Group Sales – Group discounts are probably the most common discount of all. Every arts organization likes to have a guaranteed lot of people in the audience, so they’re always willing to offer a discount to groups. The average minimum to qualify for a group discount is 10 people, but the number may be less for a venue that has trouble filling seats or more like 15-20 for a popular venue or show. And the more people you add to your party, the bigger the discount gets. If you are able to regularly put together folks to see a show, you will soon find yourself being contacted by shows or organizations in advance (who got your name off of a list) offering you even better deals.
Ushering – If you’re willing to work a little for it, you can get free admission at all kinds of venues by serving as an usher. Many, particularly the smaller non-profits, will let you sign up for a designated performance, show up an hour before curtain, stuff some programs, help people to their seats, clean up a bit afterwards, and as a reward you enjoy the show for free. Some organizations put their ushers through a more formal process in which they attend an orientation and are expected to usher on a semi-regular basis.
Standing Room – If the show is sold out, they may sell standing room “seats” in the back of the theatre – of course both policies and the quality of the view varies from venue to venue.
Some folks aren’t happy unless they are sitting mid-orchestra, especially if they might run into someone they know. Others are willing to sit anywhere (for the right price) as long as they can see (for theatre and dance) or hear (for musical events). Norma Foote is just under 5’, so balcony seats are better for her, while at 6’2” Jeffrey Compton prefers something on the aisle. One thing they both do though is note the layout of almost every theatre they (frequently) visit so they can take advantage of the best seating deals. For example, the last few rows of the orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center (home of the New York Philharmonic) are among the cheapest in the auditorium they get every note. The top row in the American Airlines mezzanine has excellent sight lines and the best prices – as does the furthest rows in the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The Carnegie Hall balcony, however, is cramped, at the top of four long flights of stairs, and has a terrifyingly steep pitch – plus the restrooms are a floor below.
Affiliate Discounts – As with museums, you may be able to get discounted tickets through your PBS membership, or other groups you belong to.
Employer – Big companies or major institutions, including schools, often acquire discounts on behalf of their employees (this is especially common for organizations that the company has donated to).
Union – Members of some unions, particularly those for people in the arts and entertainment industries (e.g. Actors Equity, Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild, etc.), are sometimes eligible for discounts. In New York City, freelancers billing more than $10,000 a year can join the Freelancer’s Union which offers a variety of arts-related discounts in its many benefits.
Industry Related – Does your dance group, chorus or orchestra that belongs to a national service organization (such as Dance/USA, America Orchestra League, Chorus America or Opera America) then check to see if you are entitled to any discount programs, especially if you are visiting another city. This applies to board members as well as performers.
Credit Card Discounts – Both American Express and Visa Signature card holders will find themselves eligible for certain performance-related advantages. This is primarily being able to get in on advanced ticket sales, which is nice but doesn’t mean there’s a discount involved. However, rewards points and special offers available through these cards can sometimes equal free or discounted tickets.