subscriptions
Aug23

 

There’s a lot of jargon in our industry, particularly when it comes to subscriptions. A “Choose Your Own” subscription at one organization is a “flex pass” at another, and a “Build Your Own” at another. The term covers a number of different loyalty schemes, from a pack of vouchers to hard tickets that you choose in advance.

There’s no Google Translate for subscription jargon yet, but below is a basic glossary we originally published for our recent case study with Long Wharf Theatre. We recently revised the list to add even more terms. If you'd like to impress your marketing colleagues, make your industry friends jealous with your vocabulary, or simply confuse your significant other when you talk about work, read on.


Posted August 23, 2017







May23

Delaware Theatre Company's Revenue Rebound


Delaware Theatre Company Revenue Rebound

Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) has been on an upswing since Executive Director Bud Martin arrived in 2012. Before his arrival, their patron base had been slowly eroding, due in part to the recession and in part to an audience that was driven by programming. To build on their artistic and financial momentum, DTC hired TRG in the summer of 2015 to teach them how to use their data to continue to recover lost patrons and grow patron loyalty.

In a single season, DTC has seen a 41% increase in revenue from tickets and subscribers and a 31% increase in subscriber admissions.


Posted May 23, 2017







Jan10


Dive into building a subscription campaign to increase "predictable recurring revenue" while boosting patron retention and creating a community. Despite popular beliefs, subscriptions aren't dead and continue to provide consistent revenue streams. Learn how to optimize your subscription packages to increase renewals and upgrades. See how other arts & cultural organizations are achieving great results from changes that are easy to implement and then start thinking about how you are going to increase: Renewal, Reactivating and Recruiting.

TRG Arts is collaborating with Blackbaud Arts and Cultural Group to bring you valuable tips and strategies with our new on-demand webinar series: Ignite.

Posted January 10, 2017







Dec13

The story of 3 arts organizations


Subscriptions succeed in 2016

Despite widespread reports of the subscription’s decline, these loyalty programs continue to generate a large amount of revenue for performing arts organizations. Knowing what we know about audiences in 2016, what strategies are proven to help the subscription succeed? TRG Arts is proud to bring you the stories of three arts organizations that have defied conventional wisdom by growing subscriptions:

  • The performing arts center with an already-strong subscription base…whose focused campaign has grown new subscription revenue by 36% over the last two years.
  • The theater that was selling more and more small packages each season…which upgraded 20% of their small package subscribers to full packages.
  • The orchestra whose subscriptions had been in decline for years…whose upgrade and renewal rates are now the best they’ve been in recent memory.

Their secret? A simple, radical idea: when you commit to selling subscriptions, arts lovers will subscribe.


Posted December 13, 2016







Dec05

Photo by Corey Balazowich (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In 2015, the consulting firm Oliver Wyman released a research study in partnership with the League of American Orchestras that grabbed my attention and hasn’t let go. The central question of their work: is the existing subscription model for symphony orchestras still viable? In the age of Netflix, Amazon, and Uber, does it need a small tweak, a substantial jump start, or a complete-and-total-tear-down-and-rebuild to remain a worthwhile offering?

The study illuminated a few key findings for the orchestra sector:

  • Subscription audiences are declining, not due to dissatisfaction with their experience, or to competitive forces in entertainment. Instead, they’re losing interest in programming (both how seasons are structured, and with classical music overall), and most of all patrons are dissatisfied with subscription products as they currently exist.

Posted December 5, 2016







Oct17

Annual operating budget up 32% in 5 seasons



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.”

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma hired TRG in March of 2014 for a best practices consultancy which began with an analysis of income trends, data stewardship, and current marketing practices.


Posted October 17, 2016







Jan06

Single tickets up 59%, gifts up 125%

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Royal MTC) was stable throughout the recession. However, the company saw a dip in patron-generated revenue in the 2011–12 season, attributed to changes in their entertainment landscape, including the return of the beloved Winnipeg Jets. With flat annual fund donations and declining single tickets and subscriptions, Royal MTC prioritized reversing patron decline and revenue losses.

Royal MTC relied heavily on their subscriber base, which was one of the largest among Canadian regional theatres. Even with strong renewal rates, subscriber decline is inevitable without strong campaigns to attract new subscribers. In Royal MTC’s case, the subscriber audience far outweighed the single ticket audience, which meant they often did not have the sheer number of leads necessary to fuel successful subscriber acquisition campaigns. That, coupled with a low volume of individual donors, created a patron loyalty challenge at Royal MTC.


Posted January 6, 2016







Dec16

Like most people who work at TRG, I love data. One of my favorite activities near the end of the year is to open up Google Analytics and see which blog posts, case studies, and other content were most popular with our readers.

The top content from our blog reflects the topics which we see getting the most attention in our industry today. Some topline observations:

  • The topic of subscription and the evolution of the arts business model continues to inspire research and dialogue.
  • We see more interest every day in data and how arts professionals can use it to make decisions.
  • We’re hearing and thinking more about the relationship between marketing and other departments and how organizations can build patron loyalty collaboratively.
  • The topic of pricing and its impact on patrons seemed to be more often discussed this year as organizations balance revenue and accessibility.

