discounting
Jun27

Record-breaking Nutcracker: $1.3 million increase in two years, breaking $8 million for the first time

 

Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

“What’s the big deal about a ballet company having a successful Nutcracker?” you may be asking yourself. “We all know that holiday programming practically sells itself.”

It’s true that holiday programming attracts a large audience and has huge revenue potential. It also means that the stakes are high. Holiday events often make or break an organization’s revenue budget. In many cases, holiday programming can account for over 50% of annual earned income so even a one percent achievement over goalor an equally “small” misscan add up to big dollars.


Posted June 27, 2016







Jan08


Lindsay Anderson
VP of Client Development
What motivates someone to attend a concert? And, more, importantly, what drives them to attend again and again? Arts managers (and patrons themselves) often cite price as the main and biggest incentive for arts attendance. Certainly price plays a major role in a customer’s decision-making process. 

But pricing doesn’t mean anything unless it’s attached to value. It’s a two-sided equation, with price on one side and demand—how much a patron wants the experience—on the other.

Luckily, you have tools that can sweeten the value proposition for your audiences. Ticketing inventory, historical data, discounting, and the choice and timing of programming can help you incentivize audiences to engage with you again and again.


Posted January 8, 2016







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







Sep10


The biggest takeaway from this webinar? Don't panic.
Photo: Tom Page (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Is that discount you're offering helping or hurting your organization? In this webinar, Anita Hansen of TRG Arts and Laura Beussman of Blackbaud discussed when, why, and how to discount effectively. A good discounting and package pricing strategy can drive patron behavior and help you maximize revenue for your organization. 

Watch the recording to learn how to offer discounts without devaluing your product, how to use pricing to develop patron loyalty, and how to empower your teams to recognize the right time for the right offers.

Click through to access the recording.


Posted September 10, 2015







Jul28



 Stephen Skrypec
Head of Sales and Marketing
New Wolsey Theatre
Lindsay Anderson
VP of Client Development
TRG Arts

“Our patrons won’t pay that…”

“Everyone wants to sit in this section…”

Our assumptions about what our audiences will and won’t want or do can stop us from pricing to optimize revenue for our organizations. But we don’t really know until we look at the data. Ignoring what patron data tells us about pricing can lead arts organizations to leave money on the table—money that could be sustaining their mission.

At The New Wolsey Theatre in the U.K., small changes to pricing strategy resulted in big revenue increases. In just nine months, the company reported a 31% increase in box office gross—without selling more tickets. In this free webinar, New Wolsey’s Head of Sales and Marketing Stephen Skrypec and TRG’s VP of Client Development Lindsay Anderson shared how the theatre updated daily practices and challenged prior assumptions about audiences, leading to their success. Learn how arts organizations, whether in the U.S., U.K., or elsewhere, can use pricing to drive patron behavior and revenue.

Click through to read more and view the video.


Posted July 28, 2015







Jul21

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. 


Posted July 21, 2015







Jul06

31% one-season increase in box office gross

Photo by Mike Kwasniak.

In 2014, the New Wolsey Theatre was re-examining its financial picture, focusing on its earned vs. contributed income streams. Like many theatres in the United Kingdom, government funding still accounted for a significant proportion of their revenue. Over the three years prior, they had received moderate funding cuts totaling approximately £50,000 (around $79,000 U.S.).

 

Located in Ipswich, Great Britain, the midsized regional theatre produces a spring and autumn season, as well as a Christmas show, with a mixture of both home produced and touring product. Many of the productions were selling well, which left Head of Sales and Marketing Stephen Skrypec wondering what the theatre could do to grow earned income.

 

Stephen: We’d become as efficient as we could in the rest of the business; the only place to reduce spending was in artistic and we really didn’t want to do that. For earned revenue, I had done standard things I felt I could do—making sure there were more tickets available at the top price and making sure every single seat was sold when it could be sold. I’d gotten to the point where I’d done all I thought I could do to maximize revenue. What do I do now?


