Pricing terms for performing arts organizations: a list of definitions
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TRG Blog: Analysis from TRG Arts


Pricing terms for performing arts organizations: a list of definitions

Amelia Northrup-Simpson | July 21, 2015 11:54 AM

Photo by opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ever read an article on pricing in the arts and wish someone could translate it into plain English? There are a lot of specialized terms to describe pricing tickets to seated events and figuring out what prices should go where in a venue.

There’s no Google Translate for pricing jargon yet, but below is a basic glossary we originally published for our recent case study with Dallas Theater Center. We recently revised the list with even more pricing terms, provided by our consulting team. If you'd like to impress your box office colleagues, make your industry friends jealous with your vocabulary, or simply confuse your significant other when you talk about pricing, read on. 

Comp tickets Short for “complimentary tickets,” referring to free/non-paid tickets
Demand  In the context of arts pricing, the value that patrons place on an artistic experience, expressed through purchasing behavior. It’s what should drive ticket prices up and down.
Discount Any decrease from the base ticket price
Dressing the house Placing patrons in the venue in a way that makes the house feel fuller. Sometimes also used to describe distribution of comp tickets to “dress the house.”
Dynamic pricing  Pricing based on demand, where an organization sets a price point for a given event and increases or decreases the price based on how well it sells
Fill pattern

How a venue fills as seats are sold, creating a pattern in the seat map. An example of the fill pattern in a seat map:


(Example from New Wolsey Theatre. Gray dots represent filled seats)

Heat map
A graphical representation of the seat map where the ticketed seats are represented in colors. Non-colored seats typically represent non-paid tickets. Colored seats are darker or “hotter” the more times a seat is filled when looking at multiple performances. An example:


Heat map from New Wolsey Theatre

Hold-and-release plan A customized plan based on historic sales patterns, where sections of seats are held back from sale and released into inventory as sales increase. The plan is designed ensure a perception of success in all capacity-sold situations by filling the venue from front to back and side to side. 
Inventory management Reviewing and proactively controlling available seats for each performance currently on sale, ensuring enough seats are available at various price points at any given time to meet current levels of demand
Papering the house
Giving out complimentary (free) tickets to make the house look full
Peak/off-peak pricing A pricing strategy where events are priced differently according to different factors like time of day, day of week, or genre of performance
Per capita revenue A measurement of revenue per ticket, calculated by dividing revenue by units. Also called average ticket price or per-ticket yield.
Price jump Difference between price points
Price point The price of a ticket 
Price point absorption How many seats are being sold at each price point available, based on historical transactional data. Indicates which price points are most popular. Can also be detailed by buyer type (i.e. single ticket buyer, subscriber).
Price table Ticket prices for each performance. Within a production, prices can vary by day of the week, time of day, type of event, and other criteria.
Price zone Areas of the house that have the same price point
Scale of house Determines the price points for each seat in the hall. Also called "scale of hall" or "scale plan."
Seat map A diagram of the venue that shows which prices are assigned to which seats
Seating configuration How seats are arranged in the hall. For most venues, this does not change unless seats can be removed or added.
Static demand pricing As more seats are released for sale, fewer seats are made available at lower prices and more seats are made available at higher prices. This helps increase per capita revenue as more tickets sell even without dynamic pricing.
Ticket type
Differentiates the type of ticket being sold (i.e. subscriber, single ticket buyer, complimentary ticket, group.) Also called buyer type or patron type.
Trigger point
In dynamic pricing, the point at which prices will be changed. For example, an organization might set a trigger point to change prices when the number of seats sold by a certain date is at a certain low or high.

 

What pricing jargon terms are we missing? Or do you have an "insider" term that you use at your organization? Share in the comments below.







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Case Study: Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma

Annual operating budget up 32% in 5 seasons

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma 
 Photo: Joseph Mills

After a poor year for earned revenue in 2012, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (LTO) had rebounded and was experiencing a growth spurt. In 2013, Director of Marketing Danyel Siler had turned her attention to single tickets.

Her hard work had paid off, but season tickets were still a challenge. “Season tickets were steadily declining,” she said. “The season ticket campaign had been done the same way for years, maybe even decades. And we blamed the fall on the trend that subs were declining everywhere. Our executive director, artistic director, and I all knew something needed to change, but we didn’t know what.”

Read More>>

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Adam Scurto
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Simpson
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