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SUCCESS STORY: How Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Maximized Revenue on Digital Performances


The 2020–21 season has brought about many challenges for arts organizations around the world. COVID-19 has forced many to cancel live performances and embrace the world of digitally streamed content.

JCA Arts Marketing worked with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (KWS) on a pricing structure for their new season of digital performances. We recently spoke with Director of Audience Engagement, Kari Hueber, about the company’s entry to digital performances and the early results of its tiered pricing structure.

HOW WILL YOUR 2020–21 SEASON BE PRESENTED?

Right now it’s looking like our whole 2020-21 Season will be presented online. We are lucky that our hall, Centre in the Square in Kitchener, Ontario, has one of the largest stages in Canada, so this means that we’re able to fit the whole orchestra physically distanced onstage. This is allowing us to present more or less full concerts, though we are limited in terms of guest artists due to travel restrictions and isolation requirements.

So far we have only announced concerts up to the end of December, but soon we will be releasing the details of concerts for the rest of the season. Breaking up the announcements like this has allowed us more flexibility in planning and the ability to respond to changing public health recommendations.

WHAT OPTIONS DO SINGLE TICKET BUYERS HAVE TO ATTEND DIGITAL PERFORMANCES THIS SEASON?

For a number of reasons, including the release in phases of the 2020–21 season, we were not able to offer subscription packages. Instead we opted for single tickets with a multiple price point approach, which has been hugely successful. Our goal was to maximize revenue while maintaining accessibility.

While we are hoping to attract some new customers with online concerts, we knew that it would primarily be our most loyal patrons would be eager to support us and consume our product during this time, but we were aware that some of our audience might be facing financial challenges due to the pandemic.

HOW ARE YOU PRICING YOUR DIGITAL PERFORMANCES?

We were considering three pricing options for our 2020–21 Season:

  • One price
  • Pay what you can/choose your price (with a suggested minimum price)
  • Multiple price points

With the first two options, we kept running into the same problem: we would be leaving revenue on the table, as many of our supporters would be willing and able to pay more than whatever price we chose. Even with the “choose your price” option, we felt that it would be too easy for patrons to default to the suggested minimum price, as human nature makes it easy to just select the number you are presented with.

With these considerations—and JCA’s recommendation—offering multiple price points was clearly the way to go, and we chose the following structure:

  • $100
  • $65
  • $40
  • $25
  • $15

This structure mirrors the number of price points that our patrons are accustomed to, as we normally have five price points for both subscriptions and single tickets, though these have been adjusted down slightly to reflect that the product is online rather than in-person.

However, the top $100 price point is higher than any of our in-person single ticket options. This “higher than usual” top price point has the benefit of allowing our patrons to show their support financially, while also having the effect of making the second-highest price point look more appealing. This structure also allowed us to include the $15 price point to maintain accessibility.

HOW ARE YOU COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR PATRONS ABOUT THESE PRICES?

Messaging with careful wording has been key to the success of this multiple price point structure. We communicate early and often to patrons about the options and considerations when selecting a price:

“Multiple prices are available for purchasing online concert streams, to allow you to choose your price based on your current situation. When selecting your price, you might consider how many people in your household will be watching the stream, and what you might usually spend on attending a concert.”

This messaging has also served as a way to connect with our patrons and acknowledge the different situations in which they may find themselves—we have actually had patrons thank us for taking this step. 

WHAT HAVE THE RESULTS BEEN SO FAR?

As a result of implementing the tiered pricing structure that we worked on with JCA, we brought in $20,000* more in ticket revenue than we would have had we charged a single price. Our most loyal patrons proved willing to pay for higher priced tickets.

*For all 2020-21 digital performances, as of October 15, 2020.

By offering multiple price points, we saw 44% of our total revenue come from the top two price points ($100, $65) and 72% of total revenue come from the top three price points ($100, $65, $40).

Had we only offered the single price point of $15, we would have left more than $15,000 in revenue on the table! And, by offering the highest price point of $100, KWS was able to offer the more accessibly priced $15 ticket, which accounted for 25% of the audience.

ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?

When planning streamed events, it is of utmost importance to price tickets in a way that is beneficial to your organization, while also being perceived as fair and accessible. Experiences tend to be devalued when they go online (think of the music industry and Napster, Spotify, and Pandora), so it is a necessity to attach value to them from the beginning. 

Your patrons want to support you during these challenging times—let them! You’re putting just as much time, effort, and money (if not more) into producing online concerts, so don’t devalue them just because they’re online.

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony is one of the many JCA Arts Marketing clients that are launching dynamic new seasons in the face of COVID-19. We’re happy to share our clients' journeys, and provide advice for your 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. Contact us directly or learn more about our consulting offerings at our Relaunch Center.

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