A few thoughts on advance ticket sales from March 2010
It's one of the questions I get asked the most:
"How do I get the public to purchase tickets to my art in advance?"
I understand the desire to learn this. Getting people to purchase admission in advance provides much needed cash flow and is also a bit of a "hedge" against bad reviews, poor word of mouth, etc.
The flip side is that purchasing anything in advance goes against the "buy now, get it now" consumer instinct so many of us have now.
Figuring out how to increase advance sales starts with understanding exactly why people would want to purchase in advance. Here are three reasons:
1. They get their ticket significantly cheaper
2. They are guaranteed admission into an event that may sell out
3. They understand how important purchasing in advance is to the organization, so they do it as a way of showing support.
If you want people to purchase in advance, one of those three things has to be in play.
In this post I'll focus on reason 1: Price. Next Friday I'll cover 2 and 3.
Most artistic events that sell tickets have this simple problem:
There are too many prices.
I think this happens because we try to emulate the pricing practices of large arts institutions without thinking if those practices make sense given the audience we are trying to reach.
Because there are so many prices, it is almost certain that you have at least one or two prices in place that completely undercut your goal of advance ticket sales.
For example, imagine a dance company that wants advance sales. Their standard price is $25, but you can purchase tickets the day of the performance for as little as $15.
Once that information gets out, why would anybody purchase in advance?
So here's your first step in driving advance sales, write down each and every ticket price you have. If you have different ticket prices for seniors, students, industry, whatever, write them all down.
If you offer any standard discounts, i.e. "$5 if you show this postcard", write those down as well.
Then take a look at the entire list and see if your pricing structure makes sense given your goal of advance ticket sales.
You may find that looking at your pricining structure forces you to make some hard decisions, such as:
1. Eliminating popular discounts during the run of the show and only offering them in advance
2. Restricting the time certain discounts can be used. So maybe you offer a 20% discount on tickets, but it lasts for only 2-3 days.
3. Raising ticket prices for the run of the show and lowering them significantly (like 50%) if purchased in advance
But if you want the security of advanced sales, those sorts of changes may be necessary.
Give those ideas some thought and when I we will cover more ideas during next week's Arts Marketing 101.