Prices Going Up? Or Down?

I’ve been in four cities in the last seven days giving seminars and having meetings with arts marketers and executive directors. Reflecting back on these conversations, I’m sensing a few themes relating to ticket sales and pricing.

Many organizations are reporting better subscription activity and better single ticket sales. Compared to a few years ago, managers seem to be optimistic about the direction of their earned income. I don’t know how this correlates with an overall economic recovery, but there is more positive conversation than negative, and that’s significant.

The most interesting theme is that the premium seats are selling out, those at the very top of their pricing scale. There’s a lot of talk about dynamic pricing, and often that translates into edging premium ticket prices higher as the house gets sold and the show date gets nearer. 

On the other side, I’m hearing that the trend of discounting knows no bounds. Aggressive discounting is becoming more and more entrenched as companies like Goldstar, Groupon, and others successfully move large numbers of tickets at a deep discount.

This puts some organizations in a position where they are selling their shows out, but because of these discounts they don’t meet their budgets and their organizations are in crisis.  And yet I hear managers uniformly worried about raising prices, because “our patrons can’t afford it.”

Pricing is never easy. But what I sense is that those organizations that are taking the time rethink their pricing strategies and adjusting to the market seem to have an edge.


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