Find below the eight most-read insights from TRG this year. We thank you, our readers, for continuing to read, share and respond to our content this year!


Posted December 16, 2015







Dec03

$45,800 in additional revenue from upgrade campaign


The 2015-16 season marked CSO’s 125th anniversary.
CSO saw the occasion as an opportunity to invite
patrons to upgrade their subscriptions
.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) was preparing for their 125th anniversary season. Subscription sales had been strong in previous seasons, but staff wanted to increase the number of subscription units sold. (At CSO, a “unit” is defined as one ticket to a concert.)

While working with TRG on their annual subscription campaign plan, CSO identified their 125th season as a cause for celebration—and an opportunity to ask patrons to invest more in their subscriptions. Jennifer Colgan, CSO’s Marketing Manager, Patron Retention, made a plan to ask renewing patrons to upgrade. An “upgrade” is the right next step for a patron, whether it’s adding on a series, moving into a larger package, or moving to a more premium seating section.

“We shouldn’t—and don’t—underestimate the loyalty of our CSO Main subscribers,” Jennifer said. “If given the opportunity to go to more concerts, they’ll go. If we communicate the opportunity to go to more concerts and the benefits price-wise, then they will buy more. The 125th anniversary was a major opportunity.”


Posted December 3, 2015







Oct15

92% jump in subscription packages


One marketing person. A box office director. An executive director. These positions made up the core of the administrative staff dedicated to Newman Center Presents, the performing arts presenting program of the University of Denver. Yet, this three-person team was nimble and efficient. They made small changes and, even with limited budget, saw big results.

Newman Center Presents hired TRG for a full suite assessment, focusing on pricing practices, inventory management, and season ticket campaign design.


Posted October 15, 2015







Oct13

This is the fifth video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing.

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #5: % of subscriber-donors

Is renewal rate the best measurement of loyalty? While it shows how many subscribers or members arts organizations are retaining, it doesn’t indicate if patrons are growing in their loyalty. In this video, Keri Mesropov of TRG Arts explains why renewal rate can be deceptive and the metric arts organizations should consider tracking alongside it.


Posted October 13, 2015







Sep24

 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO, TRG Arts

The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University recently released their latest report, which focuses specifically on marketing related metrics. This is the third report NCAR has released examining the health of arts and cultural organizations in the U.S. from a wide range of data sources.

Recently, I’ve seen researchers beginning to measure the impact of developing patron relationships and focus on the data that will quantify relationships. This is a great sign of things to come for the arts industry. In our own research at TRG, we’ve seen that measuring relationships in an integrated and holistic way can help organizations better understand patrons and impact revenue. Transactions that may seem unrelated when measured by different departments can actually indicate loyal relationships. The whole picture matters in each individual patron record, as it does when measuring the impact of patron-generated revenue across an organization.


Posted September 24, 2015







Aug04

New subscribers triple in one year


Washington Pavilion's production of Elf

Washington Pavilion, located in a beautifully renovated historic building in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one of only a few facilities in the world to bring together under one roof the performing arts, visual arts, interactive science, and educational opportunities. Washington Pavilion is TRG’s only client with an active patron base from all 50 U.S. states, plus multiple provinces in Canada. This multidisciplinary model strengthens the organization’s audience development potential. Yet the model is a challenge in complexity on both the patron and administrative sides. 


Posted August 4, 2015







Jun30

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

I recently sat in on a presentation at the League of American Orchestras conference entitled “The Future of the Orchestra Subscription Model.” The League is working in partnership with Oliver Wyman to study declines in subscription sales by analyzing transactional, survey, and buying simulation data.

I’m so pleased to see the attention that the topic of loyalty programs has been getting recently. Some of the best investments that arts organizations can make are in repeat attendance and cultivating patron relationships. At TRG, we’ve long been an advocate for loyalty programs, particularly subscription. It’s not just because we’re stubborn. We follow the data and we see organizations who invest in loyalty succeeding.


Posted June 30, 2015







Jun05

19% increase in average subscription revenue


The Situation:

The cast of DTC’s production of
Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Photo by Karen Almond.

Dallas Theater Center (DTC) hired TRG for capacity building consulting in November of 2013. DTC faced challenges with pricing, in particular reinforcing loyalty through pricing. Founded in 1959, DTC became a resident company of the new state-of-the-art AT&T Performing Arts Center in 2009. The new venue’s flexible mainstage, the Potter Rose Performing Studio at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, enables DTC to configure seating differently for each production, from 1 to 573 seats. DTC also produces in a traditional 99 seat “black box” space at the Wyly and at its original home, the 491 seat Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only freestanding theater designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright.


Posted June 5, 2015







Mar30


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

TRG's President & CEO Jill Robinson presented during TCG's Audience (R)Evolution in Kansas City on why research indicates that subscriptions still sustain arts organizations.

