Independent Brooklyn venue Elsewhere is taking a new approach to ticket buying for loyal patrons. Starting today, the multi-room venue is widely launching its membership program, which ranges from $2 to $30 a month and provides tiered benefits including free entry to shows, access to the venue’s Discord and new music discovery.
Freaks With Benefits, the cheapest tier at $2 a month, provides free coat check, the ability to skip the line and access to the venue’s member-exclusive Discord channels, along with other perks. Sonic Explorer — which costs $6 a month — provides half off an unlimited number of tickets for the member and a guest, plus the perks from Freaks With Benefits. For $30 a month, the Patron Saint membership provides free entry to shows and parties, half-off tickets for a guest, reserved tickets for sold-out shows, free merch and all other previously mentioned tier benefits.
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The “unlimited” free or discounted entry included in the two higher-priced tiers does come with an asterisk: Members must make a reservation in advance to reserve those tickets and are subject to “space permitting.” The reservation option is built into the backend of Elsewhere’s website and allows members to reserve up to eight events at a time. The venue has been beta testing the membership program since November — 600 people applied for the first 50 slots in just 48 hours — says Elsewhere co-founder Jake Rosenthal. “A big part of testing it was really about figuring out what is this special math where enough people feel like they’re getting enough access or that it feels very valuable,” he says. The limited reservations help members prioritize shows and keep them from “parking” on any and every show, which Rosenthal says wouldn’t be sustainable.
“There’s no limit to the number of events you can go to discounted or free,” Rosenthal explains, “There’s only the fact that like, if there’s an event several months out that you want to unequivocally park a reservation on, then you have to spend one of your reservations. But if you want to go to Elsewhere every night [without a reservation], you could do that unlimitedly for forever.”
The new program helps drive more customers to the venue, which means more artist discovery, more bar and merch sales and better-attended shows, says Rosenthal. While the price reduction on tickets for members means less money for the artists if shows sell out (roughly 15% of shows meet this criterion, according to Rosenthal), the venue only holds a small percentage of the room for membership reservations and artists are made aware of the program in their contracts.
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“For 85% of our events, the incentive of the artist and Elsewhere is quite aligned,” says Rosenthal. The idea is, “How can we incentivize people to show up to those events that they otherwise probably would not have come to because they’re unfamiliar with the artist, for example. Another reason could be that $30 was too much to check something out that they’re on the fence about.”
As Rosenthal puts it, the membership program is less a money-making venture — or about providing velvet-rope treatment to VIPs — than it is about building community. That’s a longstanding goal for he and Elsewhere co-founders Dhruv Chopra and Rami Haykal-Manning, who have been tied to the DIY underground music scene in Brooklyn for years; the three ran the venue Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg before it closed in 2015 and opened Elsewhere, which hosts upwards of 600 shows per year, in 2017. The memberships are also a way to acknowledge the price pressure that many are facing in New York and around the world.
“If you’re someone who is coming to Elsewhere once a month, twice a month or up, you’re already doing your part supporting the music scene in our community and you shouldn’t have to spend $30 five or six times a month to be at Elsewhere,” says Rosenthal. “It’s built with that ethos first, which is connecting our community more tightly and making it cheaper to come more often.”
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