Toronto Symphony Orchestra—tsoundcheck
Sell $120 tickets for $12 and young people will come to the symphony
The city of Toronto received its name from the Mohawk Indian word signifying “meeting place.” The Toronto Symphony Orchestra turned their organization into such a place through their audience development program tsoundcheck. The program is responsible for nearly 75,000 tickets sold, and seeks to bring a new demographic into the concert hall with an attractive price point.
How it works:
Since tsoundcheck’s inception in September 2001, there have been several unchanging aspects of the program:
- People aged 15-29 sign up for the program online and receive a membership card.
- tsoundcheck members can buy up to two TSO tickets online for $12 prior to the concert, and their guest can be any age; these prime-location tickets normally sell for up to $120.
- Tickets are available from a few days to two weeks before a performance.
- If a future concert is expected to sell out at regular prices, tsoundcheck will not be available. In the 2005-06 season, tsoundcheck tickets were available for 90 out of the total 107 TSO concerts.
- Additional discounts are available at local restaurants, music stores, and other cultural/community happenings.
- Members must show proof-of-age ID and tsoundcheck card every time they pick up concert tickets.
Yak with Yara is a message board associated with the tsoundcheck program and moderated by a graphic designer and longtime TSO associate. It has enabled tsoundcheck members to connect with each other and relate to fellow concert attendees. It has facilitated discussions of already performed concerts, places to meet for dinner prior to a concert, and suggested listening.
Membership cards have been distributed to more than 85,000 people since the program’s inception, bringing the total number of registrations to more than 27,000. Active tsoundcheck members study at colleges throughout the greater Toronto area, including the University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson University, and Seneca College. Approximately 6,000 members bought tickets last year, and almost 75,000 tickets have been sold in the program’s lifetime. The tsoundcheck members are very loyal, averaging four to six shows over the course of a season, and they make up anywhere from ten to twenty percent of nearly every Toronto Symphony Orchestra audience.
During the 2005-06 season, a volunteer organization grew out of tsoundcheck. By season’s end, more than 150 members had become volunteers, helping out with the tsoundcheck booth at concerts, and completing the majority of responsibilities associated with the program. Because tsoundcheck uses very little advertising to promote the program, the volunteers add a compelling verbal endorsement.
In the 2005-06 season, a significant number of tsoundcheck members aged out of the 29 year old limit. This prompted the start of a new subscription program called tsoundcheckplus. Members of this program can be as old as 34 and as young as 15. The members are comfortably ushered into a habit of season subscription: $100 gives a member the choice of four concerts throughout the season. Members choose a seating region such as the “main floor” or “mezzanine” and do not need to wait in line for tickets before the concert; these are mailed in advance.
The tsoundcheck program has also become a fund-raising opportunity. Every time a member buys tickets over the Internet, s/he is prompted to donate money to the orchestra—a reasonable request in light of great seats for a nominal price. A few donations have topped $1,000, while the average is approximately one dollar for every member who buys a ticket.
Currently, most of the members of the tsoundcheck program are in their mid 20s and attending college or working full-time. The orchestra still believes there’s a marketable age group in the 15-20 and late-20 categories. TSO is actively going to music schools to recruit new members, making appearances at frosh weeks on local campuses, and communicating to local offices that employ 15- to 29-year-olds.
For further Info:
416-593-7769 ext. 326
416-593-7769 ext. 485