New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre have both established special membership programs specifically for people in their 20s: MOVES and the 18/29 Club. It’s wonderful that the city’s major ballet companies recognize the need to cultivate younger audiences, but these memberships are far from perfect. In fact, they might be more off-putting than they are attractive.
ABT’s 18/29 Club requires that you purchase $30 orchestra seats to at least three performances. That’s already $90 plus a $15 handling fee. It’s understandable that ballet newcomers would be more than reluctant to drop $105 on ballet tickets, even with a “free” subscription to ABT’s news magazine. In fact, that’s more expensive than purchasing a single orchestra ticket, which can usually be bought last-minute since the Met rarely sells out, whereas the 18/29 Club requires you to place an order for all three performances in advance.
NYCB’s MOVES offers $32 tickets for seats in the third ring, with performance recommendations emailed to members based on a questionnaire filled out upon sign-up. However, the company also offers fifty $25 orchestra seats to every performance beginning on the Monday prior to each week’s performances. This is a cheaper and more impromptu option. Additionally, MOVES requires that you purchase two tickets for the spring season and two for the coming winter season in order “to remain a part of the MOVES network”. I doubt anybody in their 20s is thinking ahead to performances in winter 2010.
The only way to purchase tickets as a member of the 18/29 Club is by snail mail, fax, or in person. Why ABT hasn’t set up online ordering for this is more than a little perplexing, nor do I understand their reluctance to more fully utilize social media. To let others know about the club, the only option is to click the “tell a friend” feature on the website. At least MOVES already has a Facebook page to spread the word, and plans for MOVES meet-ups over drinks.
Both companies should be commended for targeting younger (and newer) audiences, but these initiatives are flawed. Nobody wants to commit to more than one performance, especially if they’re new to ballet and testing the waters. Plus, a membership should include more benefits besides newsletters and e-mail recommendations. Pre- or post-performance events and other community-building ideas should be considered (MOVES is on the right track with mingling over drinks). Otherwise, it’s just cheaper and easier to buy a single ticket at the regular price.