Posted July 6, 2015







Jun18

Humana Festival audienceMany organizations track data on pricing, audience retention, and audience response to different types of artistic programming. But what happens when an organization looks at these categories together, holistically? That’s what Actors Theatre of Louisville did. What they found led them to begin to manage demand, cultivate audiences, and approach the strategic planning process in a completely new ways.

This is a story about how data can re-focus an organization around audiences, and how Actors Theatre of Louisville is acting on that data. Managing Director Jennifer Bielstein and ‎Jim DeGood of TRG Arts gave this presentation at the 2015 Theatre Communications Group, detailing how Actors Theatre of Louisville has translated data findings into a plan, how leadership is re-aligning around data and audience loyalty, and some initial results from their efforts.


Posted June 18, 2015







Mar18

11% per capita revenue increase



The Allen Elizabethan Theatre. Featured is the set of
OSF’s 2013 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
In 2011, Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) faced a crisis. During a performance of Measure for Measure in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, staff members heard an odd noise. They discovered a large crack one of the main ceiling beams in the theatre. As a result, the Angus Bowmer Theatre, one of OSF’s three venues, had to close for repair just as summer (the most in-demand time at the festival) was beginning. The marketing team decided to refund tickets if patrons did not want to attend shows in the other venues, as a part of OSF’s ongoing commitment to excellent customer service. The refunds contributed to a 27% drop in single ticket units and an 8% drop in overall admission revenue.

“Throughout the crisis, customer experience was our main concern. We based virtually every decision we made on how it would affect our patrons’ long-term relationship with OSF,” Mallory Pierce, OSF’s Director of Marketing and Communications, said.

Historically, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was financially and organizationally strong. Sound budgeting and fiscal management procedures combined with generally strong attendance enabled the organization to grow even during the Great Recession with performances regularly sold at greater than 80% capacity.

Posted March 18, 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







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







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







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







May20

$1.5 million two-year admission growth


EMP Museum EMP Museum (formerly known as Experience Music Project) mounts exhibitions related to music, pop culture and science fiction. In 2011, EMP planned two exciting new exhibits: Avatar: The Exhibition and Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. EMP leadership saw the exhibits as a way to build a more sustainable business model, funded by the community and less reliant on gifts from a few generous donors. 

Posted May 20, 2013







Apr18

Photo via flickr
Some time ago I had a conversation with a theatre manager who had expressed an interest in TRG’s ticket pricing counsel.  The more we talked, the more agitated she became.  She nervously offered that her artistic director would NEVER allow pricing strategies like this happen at her theater. I, laughing, joked, “Oh my.  Your artistic director is a socialist?”  With great seriousness, she replied, “Absolutely not!  He is a communist!  He believes that every ticket should be FREE!”

The argument surrounding free and deeply discounted tickets has been around forever. The Dallas Museum of Art kicked off another round of conversation when they recently announced their decision to provide everyday free admission to everyone.  Museum memberships will also become free, with visitors actively encouraged to join using a very slick electronic system located at entry points to the museum. 

Posted April 18, 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







Jul24

Photo via Flickr
There’s only one way to end the current practice of resellers getting obscene prices or discounters taking all but a fraction of the income for your tickets. Stop making it so easy for them. Broadway offers a good example of what not to do.

Do only tourists and suckers pay full price?

Every Monday afternoon, The Broadway League releases the weekly sales data for every show performing on the Great White Way. Currently, about 60% of all Broadway tickets are sold below the face value of the ticket.

When the results of “never-discounted” shows (The Book of Mormon, The Lion King and Wicked) are deducted, the proportion of discounted ticket sales jumps to nearly 70%. Last week, for instance, total Broadway sales revenues (about $33 million) were about two-thirds of their aggregate gross potential. In non-peak weeks, this ratio floats closer to 50%.

Posted July 24, 2012







Nov04

A version of this post originally appeared as my guest commentary for Ticket News, an online resource for ticket industry news and information.
a shot of Broadway by Bobby Bradley
Photo by Bobby Bradley via Flickr
When it comes to pricing ticketed events, what works? For nearly two decades, TRG Arts has answered that question for hundreds of non-profit arts and culture organizations. About four years ago, TRG also began working with a number of commercial entertainment clients, mostly Broadway productions.

