Jennifer Sowinski
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Grow arts and culture revenue

Ask Me Anything: Ticket Fees

Ask Me Anything Question

"Should ticket fees be included in the marketed price of a ticket, or tacked on during check-out?"

Jennifer Sowinski’s Answer

Adding fees during check-out can be a great source of additional revenue for your organization, but it can also be aggravating for patrons who are surprised by the extra expense. Deciding which is right for your organization can be a difficult balancing act, but it can certainly be done!

When we add fees at the end of the purchase path, we are assuming that by that point in the process, a few extra dollars won't change a patron's mind about completing the purchase. In fact, thanks to many popular online ticket vendors, our customers may even be expecting to see additional fees. But, we all know what it feels like when we're hit with large, unexpected charges on a purchase. That is not a feeling we want patrons to associate with our organizations.

There are a few ways we can mitigate the irritation that can come from adding fees in the cart:

  • Remind patrons of the organization's mission, and how important their support is to its success.
  • Make sure they understand that the fee isn't going to some unnamed third party, but ultimately helps keep the operations of the organization running smoothly.
  • Consider the price of the fees in relation to the ticket price. A five dollar fee might be negligible to someone purchasing a $149 ticket, but could seem outrageous to the person buying a $10 student ticket.
  • Keep in mind that the fees (and corresponding negative reaction) can be multiplied for performances where the party sizes tend to be larger, such as for a family or holiday show. Consider making adjustments to fees for large parties or for specific productions that tend to have a large party size.

On the other hand, rolling fees into the total ticket cost means that you don't have to worry about alienating an audience member with unexpected charges. However, it's important to understand how this will affect your advertising price. Advertising "no added fees" might make everyone feel good, but if it makes the price seem too much higher, it might not ultimately be to your advantage. Remember that consumers aren't always logical in the way we process prices. Psychologically, there is a difference between a $29 ticket + $2 fee and a $31 ticket. The difference in how patrons process those two prices may actually end up hurting sales.

It's up to each organization to find the right balance of ticket prices and added fees. Used correctly, they can be a great way to increase revenue and sustain your organization.

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.

Jennifer Sowinski, Consultant, JCA Arts Marketing

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