Steven Roth
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Grow arts and culture revenue

Ask Me Anything: Patron Retention

Ask Me Anything Question

"What is a normal patron retention rate from season to season, and when should we be worried?"

Steven Roth’s Answer

When we perform an audience behavioral analysis with our clients, they are often very surprised to learn how few of their patrons are returning year on year. There is no thermometer for what is normal or healthy, but we typically see retention rates between 20-30%. The first trigger for concern is if you notice retention rates are dropping from year to year. If that is the case, something may be wrong in the perception of the value of attending a performance at your organization. We would encourage you to investigate that further.

It’s not uncommon to see very low retention rates for first-time buyers. They wanted to see something specific and their relationship with the organization is very fragile. Maybe you want to put some effort into retaining these first timers, which may require more time-intensive tactics to help bring them to a deeper level of engagement with your organization.

If you are seeing long time-buyers, subscribers, or multi-STBs drop off, then we’d recommend you take action immediately to curtail that attrition. Perhaps you need to restructure how subscriptions work, or review pricing that may have exceeded the budget of your reliable members. Introducing loyalty programs may also help ward off audience erosion. 

Overall the loss of patrons year on year is normal and something you should expect when budgeting. The biggest concerns should be which patrons are you retaining and which are you losing.

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.