If you fly Delta you earn miles. If you eat enough Chipotle, you can eventually earn a free burrito. Starbucks, CostCo, BJs, Walgreens, all have loyalty programs where frequent purchases lead to rewards. Ten years ago, the theatre industry got in the game with Audience Rewards—which officially celebrated their anniversary in a star-studded gala just last month.
“We all participate in loyalty programs,” says Charlie Flateman, Audience Rewards CEO and Head of Marketing for the Shubert Organization. “This is the program that allows our customers to earn by doing what they really love, which is going to the theatre, and redeem for what they really love, which is going to the theatre.”
Audience Rewards is a rare bird in that it is a coalition loyalty program—it’s not just shows presented by one producer or one theatre owner; its offerings include Broadway, Off-Broadway, opera, cabaret performances, workshops, and attractions in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as well as Durham, North Carolina, San Diego, California, San Jose, California, and Tucson, Arizona.
Its 2.5 million members earn points for every dollar spent towards a ticket purchased through Audience Rewards. Points can be redeemed for tickets, Audience Rewards experiences, and theatre merchandise.
“With Duane Reade, I earned for buying toothpaste and redeemed for a bag of Tostitos. It’s not something I love, it’s just a thing,” says Flateman. “Audience Rewards is really all about the love of theatre and the performing arts and you get some value out of that and it’s totally free. So why not join?”
Here, we break down exactly what you need to know to use Audience Rewards to your advantage.
How to Join
It is free to enroll in Audience Rewards. Visit Audience Rewards.com and register with an email address or through your Facebook account.
New for the initiative’s tenth anniversary, active members become eligible for VIP status (which earns even more ShowPoints per dollar, see below). Audience Rewards will reach out directly with a notification for the free upgrade.
“Participation in the Audience Rewards program has been free from Day One and will continue to be free,” says Flateman. “VIPs become VIPs by engaging with the live performing arts.”
How to Purchase Tickets and Earn Points Doing It
Visit the Events Listing page, select your city, and check the box for the type of event (Broadway, Off-Broadway, etc.) in which you are interested. Browse the list and click “Buy & Earn.”
To earn ShowPoints, you must purchase your tickets using your member ID on AudienceRewards.com. (You cannot use your member ID at the box office, so this happens all through online and phone purchasing.)
Every dollar spent earns two (2) ShowPoints. (For VIPs, every dollar spent earns three (3) ShowPoints.)
Yes, you can use a discount code or coupon when buying tickets. This program is about getting credit for the money you do spend.
“Every purchase in the authorized primary ticketing environments, largely Telecharge and Ticketmaster, qualifies for points,” says Flateman. “Whether you’re buying a premium ticket or you’re buying the deepest discount tickets that exist through a marketing code.”
Certain purchases come with an incentive of Bonus ShowPoints. So you earn the typical two (2) ShowPoints per dollar plus a fixed amount, say 500, ShowPoints.
Audience Rewards members who are also American Express cardholders will have access to American Express presale through AudienceRewards.com. So combining your loyalties gets you early access.
How to Redeem
Click “Redeem” at the top of the page and you’ll be prompted to select from the categories of Experiences, Tickets, Merchandise, Auctions, and Dinner, Drinks, and More.
Every redeemable item corresponds with a ShowPoints value. Once you check your ShowPoints balance, use your reserves to “pay” for tickets to available shows and other offers.
What You Can Redeem
The most popular item are tickets to performing arts in your city. If you don’t have enough ShowPoints, you can often combine points plus cash for tickets (so your ShowPoints act like a discount on what otherwise would be too pricey a seat). “Some people will redeem for a ticket in the mezzanine, others will redeem for that ticket they otherwise couldn’t have—like a premium ticket for half the price.”
Tickets for redemption are typically available for dates for the upcoming three months. (So if you’re browsing in October, you can buy from now through January.) But be forewarned, tickets to popular shows go fast, as there is a limited quantity. “Check early and often,” says Flateman. “[Redeemable tickets] do get refreshed very frequently, but high-demands shows—when we have redemption offers—definitely go quickly.”
There are two types of experiences: fixed price and bid to win.
For a “fixed price” experience, all you need is the required number of ShowPoints per person (or do the ShowPoints and cash combo). Current offerings include the Wicked Backstage Tour and a ticket to the show, The Sardi’s Tour, a 90-minute coaching session with a Broadway musical director, a Broadway makeover with a Broadway makeup artist, your chance to perform at Feinstein’s/54 Below, and more.
For a “bid to win” experience, offers have a set bidding period and bid increment. Sign in and place your bid (you can also set a bid maximum) and see if you walk away with the prize. Right now, the auction is open to attend NBC’s Wicked Halloween Concert Taping and a backstage tour—among others.
“One favorite was a walk-on role at Rock of Ages,” says Flateman. “[She] got a custom costume, hair and makeup before the show, and was onstage two or three time during an actual performance. We’ve done Avenue Q puppet classes. We’ve done things [with Beautiful] like voice lessons held onstage and some basic choreography that’s used in the show. And the performers enjoy participating with our members.”
From signed Playbills to show posters and cast recordings of your favorite Broadway musicals, as well as branded mugs, magnets, T-shirts, use your ShowPoints to order theatre-themed paraphernalia.
Dinner, Drinks, and More
This category includes gift certificates to favorite haunts in the Theatre District, such as Sardi’s and Glass House Tavern, to enjoy a pre- or post-show bite.