Performing Arts Center patrons probably won't notice anything unusual when it comes to ordering concert tickets, and that's the way center officials want it. They're counting on a ticketing system that is new to Southern California to make ticket purchasing trouble-free for subscribers and single-ticket buyers.
Center officials will use the relatively new Box Office Computer System to handle all subscriptions and the bulk of over-the-counter ticket sales. (They have, however, contracted out remote sales and telephone orders to Ticketron and Teletron--Ticketron's telephone-sales division.)
Center officials selected BOCS, which is used extensively in Europe, because they believe that it is better suited to the special needs of a multipurpose performing arts facility and that it will provide patrons--particularly donors and subscribers--with the best service.
"It's virtually unthinkable to run an operation like this without a sophisticated computer system," says Aaron Egigian, the center's ticket-sales manager. "We wanted to be able to organize and get to information quickly. This system will be responsive, particularly to patrons and on subscriptions to different series. We will have immediate access to each patron's file to take care of any problems that might arise."
BOCS is self-contained, with its central computer, terminals and ticket printers housed at the center. Thus, center officials can tailor the system to their needs alone.
"A lot of performing arts centers are very dependent on patrons in terms of contributions, so they want to provide the best level of service. The best way to do it is to do it yourself," says Paul Rosedale, president of Space-Time Systems Inc. in New York City, which developed and markets BOCS.
BOCS was introduced in Europe in 1979, Rosedale says, and is being used by more than 120 overseas facilities, ranging from concert halls to a 28,000-seat sports arena in Hong Kong. The system was first used in the United States in 1983 (at the University of Washington, Seattle), and there are now seven operating BOCS systems in North America serving about two dozen theaters.
When combined with a separate software module called Patron Development System (PDS), BOCS can capture and maintain detailed information files for each patron or subscriber.
Because the Orange County center offers preferred-ticket options to contributors, the ticket system will have to keep track of nine levels of donor-benefit packages. For instance, donors in the $10,000-$24,999 bracket have priority in buying two tickets to any center-presented event or series annually, whereas at the $100,000-$249,999 level, donors are given priority for purchases of six tickets. The computer system will also factor in the date of each donor's gift in determining ticket priority.
The BOCS system's terminals will offer a graphic display of the theater layout to show ticket buyers exactly where their seats are. "If a subscriber says, 'I've lost my ticket and don't know what show I'm supposed to go to or when,' the people at the box office will be able to enter the subscriber's name and find the seats," Egigian says.
The terminals' displays will also aid box-office personnel in "dressing" each house, or spreading the audience throughout the theater to give the hall a filled look for events that aren't sellouts, Rosedale says.
Yet, all the attention to subscribers and donors won't be at the expense of the single-event ticket buyer, insists Egigian, who comes to the center with 10 years' experience in ticketing at the Ahmanson Theater and Mark Taper Forum.
"With BOCS and PDS, we will have flexibility at the box office for single ticket sales as well as complete record-keeping services for subscribers," he says.
"We will be able to accommodate people who call up and say, 'I know I'm late, but I would like to be a subscriber.' The system will assign them seats on a best-available-by-performance basis. They can then be classified as subscribers, and the next year they will be converted to fixed subscriptions with the same seats. In terms of network-type systems, to my knowledge, that ability is not available anywhere else."
With each ticket order, Egigian says, the PDS feature of BOCS can collect a wide range of demographic information about the ticket buyer, which will provide a data base for future marketing research, mailing lists and donor-outreach campaigns. Through Teletron, the same type of information will be gathered from telephone orders and fed into the BOCS system for future reference.
Rosedale declines to say how much the center paid for the BOCS system but said that it was more expensive than if the center had contracted with Ticketmaster or Ticketron to handle all its ticket sales. "With Ticketmaster, you pay on a per-ticket basis. So in terms of start-up cost, (Ticketmaster) is less," he says.
"There is a higher initial cost with a system like this," Rosedale says, "but what you get from it long-term . . . should (make it) the type of system that pays for itself."