Posted November 4, 2011







Oct24

Photo by Glen Scott via Flickr
Museums aren’t getting useful direction from the recent public dialog about the prices they are charging or want to charge for admission.

Admission price increases at some of America’s highest profile museums have made news in major media and online, and that coverage has touched off discussion that appears more emotional than productive. It seems like the further away from free or low-cost admission a museum gets, the more the institution is vulnerable to criticism on grounds of not making their collections accessible or affordable. It’s as if admission price is the only way to express accessibility and that accessibility is the only reason for a museum’s being.

Posted October 24, 2011







Oct03

Usually when organizations consider their ticket sales, they look mainly at total revenue. After all, revenue is what keeps an organization running, and total revenue is the 50,000-foot view of how well an organization is doing.  However, when considering how to optimize ticket sales, calculating and analyzing per-capita revenue becomes a critical measurement.

Yes, “per-capita revenue” sounds boring, complex and technical, but stick with me—the reality is that it allows you to zoom in and see how tickets are selling on a season-by-season or show-by-show basis and that’s actually pretty useful.

Let’s break it down:

In laymen’s terms, per-capita revenue is the average price paid for a ticket. You can calculate per-capita revenue for an individual performance, a series of performances or an entire season. You can also break per-capita revenue out by group tickets, single tickets or subscription/membership purchases.

Posted October 3, 2011







Sep01

Ken Davenport’s insightful August 30th post spotlights the reason why advance ticket buying seems like a thing of the past.  Too many presenters, producers and arts organizations are providing incentives to buy late in the sales cycle.

As readers of this blog know, our patron behavior studies challenge the accepted conventional wisdom in the field that patrons are buying later and later.  Conventional wisdom is no substitute for fact. In a study of late-buying trends of 1.5 million arts patrons in Los Angeles, we found that buying later it is not an inevitable fact of consumer behavior. We summarized these findings earlier in the year on this blog.

In our consulting practice we do see late-buying trends, but more often than not, we’ve found that late-buying is a direct result of late-selling—not making the offer to the market early enough.  This is typically a strategy based on the assumption that all patrons want to buy late. An empty house a week out then spurs a slew of panicked late-minute discounting, or worse yet: comping. When this happens often enough, as Ken Davenport also pointed out, patrons are trained to wait for this “management panic” fire sale. The bottom line is that giving up on advance ticketing only perpetuates the cycle of late buying—and leads to less per-ticket revenue (as well as total revenue!) on an ongoing basis.

Posted September 1, 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







Apr30

My last blog generated several interesting responses, which I do appreciate. I looked for and found common threads in them, and prepared this follow-up blog. Special thanks to Thomas Cott and those who took the time to comment and for continuing the discussion.

The point of my original message was about the advantages of facts over opinions and the desirability of eliminating guesswork. The flashpoint , however, centered on a preliminary finding from an incomplete data project -- that only 1% of San Francisco’s half-priced ticket buyers had previous ticket buying history with their theatre of choice.

Posted April 30, 2010







Apr28

I am often asked about the most frequent question I get. To me, the more relevant question is, “What’s my most frequent answer?” This one is much easier.

Much of my work as a consultant has been based upon a simple premise: help sell or raise more money while reducing risk. That was the reason for TRG’s entry into the world of database management a dozen years ago. Simply put, we grew tired of guessing. Should the client do this? Should the client do that? Who knew? If pressed personally, I would express an opinion. It would be an educated or experienced guess, but still just a guess. One of TRG’s primary goals is to eliminate such guesswork – even the type that comes from years of experience.

I often joke that many of us veteran arts marketers kept our jobs because we guessed right more often than we guessed wrong. A long time colleague recently reminded me that we kept our jobs because “no one really knew what the heck we did for a living and the survivors knew how to fix their messes before the boss noticed.” Today, everyone – boss, board, colleagues-- notices. In this information-focused era, guesswork is for suckers and perhaps the soon-to-be unemployed.

Posted April 28, 2010







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