Clown for a New Day

Clown for a New Day
Dagwood might make it in today's emasculated circus

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

17% Jump in Carson & Barnes Biz Sparked by "Innovative News Ads" and Free Tix Blitz ...

71-year old Carson & Barnes is riding high on a big boost in attendance this year, at least by 17% as of 2 months ago, and as high as 20%, says the tenter's new Sarasota-based marketing manager, Harry Dubsky.

How the magic? Short of giving away his trade secrets, Dubsky credits the dramatic upswing in customer turnout to the mass saturation of free tickets to a lot of different sources and inventive newspaper advertising. "We work with the sponsors a lot," he says. "We did not goof off."

Has Barbara Byrd found her Art Concello? Her Douglas Lyon? Dubsky makes clear that his efforts were only part of the mix, that everybody played a part ...

And that's a nice message given the struggles that all American circuses are facing to pull in profitable crowds. Three rings to California in 2008, please!


Anonymous said...

Great promoter but 17% over the terrible business the show did over the years previous to 2007, well, is that break even territory? If there's a lesson it's that laydowns work better than mailouts. No surprise there. But was the show using free tix for sponsor dates? Credit where credit is due, a turn-around in a season with high fuel prices and and the always reluctant audiences of today is great.

Showbiz David said...

you sound like a savy promoter yourself. laydowns? new to me; would that be like laying down in the street and refusing to get up until somebody buys a block of your tickets? -): Anyway, I hope C&B comes out to California next season and lays down for me.

Anonymous said...

Hashi really is a very good promoter. And the same use of laydowns – stacks of free tix laid down on checkout counters etc certainly contributed to the huge success of Moscow All Star show when he was there. Carson & Barnes is well served.

Every year circus fans, and at least a few producers lament the way that revenues for traditional circus have seemingly dried up. Rarely however does anybody talk about the fatal bullet. For a generation virtually every tent show working sponsored dates could make the nut in a good town before they ever laid out the lot through the use of phone rooms and telephone sales. The curbs on telemarketing as much as anything else have been the death of at least some shows in the last decade. Suddenly sponsors really had to sell tickets instead of relying on their share of phone sales. Some sponsors have done that very well, others have fallen down. And let’s face it, the membership in many of the fraternal organizations that traditional sponsor circus just isn’t getting any younger. These days really strong sponsors are often groups created to achieve a specific goal – like building a bike path. They’re highly motivated, so they do strong presales. But they aren’t as easy to find and hook up with. Free kids tickets work, but we’ve all heard about the horror stories when a bad circus uses free tix and burns a town. Taking two kids to the show and discovering at the gate that one adult ticket runs twenty-five dollars…then seeing a poor performance sours towners pretty quickly on free anything that says circus on it.

So the challenge, assuming free tix remain the way to sell he show, is how to play the same towns again and again. If you are a bad show you change your title every season. If you are a good show your title has to reassure people that $25 is a pretty good deal, because the last time they were around everybody went home happy. Carson & Barnes is a show with that kind of honorable history. Personally I’d still like to see every free tix clearly state the price of an adult ticket, but the general opinion rightly or wrongly still seems to be that you’d scare some people away. I’m not sure.

By any measure traditional circus is a subversive art form, whether the producers know it or not. It teaches children to love live performance in a way that dragging them to the ballet does not. And if you learn to love live performance you’ll find your way to ballet on your own when your older. A mudshow is a bargain because you won’t find live professional performance in any theater for $25 with the kids getting in for free. Shows forever like to boast about the family friendly nature of circus, because by and large we are – but we sell ourselves short sometimes in forgetting the artistry of the circus even beneath the most bedraggled of bigtops.

Showbiz David said...

Thanks for your valuable comments, Annonymous. Most refreshing to hear an insider's point of view.