Clarifying The Reserving of Seats

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The Valley Concert Society introduced the option to reserve seats for the first time this past season. Feedback was by and large positive throughout the year. In the transition to the coming season, we have become aware of some concerns and of some misunderstandings related to the reserving of seats. I would like to offer some information that will enable a fuller understanding of the policy and hopefully alleviate\ some concerns in the process.

Why Did the Idea of Reserving Seats Arise?

Reserving seats was not the primary focus of the board’s policy decisions. It was a by-product of a broader matter. Two years ago the BC government rewrote the regulations surrounding societies registered under the Society Act. Every society in the province had two years, ending in November 2018, to rewrite their constitution according to a new pattern outlined by the province. In that process, one of the issues we had to address was membership in the society. It is to the benefit of a society, in some contexts, to be able to report a large membership rather than a small one. Ours has typically been very small. Virtually the only benefit of
membership had been the right to vote in general meetings. That was clearly not a great attraction to increase membership. Since 2006 when I joined the board, I cannot recall a single annual general meeting in which there were even five other attendees besides the board of directors. We sought to promote membership in the society by offering more attractive benefits. Besides the right to vote in general meetings, we added invitations to receptions, such as the closing appreciation reception for volunteers and sponsors, and the option to reserve seats. It was that last item which proved to be most effective in attracting membership to
the society. We had a total of 85 members by the end of the season. Implementing Seat Reservations We had hoped to make the act of reserving seats a simple process online, as seamless as
purchasing a ticket or subscription or membership online. We learned that this was not a simple or inexpensive option. The “Ticketmaster-style” process of online seat selection,
that is so common in major venues, requires expensive software. We continue to look for possibilities in that vein, but until we find something that is realistic for us, we will use
the current system of seat covers that has worked well for us this season.

Addressing Concerns

Two main concerns have come to our attention. One is that we now have a perceived two-tier audience, the haves and the have-nots. That is not at all our intention. There is no significance attached to a reserved seat other than the purchase of a membership. It is unrelated to purchasing subscriptions, to being a sponsor, or to making a donation. We value our entire audience. For us, as for you, the shared enjoyment of music is the reason
for our gathering. No one should feel any less valued because of where they sit. The other concern is the fear that good seats will not be available to you if you do not purchase a membership. A look at the numbers should ease that fear. In the past season more than 270 seats were available after reserved seats were set aside. Unless there is a dramatic change in the purchase of memberships this season, no person should feel under
duress to reserve a seat for fear of not having a good choice.

Wrapping Up

Reserving a seat has value to some people and is much appreciated by them. Having a reserved seat has little meaning for others. Some enjoy the experience of listening from different locations in the auditorium. I would strongly encourage you to make your own decision about whether or not to reserve a seat based entirely on how you like to enjoy concerts. While we are obviously trying to encourage membership in the society, the reserving of seats is only a means to that end. It is not the primary focus of our policy. At the same time, we hold dear your freedom to choose whether or not to make that purchase. And we encourage you to regard the person sitting next to you at a concert with equal esteem, whatever kind of seat they occupy. The concern of the board of directors is to provide the best music that we can and to make the experience of attending and listening as enjoyable as possible. To that end, we appreciate and invite feedback from you, our audience. We commit to listening and being responsive, as we have done till now. I look forward to seeing you all again at the end of October when a new season of great
music begins.

John Wiebe
President
Valley Concert Society