Watch it here. (Fourth video on the page.)

Audience (R)Evolution is a multi-year program designed by Theatre Communications Group and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to study, promote and support successful audience engagement and community development models across the country. This initiative, now moving into its second round of activity, encompasses four phases: research and assessment; convenings; grantmaking; and widespread dissemination of audience engagement models that work.


Posted March 30, 2015







Feb13

Why subscriptions still sustain the arts and ways to rescue your subscription program 



President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Thanks to everyone who attended this webinar. Click through to view slides and the recording.

Let’s face it; the subscription has been uncool for years. While disruptive technologies and changing arts consumer behavior have transformed the way arts managers see their business model, the subscription has declined and stagnated. “Subscriptions are dead” is now conventional wisdom in our industry. 

But, if subscriptions were truly dead, wouldn’t they have just disappeared by now? Inconveniently, subscriptions incentivize loyalty and provide sustainable revenue that's difficult to find elsewhere in any audience-centered business model. Many organizations that have tried to innovate in this area have found themselves in a state of subscription emergency. 


Posted February 13, 2015







Feb06

This blog post is cross-posted to the Patron Technology blog.


Is the subscription dying? And if so, what’s killing it?
Photo by ASJ8 via flickr.

Is the subscription dying? And if so, what’s killing it? Whether your own subscription program is healthy (some are!) or on life support, its future depends in part on your audience and in part on how your organization acts. With subscription renewal time on the horizon, let’s look at some of the ways that arts organizations can kill their subscription programs:

1. Delay announcing your season.

Give patrons the least amount of time possible to subscribe or renew their subscription. If your season starts in the fall, announcing in late spring or early summer should work. Patrons buy late anyway, so why does it matter? Don’t try to negotiate or advocate with your artistic leadership about your deadlines. 

Do this instead: The more time you have to sell, the more you sell. Starting late is a sure-fire way to lose revenue. Early may not be the right time for every patron to buy, but it is right for some. If the artistic director is not ready to announce all the events in your season, compromise by sending your announcement with TBAs. Many longtime subscribers will renew even if they don’t have details on specific events or dates, because they trust your organization.


Posted February 6, 2015







Jan26


If the subscription was really dead, wouldn’t it
have just quietly slipped away into that good
night by now and disappeared altogether? 

Photo by Tom Hall via flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Recently, staff from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis attended TCG’s 2014 Fall Forum on Governance. At it, they heard remarks indicating that the subscription is dead. Guthrie leadership stood up and said “NOT AT THE GUTHRIE!”

As a result of renewed focus and investment in marketing subscriptions, the Guthrie saw a 6% increase in subscriptions last season over the previous season. This season they are currently 12% ahead of the same time last year and still selling!

At TRG, we’ve seen this type of investment in subscriptions pay off in markets large and small. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, presenter Washington Pavilion has experienced 46% subscription growth over 2 years, and has successfully retained new subscribers. The Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles has sold nearly 22,000 season packages for its 2014-15 season, following years of consistent increases. And Houston Ballet has grown subscription packages by 25% over the past decade, with the number of actual tickets sold to their subscribers up 27% in the same period. 

So, folks, if most of us accepted that subscription is dead 15 years ago, why are we still talking about it? If the subscription was really dead, wouldn’t it have just quietly slipped away into that good night by now and disappeared altogether? 


Posted January 26, 2015







Jan20


VP of Client Services
Keri Mesropov

Renewals edition

Tuesday, January 20 at 2 EDT/11 PDT

Edit: Thanks to everyone who attended this chat! Click through to read the transcript. 

Are you making the most of renewals? Each year, your most loyal patrons re-commit themselves to your organization and re-invest in the value your organization provides. In this hour-long Twitter chat with VP of Client Services Keri Mesropov and moderator Amelia Northrup-Simpson, learn what others in the field are doing and tune up your own practices around renewals.

Consult the loyalty experts and share your own experiences about:

  • when to start renewal and acquisition campaigns
  • donation add-ons and other loyalty upgrades
  • talking to first-time and long-term subscribers differently

Posted January 20, 2015







Jan14


An illustration of Seattle Repertory Theatre's "One Patron"
strategy, where SRT streamlined patron messaging and built
long term relationships across all points of interaction.

The Art of the Upgrade

For cultural institutions, the box office is not just the place where ticket orders are passively taken. It plays an active role in growing revenue by developing loyalty. Every time a patron logs in, calls, or visits to buy a ticket, the opportunity exists for them to upgrade and deepen their relationship with the organization. With the right training, the box office can become experts on how to cultivate patron relationships and keep audiences coming back for more. 

TRG President & CEO Jill Robinson presented this session at the 2015 InTix conference in Denver with Jeremy Scott of Seattle Repertory Theatre and Molly Riddle Wink of Denver Art Museum. In this session, they discussed:
- How making loyalty a priority can grow revenues
- How to build a loyalty strategy for every group within your existing audience
- How organizations can train box office staff to take on loyalty responsibilities


Posted January 14, 2015







Nov20

Tuesday, November 18 at 2 EDT/11 PDT

Edit: Thanks to everyone who attended this chat! Click through to read the transcript.


