When I was a student, going to shows (concerts, screenings, happenings) was easy – I’d leave the dorm, get on the subway, pay $10 at the door, buy a $3 diet coke, and get home around 2am. Most non-profit venues had student discounts, so sometimes I used to catch 2-3 shows a day. Easy.
Obviously, getting out of the house with two kids is harder – but can the obstacles be overcome?
I’d like to present to you a hypothetical budget for a hypothetical outing at Joe’s Pub, a local NYC performance space, just to illustrate how a typical night out with my wife can add up:
— Two $15 tickets: $30 (plus $6 in surcharges, if you buy in advance)
— Two $12 drink minimums, plus tips: $35 (or more)
— Babysitting for the evening – $50-75
Total?: $125 – $150 (or more)
So as you see, a $15 ticket to see a show is really just an appetizer to other veiled supplementals. This summary doesn’t include, for example, the cab you’re likely going to take home late at night ($15-30), or the cab you’re likely to pay for the babysitter to head home ($30-50), or any pre-show romantic meal (Falafel at Mamoun’s = $8). If you’re driving in from Long Island or NJ, consider the cost of parking ($30-50?) — and if you’re going to see a Broadway show (tickets = $150?!), heaven help you.
If you’re the musician or presenter of this $15 show, take note that, although your tickets may be affordable, it is everything else that adds up for the overwhelming majority of the expense. I am supremely grateful to all of our friends with kids, who come out to our shows, as it is a huge burden. At the same time, we have to find a way of making concert-going more affordable.
How can we solve this? People in their 30s-40s deserve be engaged in artistic life, and not go bankrupt.
This is really a question I’d love to pose to you.
Here are a couple of my ideas:
1) Program two concerts at once — one for adults, and one for the kids, at the same time. The model for this is a church or synagogue service — while the adults pray in the main sanctuary, all of the children are occupied by a kids activity in an adjacent room. This lobs off the major portion of your concert going expense — childcare — or at least converts a share of that expense into giving the children a concert experience of their own. Whenever we go out to a concert, our older son often says “I want to go to a concert, too” — and he’s right. The adult programs do not have to be family-friendly – I can totally see a burleske show for adults parallel with a puppetry show for kids; or a Cecil Taylor concert for adults, paired with an improvisation workshop for kids.
2) Program events at a time that is reasonable for kids and adults alike. This is a large question, because as kids grow, their bedtimes shift. Some go to bed at 7, others just start doing homework then; some kids nap at 11am and others nap at 1pm. It’s impossible to please everyone, but I can think of at least three presenters, which strive to accommodate just this sort of thing:
— the Big Apple Circus, which has shows at 12:30, 4:30 on weekends, and 11am and 6:30pm on weekdays
— Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which runs four shows on most days, and five shows on Saturdays
— and, of course, the most accommodating presenter of them all — the movies! Showing what you want, several times a day.
Could it be that the success of these presenters is partly from the fact that they try to accommodate as many families as they can, rather than trying to squeeze everyone into a nightly 8pm slot?
3) Include the price of a drink in your ticket price. Would this be of interest? Lincoln Center has a fabulous late night series in the summer, where the price of admission includes a glass of wine, or sparkling water. This makes the ticket price much easier to swallow, as it narrows down the choice, and increases overall comfort. It also means not dealing with waiters, gratuities, and interruptions. People like free drinks — a lot — even if they’re “free with the price of tuition”, as a Juilliard teacher of mine used to say.
Do you have other ideas? Let me know your thoughts – share with each other.