ACT’s subscriptions are up slightly this year, possibly drafting on the success of the ACTPass, but Lathrop noted sharp differences in the profiles of subscribers and the pass holders, which she calls “members.” The age range for subscribers starts at about 55, but that skews 20 years younger for ACTPass members.
“We’re removing that crustiness,” Conway said, “without making it too populist, because our brand is aspiration, and luxury, and elite to a degree. We have to keep a little bit of the gilt still on.”
Heaphy said he thinks some of Newman’s principles endure — namely the sense of belonging, a clubby-ness that younger audiences like without the old snob factor.
That clubby-ness is for sale. Baltimore’s Centerstage calls the product a “Flex Pass,” or, for the 18-to-34 crowd, the “Go Pass.” Centerstage does not even use the word “subscriber” anymore; as in Seattle, the preferred term is “member.” Heaphy said that suggests civic engagement, solidarity with an arts group, more than just a bought package of goods.
Said Lathrop, “Maybe in 20 years someone in our ticket office will say, ‘What’s a subscriber?’ ”
Today’s volatile sales patterns are near-impossible to divine, Fitterer said, but Conway feels that the vibe around subscribing is definitely on the move, even if the increasingly flexible packaging tactics still come down to baiting the hook for buying art in bulk.
“When I come up with the term for it, you’ll be the first to know,” Conway said. “It may still be called an Oldsmobile, but it’s very much a Lexus under the hood.”