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Let’s talk turkey! Does your audience development strategy promote loyalty? The best loyalty programs go beyond just offering subscriptions or memberships. They consider each patron’s right next step to further their relationship to the organization.

Learn how industry colleagues are developing loyalty at their organizations and get re-inspired about your own loyalty strategy. In this hour-long Twitter chat with President & CEO Jill Robinson (@jrobinsontrg) and moderator Amelia Northrup-Simpson (@TRGArts), we'll discuss topics like subscriptions and memberships, the loyalty business model, and how to cultivate patrons from newcomer to advocate. Bring your own favorite audience development ideas and burning questions to share!


Posted November 20, 2014







Jul31

You may call it pricing.

We call it demand management.

The choice of words matters less than the practices arts managers maintain as part of their working discipline.

Smart technique and tactics like dynamic pricing can get you immediate infusions of income. Managing demand and its associated revenue, Jill Robinson, TRG’s President & CEO, recently told organization leaders at our July Executive Summit “is an evergreen administrative practice that must play a role in sustainable revenue.” It is a strategic skill set that can enable arts staff teams to follow patrons’ desires to deeper engagement, greater investments, and ultimately, the revenue – working capital – that helps organizations thrive.


Posted July 31, 2014







Jun04

Stop studying everythingWith the arts and cultural annual conference season in full swing, we’re thrilled to see the priority that integrated patron loyalty now has in field dialogue. Prioritizing patronage can have a real impact—on year-over-year revenues, the volume of people attending and visiting arts and cultural organizations, organizational relevance, and more.

Developing patron loyalty specifically means thinking about each patron’s right next step with an organization, getting them to increase their activity with and value to the organization over time. For example, if I attend my first concert (or play or exhibit) at your organization, my right next step is attending another event in the coming months.

Many organizations regularly have thousands of patrons come through their doors. That’s a lot of right next steps! Luckily the database, ticketing, and CRM systems on the market today can capture in-depth data on patrons like never before.


Posted June 4, 2014







Mar20

To develop donors and cultivate patron love that lasts, you have to start with a visitor’s first paid admission. In this webinar, learn from two decades of arts patron research what it takes to make donors—and keep them. 

With each ticket sale or donation transaction, you gain important information that can help you develop lasting relationships with your patrons. The patron loyalty experts at TRG Arts, a consulting firm, say the process of meeting patrons is like a love story. 

This one-hour webinar with TRG's VP of Strategic Communications Joanne Steller will cover transactions that are turning points in your patron relationships and specific cultivation tactics that will help your donors fall in love with your organization. 

Grab your marketing, ticket office, and development colleagues to watch this informative webinar – because you all have a role to play in building donor relationships.

Posted March 20, 2014







Mar12

Donation successes at Ordway Center, Des Moines Performing Arts and Arena Stage


Why Box Office Asks Work

Collaborating cross-departmentally to grow loyalty is essential to long-term revenue growth. However, in many organizations, the box office isn’t integrated into development campaigns. TRG Arts sees development, marketing and the box office as deeply intertwined. A healthy development department depends on marketing to deliver donor-ready patrons. The box office regularly interacts directly with patrons and so can make asks that are both appropriate in the moment and that do a great deal to deepen loyalty. For example, a telefunding follow-up call to a first-time single ticket buyer may push the new patron relationship too far, while an invitation to add on a donation during a purchase may seem more natural.

TRG research shows that no matter the size of the gift, the effects of donating on loyalty and overall lifetime value can be tremendous, turning short-term revenue into long-term opportunity. Most major donors are cultivated from lower giving levels, rather than entering the organization as brand new high-level donors. Given this fact, campaigns where a front-line sales team like the box office asks for a lower-level gift make sense—and also make money.


Posted March 12, 2014







Mar11

94% of subscribers now subscribe to full series


The Situation:

Exterior of the Dofasco Centre for the Arts, the primary performing venue of Theatre Aquarius.
Dofasco Centre for the Arts
With the economic downturn that began in 2008, attendance and revenue at Theatre Aquarius began to decline. As the decline coupled with the financial recession continued into the spring of 2011, General Manager Lorna Zaremba hired TRG Arts to analyze the theatre’s situation and improve revenue.

This analysis revealed that there were entire elements of the Theatre’s business model that were missing, which influenced an atmosphere of waning loyalty, specifically among subscribers.


Posted March 11, 2014







Feb06

patron loyalty heart
Image via tagxedo
It's February, the month when our hearts naturally turn to romance. Here at TRG, we’re also thinking about romancing arts patrons. We call it “cultivating loyalty,” and it’s a lot like beginning a romantic relationship. It starts with a first “date,” or the first time a patron buys a ticket. What happens next determines whether the date will lead to a long-term, committed relationship or a one-night stand.

