This week, TRG's own Will Lester and Amelia Northrup are contributing to the Arts Marketing Blog Salon on Americans for the Arts' ARTSblog. This article by Amelia was originally posted as part of the salon, which previews the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference in November.
That’s all well and good, but how do you tell which shows are hot and which are not? Everything you need to know is in your sales histories—those detailed reports that track the number of tickets sold and the revenue associated with each paid admission. And how do you know if your pricing method works? Per-capita is the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” when considering whether your pricing strategy is working for you.
Inventory management: Depending on where the premium-priced and cheap seats are (or, in the case of an exhibit, when viewing times are set), per capita revenue will vary based on the order and manner in which your box office sells tickets. When the theater starts to fill up, people start buying further and further back, which is usually where the cheaper seats are in the house. By making smart decisions about where to place price sections and, as importantly, controlling when seats are released to go on sale, you can curb dropping per-capita revenue and reverse it.
Discounting: How much and when an arts org discounts tickets affects per-capita revenues as well. If your org is not tailoring its discounting to how “hot” the show is, you may gain sales volume (good), but on cheap seats (not so good).
Comping: Many organizations will “paper” their house, or offer complimentary tickets to try to make it look fuller. (This should not be necessary if proper scale and inventory management strategies are in place.) Nothing drives down per capita revenues like frequent and extensive comping.
- Per-capita revenue is a valuable diagnostic tool. The facts you need are readily available. It’s worth the time it takes to pull unit sales and associated revenue into a spreadsheet or chart to assess how your pricing strategy is working for you.
- Use your sales histories to understand and anticipate which programs are going to be blockbusters—or not. You may hope sales will happen in a certain way but studying the data is the only way to be certain.
- Start thinking about how your performance space is scaled and how you are filling seats or space in exhibits for each show date. Remember that good inventory management can improve the perception of success, as well as lead to greater revenues over time.