Pricing terms for performing arts organizations: a list of definitions

Today’s guest blog post is written by Amelia Northrup-Simpson, Director of Strategic Communications at TRG Arts.

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 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 increases or decreases the price based on how well it is selling
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:
Pricing_fill pattern

(Example from
New Wolsey TheatreGray 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:
Pricing_heat map

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 for sale as demand increases. The plan is designed to ensure a perception of success for all performances 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 or spread between price points
Price level/price point The price of a ticket or package
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 Package prices or ticket prices for each performance or production with a season.
Price zone Areas of the house that have the same price point
Scale-of-house Determines the number of price points and how many seats are offered at each price in the venue map. Also called “scale-of-hall” or “scale plan.”
Seat map A diagram of the venue showing what 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. Variances can occur from event to event or by production.
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? Do you have an “insider” term you use at your organization? Share in the comments below.

Want to download this glossary as an info graphic? Click here!

Amelia Northrup-Simpson

Amelia Northrup-Simpson is the Director of Strategic Communications at TRG Arts, a consulting firm which focuses on getting audience development and revenue results from loyalty, pricing, and data strategies. She serves as an editor and writer for the firm’s consulting and research analytics projects, presentations and webinars, case studies, and the TRG blog Analysis from TRG Arts.

Formerly of Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Arts Management and Technology (now AMTlab), Amelia wrote for the Technology in the Arts blog about social media, mobile, and other arts-related technologies, in addition to authoring white papers and research reports. Amelia holds a Masters of Arts Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Public Policy and Management. She teaches a graduate-level arts marketing class at University of Denver.

This post was originally published on Analysis from TRG Arts.

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