Let us suggest a Valentine theme for your important patron activities this month. As you’re planning subscription renewal, fiscal yearend giving, or admissions for summer festivals and during peak visitation season, think: “Be Mine” rather than simply “Buy Now.” Of course you need to focus on revenue. But, to get there, remember each of these efforts is about building relationships with your patrons. Like a romance, patron relationships evolve step-by-step, over time to become lasting and lifelong. With love—and loyalty— in the air, we’ve put together 3 ways to attract and keep the patrons of your dreams, those who will stick with you.


Posted February 6, 2014







Nov20

When the going got tough at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Director of External Affairs Katie Jackman and her team got going on a program for retaining first-time single ticket buyers – and stuck with it in the face of budget cuts, staff furloughs, and their own occasional doubts. Acting on TRG counsel Jackman and the SRT team launched their effort with getting new buyers to come again during their first season – achieving “second date” with first-time patrons. When that led to triple the retention rate among new single ticket buyers, SRT kept going. They rolled out a disciplined, purposeful cultivation effort over the next three seasons, a program TRG lauds as a model for the industry. (Read case study here.)  

Click through to watch the video or browse the slides from the webinar.


Posted November 20, 2013







Oct01

Tripled retention among specially

cultivated group of new ticket buyers

NOTE: We recently held a webinar based on this case study. "Launching Loyalty from a ‘Second Date’ with Patrons," featuring Seattle Repertory Theatre's Katie Jackman and her team, hosted by TRG's veteran consultant Joanne Steller. Click here to watch>>

When recession hit during the 2008–09 season, sales at Seattle Repertory Theatre (SRT) were already in a state of decline. Revenue losses had prompted across-the-board budget cuts by 30% for the following season. Enter Katie Jackman, who had just been hired and now is SRT’s Director of External Relations. She and new colleagues Jeremy Scott, Patron Development Manager, and Ashley Coates, Marketing Manager, rallied around the challenges ahead.


“We had declining sales in all categories. At the same time, there weren’t specific strategies around what to do, especially when patrons came in for the first time.”


Posted October 1, 2013







Sep06

TRG Arts has been busy teaching this summer on the road and on the web. We’ve rounded up our most recent insights from last month below, in case you missed anything:

The Art of the Upgrade

President Jill Robinson gave a webinar hosted by Blackbaud last week about increasing patrons’ investment in and loyalty to arts organizations through upgrading.

“The best way to increase loyalty is to ask the patron to take the right next step with you. That’s what we call upgrading,” Jill said. “That right next step is different for each patron. And the right next step is informed by information in your database.”

The most recent version of this webinar is now available here.

Slides from the presentation:
 

Posted September 6, 2013







Aug28

New subscriptions up 27%


Hartford Stage has long enjoyed a sterling reputation as one of the country’s leading resident theatres. However, after 2008–09, one of the best seasons on record, revenue plunged and continued to trend downward in subsequent seasons.

A major portion of the revenue decline came from the loss of subscribers and subscriber revenue. In 2002, Hartford Stage introduced EZ Tix, a flexible voucher subscription. As EZ Tix became the focus of acquisition efforts, sales for the full 6-play subscription fell steadily. 


Posted August 28, 2013







Aug15

This presentation was given by Anita Hansen of TRG Arts and Charlie Wade, consultant and former director of marketing, Atlanta Symphony at the 2013 Association of California Symphony Orchestras Conference.

Description: 

Talk about a changing universe! What does the future hold if subscriptions are truly a thing of the past? Current thinking postulates that a long-term decline in audience commitment is inevitable. A meteoric shower of “one-time” promotions and discounts – crowdsourcing, Goldstar, Fill-A-Seat, Living Social – has captivated the general public and given us options for filling our venues. But is this solution sustainable? Let’s assess the situation and determine if belief in accepted prevailing societal trends will lead to an ever-downward spiral to obscurity. Identify the “hidden” and unique performance assets you already possess to cultivate patron loyalty and grow participation. Perhaps there’s a way to re-create a winning game with new awareness of how to play.


Posted August 15, 2013







Jun04

65% one-year increase in new subscription revenue

Exterior of the Loretto-Hilton Center, The Rep’s primary performing venue.
Exterior of the Loretto-Hilton Center,
The Rep’s primary performing venue.

Repertory Theatre of St. Louis had experienced ups and downs in subscription sales. By 2012, overall subscriptions had been decreasing by 3-8% almost every year since 2008, despite a strong renewal rate.

The underlying problem seemed to be attracting new subscribers. Initial analysis by TRG Arts suggested that, long term, The Rep needed to grow the number of prospects for subscription in their database. TRG also discovered that The Rep likely hadn’t been spending enough on subscription acquisitions. Spending on marketing new subscriptions acquisitions had remained flat, despite the declines in subscription acquisitions.


