The Rise and Fall of the Season Ticket Buyer [and what to do about it]

In the 1970’s, the idea of a “season ticket” in the arts really took off. Arts organizations were able to bring ticketing revenue and cash in ahead of the performance (which is when they actually are incurring the cost of the production), encourage loyalty and reduce risk. Ticket buyers were incented by discounted tickets and the promise of the best seats in the house. It seemed like a win/win.

That is, until the economic downturn in the early 21stcentury. Many arts organizations have seen ticket buyers less and less willing to commit to a season package and pay up front. Whether it’s the uncertainty of the economy or a desire to be more selective with their time (and only see the productions that appeal to them, vs experiment with the entire season), the loss of season ticket revenue has exposed arts organizations to additional risk and vulnerability. You create a season, you pay for the sets, designs, performers and marketing…and you have no way of knowing until opening night if anyone is going to come. Further, this creates a cash issue as the organization has to pay most of the bills for the production before they see much of the ticketing revenue.

So is it the end of season tickets? Hmmm, maybe not.

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