Formulating a ticketing strategy for multi-venue events can be a bit tricky, especially when regular, non-badge holder entry is also being allowed. Here are some examples that you can use for your multi-venue event including a solution to the “cold start” problem.
One may think that in order to have a multi-venue event - that is, an event held at a collection of venues over multiple days - all the venues must be closed to the public and a “badge holder only" ticketing strategy enforced. However a badge holder only strategy may be impractical, especially if the event is small in size, or having its inaugural occurrence (aka the “cold start” problem). Let’s look at how some successful multi-venue events implement their ticketing strategies...
The NAMM Show
The NAMM Show is the music industry’s yearly conference for all things related to the recording and performance music. The conference itself is closed to the public, but its ancillary events, known as NAMM JAMs, are held at small nightclubs throughout the Los Angeles area. NAMM JAMs employ a hybrid ticketing strategy welcoming NAMM badge holders while still being open to the public. A NAMM badge holder may wander about to each of the various venues at-will, no RSVP required, and enjoy the live music performances right along side the general public.
The individual venues benefit greatly from being a designated NAMM JAM location since NAMM conference attendees number in the tens of thousands. The venues also host musical acts they may not otherwise be privy to via routine booking methods. And since the hybrid ticketing strategy of welcoming both NAMM badge holders and the general public is in place, the participating NAMM JAM venues aren't worried about guaranteed attendance - an issue that may hinder a “badge holder only” policy.
The Tribeca Film Festival
The annual Tribeca Film Festival also uses a hybrid theory for its ticketing strategy, but with a badge holder friendly twist. Tribeca attendees pay a significant amount of money for their badges, so there is a risk of diminishing the subjective sense of privilege and exclusivity a badge holder feels by allowing the public into the various film screenings. To compensate for this, Tribeca offers badge holder only events that are closed to the public.
The NAMM Show is centralized inside a giant convention center which is closed to the public. Tribeca does not have such a centralized, closed experience, hence the badge holder only events. The special events at a small number of venues give sense of privilege and exclusivity that badge holders deserve.
It is important to note how both the NAMM and Tribeca examples address the potential issue of venue capacity, as it relates to badge holder privilege vs. the influx of the general public. Enforced by municipal code, venues can only hold a finite number of people. What is the right balance of event attendees and the general public?
NAMM keeps it simple and makes its NAMM JAMMs events first come, first serve, even if that means badge holders are not allowed in once a venue reaches its maximum capacity. Tribecca dances around that worst case scenario by offering a couple of badge holder only events. There is a third ticketing strategy that also serves as a solution to the so-called “cold start” problem first-time multi-venue events may face….
The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival
A new or lesser known multi-venue event, one that doesn't have the established brand name recognition that NAMM or Tribeca wields, may find some venue owners hesitant to participate. Lack of venue participation can hinder or even prevent a multi-venue festival from getting momentum - a "cold start" conundrum. Emulating the hybrid theory of the NAMM JAMs is the best way to get the ball rolling and have venue owners participate.
However a new multi-venue event with a handful of participating locations still has the issue of venue capacity limitations. NAMM uses first come, first served (to the possible detriment of a badge holder's experience), Tribeca has the big budget to offer closed to the public special events.
In Austin, Texas the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival (a multi-venue event for its badge holders and open to the public) has addressed the capacity issue by having its badge holders RSVP on a per venue basis. Being only 10 years old, Out of Bounds doesn't have the draw or the budget for a closed to the public multi-venue event, nor can it afford to allow badge holders the bad experience of being shut out because the public has maxed out a venue’s capacity.
After purchasing an all-access badge, Out of Bounds asks its attendee to make reservations for the performances of most interest at each of the venues. Capacity at some of the venues is limited, and the RSVP will afford the badge holder preferred entrance even though the public may be lined up for blocks. The policy is the middle ground between NAMM’s (risky) first come, first served and Tribeca’s (expensive) badge holder only special events.