Posted June 4, 2013







May31

The Wall Street Journal didn't tell the whole story


Photo by Daimon Eklund via flickr.
Photo by Daimon Eklund via flickr.
Terry Teachout, the drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, suggested a few weeks ago a correlation between regional theater’s “play-it-safe” programming strategies and the collapse of the American theater subscription.

 He wrote: “(T)here seems little doubt that the [subscription] model itself is going bust.” Citing Theatre Facts 2011, Theatre Communications Group’s (TCG) annual study of industry financial and business trends, he noted, “nationwide revenues from subscribers plunged 18% between 2007 and 2011.”

That’s just one number, but it’s not the whole story.


Posted May 31, 2013







Apr28

71% New Subscription Net Revenue Increase

Chicago Symphony Orchestra saw a 71% new subscription net revenue increase


Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) had a strong subscription program overall. “The CSO has a very loyal subscriber base—once we bring them into the fold, they stay with us,” Kate Hagen, Marketing Manager, Patron Retention, said. Hagen and her colleagues had created a comprehensive program which had successfully retained both long-term subscribers and those in their first few years at rates well above industry averages.

For example, the CSO created the Surprise and Delight program for first year subscribers, which involved surprising them at their seats with a personal “thank you” from a staff member and a small gift like a CD or drink coupon. In 2011–12, 65% of first time subscribers renewed. (TRG finds that this group typically renews at just 50%.)

Posted April 28, 2013







Mar22

Doubled Subscription Revenue


Music Director David Alan Miller conducts the ASO. Gary David Gold Photography.
Music Director David Alan Miller conducts the ASO.
Photo by Gary David Gold Photography.

By 2010, the Albany Symphony Orchestra (ASO) had experienced a steady decline in subscribers over seven years. During the 2009–10 and 2010–11 seasons, ASO had implemented an idea popular in the orchestra field of growing new subscriptions by offering them at half price. Units increased significantly. However, per-ticket revenue declined and renewal rates were poor. 


Posted March 22, 2013







Dec27

26% jump in subscription revenue after TRG Workshop


Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts saw a 26% increase in subscription revenueThe Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts wanted to increase subscription revenue by improving retention rates among upgraded and lapsed subscribers. In addition, the Center had made changes to the scale-of-hall and pricing, and the biggest package was now an 8-show package instead of a 7-show package. Staff was concerned that patrons would not renew at a rate as high as previous years. The Center also wanted to communicate the changes and sell more through a well-planned campaign

 


Posted December 27, 2012







Oct02

If so many arts leaders believe that marketing and development departments working together will generate better patronage results, why are so few organizations actually doing it? 

To be sure, there are ample tactical examples of successful cross-departmental collaboration on campaigns. And, a few industry leaders are engaging in organization-wide patron development – Arts Club Theatre Company and 5th Avenue Theatre are two we admire.

But integrated patron management is far from being a mainstream practice. Perhaps it’s because true marketing-development collaboration requires change and new ways of doing things that most organizations find impossibly difficult – especially on top of everything else that’s necessary to keep the art on our stages and in our exhibit halls.

Posted October 2, 2012







Apr30

Upgrading Subscribers, Rewarding Loyalty


5th Avenue Theatre Subscribers by Package TypeBeginning in the 2006-07 season, Executive Producer and Artistic Director David Armstrong implemented a bold vision to expand 5th Avenue Theatre’s season from four to seven productions so theatre lovers in Seattle could enjoy a broad spectrum of American musical theatre. The 5th’s subscription model, however, had not evolved to support that vision. The Theatre continued to reward 4-show subscribers with the same benefits as 7-show subscribers, fearing that changes could negatively impact their core audience.

Posted April 30, 2012







Apr27

This post was originally published this week on artsmarketing.org and in the National Arts Marketing Project newsletter.
How many times have you heard that the arts need a new business model, or that subscriptions are dead? There’s not a lot of people out there advocating for subscriptions. In fact most speak of abandoning it, or make conclusions or assumptions based on reports that the number of arts subscribers in America is down.

But, is the subscription model really dead? Really? The fact is, subscriptions are thriving in industries outside of the arts. In the past few months, there have been a slew of articles about entrepreneurs latching on to this model.

Posted April 27, 2012







Apr12

Small Company sees Big Subscription Success


Curious Theatre Company Subscription RevenueCurious Theatre Company (CTC) is a Denver-based theatre company with a budget under $1 million. CTC hired TRG Arts at the end of 2008 for full suite consulting to address revenue problems and to review the scaling and pricing of their theater.

Unpredictable Subscription Sales.

Subscriptions grew in 2006-07 and 2008-09, fueled by strong programming and single ticket sales in previous years. Since the 2006-07 season, renewal revenues were up 43%, but new subscription revenues were down 23%. 

