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Grow arts and culture revenue

Ask Me Anything: The Perception of Discounts


Ask Me Anything Question

How can we avoid the public perception that a discount offer is a sign of a poorly-selling show?

Steven Roth’s Answer

Let’s start with the understanding that it’s more about “individual perception" than “public perception.” Each patron has her/his individual value equation where she/he decides whether the price being offered for the art is “worth it” or not. This is a very personal decision and can depend on many variables, including some that can be quantified and some that can’t.

Think how you might perceive value in the following situations:

  • A full-price, premium seat for a popular artist
  • That same seat for a work you know nothing about
  • A discounted seat for an obscure title that is one of your favorites
  • A discounted seat offered by a third party vendor in the rear of the house

Note how all of these examples have more to do with how the patron perceives the price/value and less about the overall messaging from the arts organization.

Now let’s look at things from the organization’s point of view:

  • A discount for a preview to build word-of-mouth
  • A discount for less popular times or days of the week
  • A discount for a slow-selling performance

There are good reasons for all of the above discounts. But it’s important to note that none of the above are messages signaling that something is “wrong” with that production/performance. Discounting can be a successful tool to increase attendance and even revenue, if done correctly. For more advice about what you should consider when you're thinking about offering a discount, read Chris Fabiszak's post Ask Me Anything: Discounting.

It’s not unusual—and it’s good strategy—for organizations to offer different prices for different performances. What’s most important is to consider the value message that is being delivered and how that message is perceived by the ticket buyer.


Do you have a question for the team at JCA Arts Marketing? Submit it here. It could be featured in an upcoming Ask Me Anything post.


JCA Arts Marketing collaborates with cultural organizations to increase revenue, boost attendance and membership, and grow patron loyalty. We provide consulting and software services to hundreds of cultural institutions across multiple genres, including dance, museums, opera, performing arts centers, symphony, and theatre. We can help you achieve your marketing goals.

Steven Roth
Steven Roth, President, JCA Arts Marketing

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