“The idea of making audiences feel like they matter, that the theatre matters, and that they're a partner in the event—that's what fuels me as a director . . . I believe it's actually radical to think about the audience.” - Diane Paulus, Artistic Director of American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA. Paulus won a 2013 Tony Award for Directing Pippin on Broadway.

This quote reminds us that it is first about the audience and the art. Pricing follows.

Optimizing decisions on the tiniest details can add up to significant gains. There are many variables when developing a pricing strategy. By looking at the small details, you can:

  • increase income
  • maximize ticket sales
  • promote accessibility

Three Pricing Strategies:

Yield Management: providing something extra to those who are willing to pay more, usually at little or no extra cost to the organization. Examples include backstage pass or meet & greet with artists.

Variable Pricing: different prices for different seating sections and/or for different days of the week. This is a tried and true method that’s based on historical data. Prices are set up front.

Dynamic Pricing: prices go up or down depending on demand. For example, prices may rise by $5 when you reach 60% capacity; rise another $5 at 70% capacity; and rise another $5 at 80% capacity. Theatres using this strategy include Stratford Festival and Yale Rep (worked very well for them for their production of A Streetcar Named Desire featuring actor Joe Manganiello.) This strategy requires sophisticated ticketing software, cross-departmental planning to ensure clarity with the customer, and research to determine if it’s right for your organization.

The show isn’t selling. Let’s raise prices. This statement is meant as a joke, with some truth in it. Sometimes a discount is not the right strategy. There are many considerations, and discounts are not to be taken lightly.

Consider: it needs to work for you, not the patron

As you discount, consider that some will pay full or close to full price, and you may risk either annoying those that paid full price or encouraging them to wait for a discount next time they’re considering a purchase.

Maybe you don’t have to sell out to achieve your goals.

Sometimes a price discount is not going to solve a demand issue.

Replace panic discounting with strategic discounts.

Showing the discounted price along with the regular price increases buyer satisfaction.

You want to have a VALUE conversation with customers, not a PRICING one. Your copy, your website, and all other communications should focus on the value of experiencing the art versus the price.

Ask yourself:

Does your pricing structure reward good customer behavior? One example is a loyalty-based discount that encourages early buying.

Does your copy speak to someone who doesn’t know?

The Really Terrible Orchestra is an organization that has thrived on presenting clear, relatable information about their mission and performances. They use humor and relatable copy to build relationships with current and new audience members.

Their mission: “The Really Terrible Orchestra exists to encourage those who have been prevented from playing music, either through lack of talent or some other factor, to play music in the company of similarly afflicted players. The policy of the orchestra is to make no distinction between the various grades of ability and the various forms of music, or time signature. The RTO looks forward to a further lowering of standards, in order to underline its commitment to accessibility and relevance."

Press quotes: “The cream of Edinburgh’s musically disadvantaged.” :: “These musicians who are dreadful are always a hot ticket. How can that be?” – ABC News :: “The country’s worst orchestra.” – The Daily Telegraph :: “And the Band Played Badly” – The New York Times

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