Wednesday, September 24, 2014
By Anna Hecht
For years, veteran theatre producer Jill Bourque has seen a problem in arts ticketing: finding new ways to reach larger audiences. "Goldstar or Groupon or other models of ticket distribution don't help the artists in the long run." Those sites, she says, "actually cannibalize [artists'] own inventory."
Jill Bourque, CEO of RushTix. Photo: Linkedin
In February of this year, Bourque, the creator of the internationally acclaimed improv show How We First Met and producer of the annual music show Not Your Normal New Year's Eve, launched a site to help combat this issue: RushTix, a ticket service that gives audiences a way to see live shows and events every week for just $19 a month.
The site, which is still in beta, is similar in format to Netflix or the monthly beauty subscription service Birchbox, says Bourque, RushTix's CEO. "What we're trying to do is expose people to things in a way that's easy, in a 'try before you buy' kind of model."
For the monthly fee, members receive a pair of tickets each week to an event they choose from a list, carefully curated by Bourque and RushTix COO Johnny Funcheap, of five to seven options in music, theatre, food and other genres. In a recent week, offerings included Shotgun Players' Twelfth Night, a roller derby event at San Francisco's Kezar Pavilion, Solo Sundays (a recurring series of solo plays) at Stage Werx Theatre and First City Festival (a music, food and games fair) in Monterey.
"One thing that I think we've done really well is secure really awesome, diverse events," Funcheap said, adding, "We've found that when we have a nice variety, people seem to be more excited about it, that they have more choice."
Bourque said that, going forward, she hopes RushTix brings returning audiences to these events so they can have the opportunity to become fans of the artists, shows and companies. In return, these artists and companies can bring in larger crowds and turn a profit by collaborating with RushTix. For example, Bourque said, if a member saw The Scion at the Marsh (one of the shows recently offered by RushTix) she would try to develop that member's relationship with the theatre company via a follow-up email inviting him or her to learn more about it. "We're forging patronage, which is not being done," Bourque said, comparing RushTix to other ticketing services.
Already, with The Scion, RushTix campaigned through email, Facebook, promoted posts and contests to help sell the Marsh's full-price tickets. Companies and organizations with smaller budgets can offer free tickets through RushTix in exchange to help sell their remaining tickets.
"The way we work is we don't just take free tickets and brush them out," Bourque said. "We do a full promotional marketing campaign trade for tickets."
RushTix will most likely expand it services to other cities, as well as develop a larger online presence and mobile app, but right now Bourque is focused on slowly integrating new members in the next two months to continue testing all of the service's aspects. For now, prospective members can request to join on RushTix's site. Bourque said RushTix currently has a list of 500 people hoping to become members, but she doesn't want to rush the process. "We're going very slowly integrating [new members] in batches to make sure we have tickets and that we can match our inventory to them," Bourque said. "Over the next two months, we'll be scaling up."
Already, the service has added new features. There's now an option called "send a friend," which allows a member to give away his/her event tickets for a particular week. Bourque said that she also hopes to integrate dialogue by allowing members to pitch ideas and events they'd like to see so as to lessen the gap between artists and patrons.
Bourque said her biggest goal with RushTix is to bring artists, audiences and companies together.
"Our whole thing is getting people off of their screens and into live experiences," Bourque said. "We really feel like that's crucial for everyone. It's good for artists, good for patrons and good for society to experience art live and not just sitting at home on the couch."
Anna Hecht is a theatre writer and former editorial intern for Theatre Bay Area. She is currently studying journalism at SF State. Her writing has appeared in the Golden Gate XPress, the North Bay Bohemian and the Oak Leaf.