Six Big Pricing Questions for Your Performing Arts Marketing Plan

While there are several questions to address as you compose a performing arts marketing plan for your venue, including the traditional four P’s: Product, Placement, Price and Promotion, we’d like to focus this post on Pricing.

We believe there are six big questions to answer when setting your event ticket pricing strategy:

Should we have assigned seating or general admission?
Should we assign different prices to different seats?
Should we have some degree of dynamic pricing?
Should we charge service fees?
Should we offer discounts?
What should our prices be?

These should be addressed within the context of a review of demand expectations of your targeted markets and your organization’s historical pricing approach. I’d like to share an opinion on each of these questions:
Should we have assigned seating or general admission?
If you can do assigned seating, do it! Apart from the vast customer service benefits – more orderly entrance in the theatre since people do not scramble for the best seats, no need to line up to be first in the theatre, etc., there are massive pricing reasons why you want assigned seating.  Quite simply, it gives you the ability to assign different prices to different seats.

Some customers will eagerly pay a higher fee for a better seat. Most customers appreciate the opportunity to select the price point at which they will buy. You cannot achieve this with general admission.  Collecting more from customers who want to pay more will obviously increase your revenue.
Should we assign different prices to different seats?
Certainly. The only good reason not to would be because your ticketing system does not have that capability. You will improve revenue and better satisfy your customers. Furthermore, you probably want the ability to have multiple prices for each seat – e.g. Adult, Student, Senior.
Should we have some degree of dynamic pricing?
The challenge with setting prices is the uncertainty around demand, and the fact that demand comes in waves. Naturally, you are guessing at what the right price should be when you set prices. We do not advocate full dynamic pricing unless you really have the ability to do so. However, your ticketing system should allow you the capability to achieve some of the benefits of dynamic pricing.

For example, if demand is high for the higher priced seats, you could consider expanding the number of higher priced seats and reducing the number of lower priced seats. If demand is soft, you could offer special discounts.
Should we charge service fees?
An interesting topic. Customers do not like paying service fees. On the other hand, it is a way of promoting a lower ticket price. We tend to favor all-in pricing. We also advise against situations where you are charging service fees for online orders but not for box office orders.  If you do that, some customers will avoid buying online and will want to buy at the box office instead.  Box office orders are probably more expensive for you since people/labor is involved.
Should we offer discounts?
Usually, there are good reasons to offer discounts – incentive to buy more tickets, certain groups that you wish to honor, etc. As stated above, you may wish to offer discounts also if demand is soft. Strategic use of discounts is usually a part of most performing arts marketing plans.
What should our prices be?
After addressing the questions above and assessing your target market, the anticipated demand and your organization’s pricing history, you must at some point take the plunge and set your prices!

Pricing is a critical component of any arts marketing plan. It is critical that your ticketing system support your pricing strategy.

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