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Behind the (concert) scenes: Q+A with Chris Dorscht, Mirvish Productions’ Sales Director.

Behind the (concert) scenes: Q+A with Chris Dorscht, Mirvish Productions’ Sales Director. featured image

Chris’ desk is sometimes completely covered in brochures!


This week, I’m posting a five-part web feature about the folks who work behind the scenes of  the live concerts. What you see as an audience member – the performers – is a mere fraction of the number of people it takes to organize the travel, ticket buying process, promotions,  costumes, and staging and that lead up the magic you see and hear on stage.

Did you know a “subscription” isn’t just about magazines? It’s about concerts, too! Today, the second out of five Q+A’s, we’re getting to know someone who takes care of all your subscriber needs at Mirvish Productions.

Chris Dorscht, Sales Director.

Q: Tell us what a typical day looks like in your job.
A: I have sold and marketed theatre for 20 years and I can say there is no typical day in entertainment!  That is the exciting part of working in this industry, as there is always something new that pops up.

My day typically entails monitoring sales, looking for new ways to introduce people into Subscription, and the marketing efforts needed; working with our staff to make sure they have the knowledge and resources to carry out their work in order to provide the best possible service, and looking for improved ways of operating. The great part about the job is the mix between sales and marketing.  Now, more than ever, these two aspects are intertwined as you can control and evaluated the full sales experience and react quickly to what is happening in the marketplace.


Q: I’ve bought a series subscription once in my life. How do you turn single ticket buyers into subscribers?
A: Turning a single ticket buyer into a Subscriber is about timing. Some theatre patrons are excited and want to jump on board with a season ticket package after experiencing the theatre one or two times, but there are others who need more time to make theatre going a regular part of life.  What we do is identify the right people at the right time to consider subscribing.

We are lucky at Mirvish to have many theatre-goers pass through our doors each year, so we are able to see what people’s interests are, where they are coming from, and how often they attend the theatre.  We are then able to get a better idea of who potentially could become a Subscriber.

An important element that we communicate to potential Subscribers are the benefits, which many people don’t know about.  Subscribers are able to experience shows they may have not bought outside of their package.  In many cases they are the first to experience a new show. That happened this past year with COME FROM AWAY. The show was relatively unknown before it began, but after the first week the whole run was sold out. Subscribers had first access to seats and at substantial savings. It certainly paid to be a Subscriber, plus they were the first to see a hit musical in the making. COME FROM AWAY is still selling out on Broadway and an all-Canadian version of the show begins in February at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

There are also many other perks to having season tickets, such as free ticket exchanges, paying no service charges on additional tickets, and discounts on parking, restaurants, and area attractions.

Once we have someone interested in Subscribing, it all comes down to what we call Subscriber Relations (aka customer service).  Our Subscription staff is a key element in the Subscription experience, from explaining how Subscription works, finding the best seats, to making a welcome call soon after receiving their ticket package.


Q: What do you say to a potential subscriber who says, “I can’t do a subscription. My schedule constantly changes”?
A: This is a common reason why people don’t want to Subscribe.  The Mirvish Subscription package typically includes seven shows over a year.  Subscribers enjoy the exclusive benefit of exchanging their tickets, for free, as many times as they wish, within the same production.  We understand that everyone has different schedules, so we try and give as much flexibility as possible.


Q: How on earth do you figure out seating with so many folks vying for the same seat? Take us through the process.
A: This is probably the most difficult part of our work in Subscriptions, as we know the number one reason why people Subscribe is to have great seats.  Mirvish owns four theatres in downtown Toronto (Royal Alexandra, Princess of Wales, Ed Mirvish, CAA Theatre), with the three larger venues typically presenting the shows on Subscription.  Each venue is a different size and different configuration, so when we go to seat 45,000 Subscribers, it is a juggling act to make sure everyone has the seats they want, on the day they should attend.

Technology certainly helps in the process, as the majority of seating is done by our ticketing system, but there is always a human effort to make sure everyone is seated in the best possible seats. Sometimes we have shows with shorter engagements or there are specific production elements that interfere with seating, so we must find the best solution when seating all of our Subscribers.  We go through various checks and balances just prior to sending out the tickets.

Since Mirvish has two Subscription packages – the Main season and Off-Mirvish season – we also have to make sure there are no date conflicts, as some shows overlap.  Seating is certainly a juggling act!


Q: When it comes to show biz, people think of the onstage performers, the musicians in the pit, and … that’s about it. What would you like the public to know about those who manage the subscriptions?
A: I always go back to the overall experience.  Going to the theatre starts when you first interact with a news story or an advertisement that informs you of a show.  From there you order your tickets, possibly park your car at the theatre, and then interact with the ushers when you arrive at the theatre.  The actors and musicians are definitely the focal point as that is what you came to the theatre to see, but a patrons experience requires the hard work of a lot of other people to make the show go on.

The staff in Mirvish Subscriptions are an amazing group of people!  They are theatre-goers themselves, so they understand the expectations of our Subscribers and go above and beyond to make sure everyone is taken care of in the best possible way.  We can’t control what is on stage, but we can make sure our Subscribers feel that they are an integral part of Toronto theatre!

To read Monday’s post about Rade Sekulic, Manager/Owner of Hospitality Tours:
Tomorrow: Cassandra Spence, Costume Co-ordinator at the Canadian Opera Company.

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