Using Pay-As-You-Wish Pricing To Self-Correct Artificially Inflated Ticket Prices

WQXR Blog published an article by Brian Wise on 7/21/2015 that examines Pay-As-You-Wish ticket pricing for classical music concerts, which was recently implemented in the U.K. via the Hallé Orchestra.

Adaptistration People 124Although it is doubtful that Pay-As-You-Wish pricing will become any sort of mainstream ticket strategy, it does serve as a worthwhile conduit for continued examination of exacerbated pricing trends, which long time readers know is a bedrock topic here at Adaptistration.

In a timely connection, the 7/10/2015 edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune published an article by Mark Kanny that examines one of the highest risk approaches to artificially inflated ticket pricing the field has seen in the past few years. Kanny reports that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) decided to raise ticket prices 12 percent over the course of two consecutive seasons even though average attendance rates were in a steady decline.

The result was far from what the organization hoped.

Symphony leadership thought it had found a finesse point in the numbers, where it would make more money from fewer tickets sold. The classical ticket-price increases were 5 percent for the 2013-14 season and 7 percent in 2014-15. The Pops tickets went up 3 percent each year.

It didn’t work.

While revenue per seat sold went up, overall ticket revenue was down 4 percent for 2014-15.

We’ve examined this strategy in the past and that it should only be an option of last resort during periods of extreme crisis management and even then, as a very short term measure but certainly not something to employ over the course of multiple seasons.

In the end, don’t expect ticket prices to self-correct any time in the near future. The PSO certainly isn’t alone in its counterproductive attempts to generate revenue but if the Pay-As-You-Wish ticket pricing topic can help the field move forward in a proactive way, then the more discussion the better.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “Using Pay-As-You-Wish Pricing To Self-Correct Artificially Inflated Ticket Prices”

  1. For about a year now we had in Bremen, Germany, a similar experiment at the Schwankhalle, an off-production house. Management is changing over the summer, the new management has decided to do away with “self-pricing”. Reason given: they would rather talk about artistic issues then the appropriate admission price … No income reports are available so I do not know if they suffered heavy losses or not …

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