There is a common misconception that experiencing art in the city is more of a luxury than a necessity. With the economy still reeling from the Great Recession, it’s easy to see why one would want to carefully prioritize how—and where—to spend money. But a little art can go a long way and there are a myriad of ways to take advantage of the creativity Austin has to offer without blowing half your paycheck.
I am a theater junkie, and I see an average of four to six shows a month at a variety of venues. For a typical theatergoer, individual tickets average about $20 each, so a month’s worth of shows could cost $80 or more. But I have a little secret: I never purchase tickets to shows at full price. Ever.
My nickname could be Mr. Discount. Upon moving to Austin three years ago, I quickly learned the ins and outs of the discounted arts scene and discovered every way I could to take advantage of student tickets and rush-hour sales, as well as listservs and newsletters with advanced discounted notifications to all kinds of shows. Unfortunately, discounted tickets to live music shows are harder to come by. One time, I was lucky enough to see Ingrid Michaelson perform for free at a café last March, having been a follower of her Twitter.
Always support artists through their social media. It happens a lot more often than you think, but sometimes they like to surprise fans before going on a major tour to play a small set list at a bar on Sixth Street or Red River. They announce it through their Twitter accounts and most times at the very last minute.
For a performing-arts fix, work the system in your favor. When performing arts companies reveal their season or send press releases for critically acclaimed musicals or shows, it’s common for a person to immediately want to purchase the first set of tickets available for fear of a sellout.
Here’s the thing: Oftentimes, performing arts centers or venues hold tickets at the door for each performance; they want to give people the opportunity to purchase tickets under the resources available to them (at the last minute). If that involves holding a few seats to be sold in person, then so be it. Take advantage of that! If the local regional theater is producing Rent, as tempting as it may be, wait to purchase.
For theater, call and check to see if they offer rush-hour tickets. These are half- price tickets that are sold at the door on a first-come first-serve basis for available seats an hour before curtain on the day of the show. If you’re a student, take advantage of your academic discount. The few dollars knocked off a general admissions seat is a snack or small meal the next day. Perseverance is key.
In the last few years, social media has also been an incredible outlet for opportunities to win or purchase marked-down tickets. For instance, there are a few theater companies I follow on Facebook, and their timeline often involves some sort of ticket giveaway to the “first person to answer this random question about this show,” or “call this number to win a pair of tickets to this show.” You get the picture. This may seem a little pretentious, but it’s legit. It drives traffic to their social media sites while we, the consumers, benefit from opportunities for discounted shows. It’s a win-win for everyone.
The next time you make your weekly budget, keep that show you’ve wanted to see in the forefront of your mind. Take advantage of the discounts available and be patient. Art and culture are closely connected, so why neglect the opportunity to take advantage of it when it’s staring you in the face everywhere you go? Experiencing art in this city, or any other for that matter, isn’t just a luxury. It is a necessity
Top 8 Ways to Save On Culture
1. Save With Student Discounts
Performing arts centers and venues offer opportunities for students to purchase tickets at a discounted price. Texas Performing Arts and Ballet Austin both offer great marked down tickets. Does that still break your budget? Visit freefuninaustin.com for information on–you guessed it– free shows and events around town.
2. Cream, Sugar and Music with Your Coffee
Whether it’s an indoor venue, or an outdoor favorite, coffee shops in Austin often offer live music during the evenings. Mozart’s on the Lake, Spider House Café, and Dominican Jo’s all offer occasional live music for a variety of music tastes.
3. Rush the Rush
Depending on the show, some venues offer rush tickets, open to the general public, to sell last-minute seats. They’re almost always half-priced and best available, and they can usually be purchased an hour before curtain. Although rush tickets are scarce, getting in line relatively early almost always guarantees a seat.
4. Mexican Food & Mariachis
Several authentic Mexican restaurants in the city showcase some the best local mariachi bands playing Mexican favorites. Casa Garcia’s and El Sol y La Luna both showcase mariachi bands every Friday night.
5. Invest Now, Save Later
Believe it or not, some places offer performing arts packages that provide a season’s worth of tickets for one fee. Of course, this would vary on the selection of a performing arts season and whether or not you’ll be inclined to see those shows, but you could save really big bucks if you choose to invest in those tickets now rather than later.
6. Live Music & Food
If you’re looking for some background music with dinner, there are many venues in Austin that offer just that. Shady Grove offers their music series “unplugged at the Grove” on Thursday nights, and Eddie V’s offers live music on a nightly basis. Also, Whole Foods Market downtown devotes Thursday evenings to their “Music at the Market” live music series to accompany shoppers as they shop for groceries, or grab a quick bite to eat.
7. Newsletters & Listservs Are Your Friends
Although there is often great information in them, we frequently find ourselves too busy to read through them—and by the time we do, the information has expired and we have to wait for the next one, only for the cycle to repeat. Newsletters will include opportunities to purchase presale tickets before they are released to the general public.
8. Small Sacrifices, Single Seats
When popular shows offer rush tickets, most of them are single-seaters. Swallow your pride, purchase the ticket, and meet up with your company during intermission. It may not feel the same as squeezing the arm of the person next to you when your favorite musical number hits the stage, but a discounted ticket is a discounted ticket. Plus, now you have more to talk about over dinner and drinks!