Posted April 12, 2012







Mar18

2012 National Alliance for Musical Theatre Conference


This presentation was given at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s 2012 Conference in Seattle by Sean Kelly, Director of Marketing and Communications, 5th Avenue Theatre and Laura Willumsen, Senior Managing Consultant, TRG Arts. Learn how The 5th Avenue Theatre, in concert with TRG Arts, is building a wholly new model of patron engagement. Organizations from small to large can benefit from viewing their patrons through the lens of loyalty. Learn techniques to drive retention as well as increase engagement and revenue.

Posted March 18, 2012







Mar14

Today marks the beginning of Patron Loyalty Week at TRG Arts. We’re engaging in dialogue about developing longer, stronger patron relationships on the blog, at industry conferences, and on Twitter at #LoyaltyWeek.
TRG's Advocate Buyer Tryer model of patron loyalty
What, you may ask, is a Tryer?   In our firm’s decade of arts consumer research, Tryers are the most prevalent type of patron behavior.  They are households that have infrequent, one-time, or long-ago transactions with your organization. Right now your database–like those of most arts and entertainment organizationsis likely comprised of 90% Tryers.  And most of them are patrons you’ve allowed to lapse.  

Posted March 14, 2012







Jan17

Super Subscribers: Saving the Day,
Seeding a Loyalty Initiative


5th Avenue Theatre marquee

The 5th Avenue Theatre faced a significant projected shortfall in the annual fund near the end of the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Previous campaigns relied almost exclusively on telefunding and the cost of sale was high. Subscribers who donated made up a small portion of the 5th’s season ticket holders, so there was clearly room to grow. 5th Avenue Theatre had to increase revenueand fast.

5th Avenue Theatre mounted a campaign targeting 2010-11 subscribers, asking them to become “Super Subscribers” who make a donation to enhance their theatre-going experience.

Posted January 17, 2012







Jan16

New Subscribers Fuel Sustaining Revenue


Theatre Calgary's 2010-2011 production of
The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Trudie Lee.
Theatre Calgary had seen growing earned revenue for several years, but in 2009-10 the Theatre experienced a sharp decline in both single tickets and subscription sales, due in part to the economic downturn that occurred in Calgary in early 2009. It became clear to the Company that, beyond outside economic factors, achieving sustainable levels of revenue required changing past practices.

Posted January 16, 2012







Jan07

Post-Katrina Comeback


Louisiana Philharmonic's ResultsLouisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), like many organizations in the Gulf coast, faced an uncertain future after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. By 2009, New Orleans had seen its population start to stabilize.  However, LPO’s patron base had not rebounded as quickly as the city it serves.  Attendance was 26% below pre-Katrina levels. The Orchestra still faced significant challenges:

Performance home destroyed.

Katrina wiped out LPO’s home, the Orpheum Theatre.  By 2009, LPO was still performing in various churches in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes, getting only a few dates in the restored Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts, located in Armstrong Park.

Posted January 7, 2012







Oct20

Subscriptions are Alive and Well!


Mead Center at night.
Photo by Scott Suchman.
Arena Stage is one of America’s leading regional theatres, performing on three stages in the newly renovated Mead Center for American Theater. Before moving back into the Mead Center, Arena Stage had seen declining sales from 2001-2007. In 2008 they sought out TRG to help strategize their move back into DC and address key sales challenges.

Are subscriptions viable?

Subscriptions sales were in a downward slide from 2003-2007, along with the subscriber renewal rate. Arena’s staff actively questioned the validity of the subscription model going forward and was increasingly looking to single tickets as the key source of future earned revenue. 

Posted October 20, 2011







Oct17

Moving into a New Performing Home


Kauffman Center The Lyric Opera of Kansas City (LOKC), along with Kansas City’s ballet and symphony, was moving into the new $362 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  As the Company prepared for their first season in the new centerwhich opened in September 2011they hired TRG to help make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Pricing the Hall.

There had been a lot of local and national press about the Kauffman Center, and LOKC knew they had an opportunity to capitalize on what would undoubtedly be a high-demand season. Pricing needed to be right for the Company as well as its communitylow enough to welcome everyone in to the new hall and high enough to convert robust demand into increased, sustaining revenue for LOKC.

Posted October 17, 2011







Oct06

Graphic: Mike Licht via Flickr
Having written about social media and its application in arts marketing for the last few years, I’ve become aware of a disconnect. I’ve written about specific social media tools and tactics, but I realize that I haven’t addressed how it fits in with overall marketing strategy, and within the media mix.

Think about the campaigns that have delivered the most revenue. For many organizations, subscription or membership campaigns are the lifeblood of their revenue each year (a good example of this came from TRG Arts client Arena Stage recently).

Posted October 6, 2011







Aug16

TRG Arts recently hosted a webinar detailing the $3 million success story of Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre Company. The Q & A discussion was quite robust, and from it, I caught a glimpse of the wide range of responses and questions arts managers have on pricing and patron loyalty.

One of the most interesting questions was raised on the periphery by two different attendees: Why should subscribers get discounts and more importantly, why should we give discounts on the best seats in the house? Since we didn’t have time in the webinar to address this specific question, I sat down to get Rick’s perspective. This post features the highlights from our conversation.

