Sold out concerts – a blessing or a curse?

By Barry Kempton

Yesterday’s first-ever Schubert Club Mix concert at Aria in Minneapolis was sold out.  To be fair, we (and presenting partner Liquid Music) were fairly confident that together we would sell out.  The concert featured the extraordinary violinist Hilary Hahn with a very special musical partner in German pianist (or rather prepared pianist) Hauschka.  Liquid Music has an enthusiastic following, so does The Schubert Club and with special artists like these, the 500 tickets went quickly.  (I could add too that having local media partners like MPR, the Star Tribune and the St Paul Pioneer Press who throw their enthusiasm behind many of our presentations is invaluable too.)

“Sold out.”  Let’s face it, that’s a nice problem to have.  You know you have maximized the revenue, and we’re in a position to encourage ticket buyers for future similar events to please think about buying their tickets earlier.  Furthermore I think it’s fair to say that for the audience member, when you attend a sold out performance, you sense you’re participating in something special; something lots of fellow community members want to be at.  You’ve picked “a winner.”

But selling out concerts has its challenges too.  I myself don’t answer the phones in our box office, but I’m told that people can get upset when they learn there are no tickets left.  Box office staff end up having to respond coldly to people asking for special understanding.  We at The Schubert Club really don’t want to be in the business of disappointing people or making them unhappy.   It’s a sensitive issue.

Should we have planned on presenting two performances?  With the benefit of hindsight, I believe in this instance we might have actually been able to sell out two performances.  But it adds expense, and there’s a big risk – you certainly don’t want to end up with egg on your face with two half-full performances.

Of course in reality, not many classical music performances do sell out.  So some of us who attend regularly (and I include myself) have become a little complacent about buying tickets. 

So, a word of advice at least as far as it relates to The Schubert Club:

Music in the Park Series:  this chamber music series in St Anthony Park (now in its 35th anniversary year) almost sells out on subscription.  So if you like the look of specific performers and programs and don’t want to buy the subscription package, buy your single tickets early.

Lunchtime Courtroom Concerts at Landmark Center:  these are free concerts and you can’t buy or reserve a seat in advance.  They’re popular and we normally come close to filling our 100+ seating capacity.  But in my two years here, we’ve only had to turn people away just once.  If there’s a way to squeeze in a few more seats we will!

Schubert Club Mix:  there are two more concerts this season.  If you’re curious to hear a concert in Aria and weren’t able to get a ticket for yesterday’s performance, buy a ticket soon for April 13 or June 3 (or both!)

International Artist Series:  the recitals featuring the biggest names do sell out.  If you are thinking about coming to hear Dmitri Hvorostovsky in May, phone the box office today!  They might still have a handful of tickets available.  For most IAS recitals however, we do tend to have some tickets available right up to the day of the concert.  But you will of course have a better chance to get a good seat if you call us sooner rather than later.

In short, we really don’t like disappointing people!  So help us out by buying early and in turn, I apologize upfront for those time when we don’t have a ticket to sell you.