going to be a big factor.