Subscriptions prices should drive demand and reward loyalty.

Posted August 16, 2011







Aug03

Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre CompanyDynamic pricing, the tactic of raising prices after tickets go on sale, has often been in industry headlines these days. However, when it comes to growing revenue and increasing patron loyalty, it’s not the whole story. While it’s true that Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre Company (ACTC) generated six-figure revenue from dynamic pricing, the real news is how ACTC increased the number of its most loyal subscribers. In this webinar, presented in August 2011, TRG consultants and ACTC staff retell ACTC’s $3 million client success story, including how:
  • Loyalty strategies -- not pricing tactics -- led to sustaining revenue.
  • Unified, company-wide change in focus brought about increased revenue and subscribers.
  • Dynamic pricing made subscribing more valuable.

Posted August 3, 2011







Jul14

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Mike Boehm of the Los Angeles Times about dynamic pricing.  The resulting article highlights the success that L.A. organizations have had using the tactic to increase revenue, while maintaining the accessibility that is a part of most non-profits’ mission. You can read the article here.  That post, Thomas Cott’s briefing the same day, and the subsequent flurry of online discourse tells me that we, as an industry, are looking at dynamic pricing as something greater than it is.

The tactic – repeat, tactic – of dynamic pricing is but one means to an end – greater ticket revenue. It is not an end itself – sustainable patronage and revenue.  Since 2002, when my colleagues and I first worked with clients to implement the practice of raising ticket prices after sales were underway, dynamic pricing has been part of an integrated revenue management strategy. That strategy began with consideration of subscribers and the demand for seats subscribers create.

Posted July 14, 2011







Jun07

I have a passion for sharing stories of success. This seems especially important when so many of our ‘water cooler’ conversations are dominated by accounts of doom, gloom and bankruptcy. Success stories offer important reminders that arts and cultural organizations are not limited to merely surviving. Even during tough times – perhaps especially during tough times – we can thrive!

At the recent Canadian Professional Association of Theatres (PACT) conference, TRG had the pleasure of sharing a truly remarkable client success story, that of Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre Company (ACTC ). About three years ago, ACTC became curious about our work in dynamic pricing, the tactic of raising prices based on customer demand after tickets go on sale. Could ACTC exceed their $4.5 million annual revenue history with this practice?

Posted June 7, 2011







Mar15

This is a key question that I suspect managers of performing arts organizations across North America are not asking right now as they watch the results of their subscription renewal campaigns. 

They should be. 

According to TRG’s analysis, the closer renewal rates get to 100%, the less healthy the organization is likely to be. We’ve seen the proof in both direct marketing and patron behavior metrics. 

First, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) estimates that changes of address occur in about 15% of households every year. TRG’s national data set suggests that arts patrons change address even more frequently – about 18% each year; or 1½% every month. Databases of arts patrons trend a bit older than the general population and carry higher levels of health-related relocation as well as mortality rates. Any organization that is renewing more than about 85% of their current subscriber base is bumping up against the theoretical maximum for an addressable pool of patrons.  

Posted March 15, 2011







Jun03

The national conference season is officially in full swing. Right now, I am in Washington, DC participating in the annual meeting of the Association of Arts Administration Educators while my partner, Jill Robinson, heads to San Diego for the California Arts Presenters annual Artist Information Exchange conference. By the end of this month, my colleagues and I will have participated in ten conferences so far this year.

At almost every arts industry conference, Demand Based Pricing has been a ubiquitous topic – nearly as popular as the sessions about the importance of social media. If you know TRG well, you are aware that we’ve been preaching the message of fundament change in ticket pricing for more than a decade. It’s strange to suddenly find oneself at the center of a debate about a topic that for years was too geeky for most arts industry conversations.

There are many organizations using the techniques TRG pioneered back in the early days of the last decade. TRG’s demand-based pricing strategies date back to a project with our brave friends at Pacific Northwest Ballet, whose first effort grossed a whopping $1,500 in incremental revenues. (Subsequently, PNB has annually generated six-figure income improvements from demand pricing tools.)

Posted June 3, 2010







Apr13

I was recently asked by Chad Bauman, the bright young communications director of Arena Stage (Washington, DC), to offer my thoughts about the most significant marketing challenge facing arts organizations in the new decade. He posted a portion of my thoughts on his blog (http://arts-marketing.blogspot.com/) last month. My complete remarks are posted below. 

Today may be the good old days for arts marketing.

Know that I’m not a fearful person. In fact, I’m typically quite optimistic about my future, the future of my family, my business and my country. So why do I hesitate when considering the year 2020 and the future of arts and cultural in America? My problem, I think, is found in the simple arithmetic of life. I fear that some very good organizations may be running against a tide of numbers that may ultimately prove overwhelming.
Three decades of selling tickets, raising money and balancing unbalance-able budgets frame this view. But it’s what we see in TRG’s cumulative data on arts and culture buyers that is alarming for arts managers everywhere.

Posted April 13, 2010







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