NEW YORK CITY: Anyone who wants to see a Broadway or Off-Broadway show typically has four ways to buy their tickets: at full price via the show’s website; with a discount code (if there are any) at a website like Playbill or TheaterMania; by waiting for a rush ticket on the day of the show; or by waiting in the TKTS line. None of these options include buying it on your phone or tablet. That’s where TodayTix comes in.
The free mobile app, which launched last December, is built on a very simple concept. As CEO and cofounder Merritt Baer puts it, the goal is to “always make sure [the ticketbuyer] has the best price and is able to buy a ticket in 30 seconds or less.”
With TodayTix, users can browse a list of current Broadway and Off-Broadway shows on sale, then buy tickets with a few taps of their finger. The brand name is actually a misnomer, as it’s not just for buying last-minute day-of tickets—users can buy tickets up to a week ahead of showtime.
Baer founded TodayTix with longtime friend Brian Fenty. The two are Broadway producers, and first met 17 years ago, appropriately enough, theatre camp. In creating the app, the duo were aiming for the most coveted of theatre audiences: “Young people with smartphones,” says Fenty. They built the app on an initial investment of $500,000.
“We were trying to take what HotelTonight had done for travel and what Uber had done for taxis and really deliver a tool for younger audiences to have broader access to live theatre,” says Baer.
In 2013, the Broadway League released a report that said mobile ticket purchases made up .08 percent (or $9 million) of tickets sold on Broadway in the 2012–13 season. Compare that to figures released by eMarketer, which shows that this year mobile commerce will account for 19 percent of all e-commerce sales. That number is projected to grow.
There is a hole in the theatre ticketbuying market, and TodayTix aims to fill it. “Our industry is making it more challenging to buy theatre tickets,” says Baer. “If you were to go buy a ticket to a Broadway show via the normal channels, you’d have to go through a ton of steps; it’s a very convoluted process.”
Such steps, Baer and Fenty argue, are a turnoff for the average ticket buyer, who prefers speed and convenience, as the popularity of Seamless indicates.
Though TodayTix has a website listing shows currently on sale, tickets can only be purchased through the app. Current (Friday night) listings on the app include, for instance, This Is Our Youth (at 42 percent off full price), Cabaret (35–44 percent off) and Father Comes Home From the Wars at the Public Theater (40 percent off).
As the last two options indicate, TodayTix isn’t just for commercial theatre on Broadway. The service has partnerships with a number of not-for-profit theatres in NYC to offer tickets at discounted prices, including the Public, Atlantic Theater Company and Roundabout Theatre Company.
In addition to discounted tickets, TodayTix has also partnered with these institutions to offer lotteries. Currently, this includes free tickets to Found at Atlantic Theater Company, free tickets to the first preview of every show at the Public Theater this season and, on the Broadway side, $20 tickets to On the Town.
Of their partnership this season with the Public, Baer says “Offering every [preview] for free is just something we felt was at a great alignment with our message, which is really about broadening access and making ticketing easy, along with the Public providing great theatre for everyone.”
And it also builds on an existing relationship Baer has with the theatre: His first college internship was at the Public, and the first Broadway show he ever produced was The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino, a transfer from the Shakespeare in the Park in 2012.
SINCE ITS LAUNCH, THE TODAYTIX APP has been downloaded more than 200,000 times. It currently has a five-star rating on the App Store (with 37 reviews). Forty percent of purchases on the app are from repeat buyers, and 50 percent of its users check the app on a monthly basis, whether as a theatre listing service or looking for discounts.
Such a new venture is not without its drawbacks. Since a majority of Broadway shows do their ticketing through Ticketmaster or Telecharge, TodayTix buyers cannot pick up their tickets at will call. Instead, for Broadway shows, TodayTix offers a concierge service where a representative hands out tickets in front of the theatre. Off-Broadway show tickets, though, can be held at the theatre’s box office. This difference shows up in the ticket fees: For Broadway shows it’s $10 (the service fee plus the pick-up service), while for Off-Broadway it’s $5; that’s compared to the Telecharge fee of $8.50 per ticket and $2.75 per order.
“We didn’t want to gouge customers on a per-ticket basis, which is the problem a lot of people have,” says Fenty. “We decided to build a ticketing company for scale. What started as honestly two young entrepreneurs trying to build a little buzz and have some marketing presence in Times Square, has become one of our most beloved products.”