Determining ticket prices might seem like you're just pulling numbers out of you a**. And I'm not going to lie... sometimes that is certainly the case.
But if you really want to sell more tickets and make more money, then strategically pricing tickets is a vital component of doing just that. Tickets should be priced at just the right point - balancing between making enough money from the concert while also ensuring that you are providing fair value to your ticket buyers.
General Rules of Thumb
Price tickets based on the fair value you're offering to your ticket buyers. As you add value, your ticket prices can increase. Alternatively, if you decrease value, ticket prices should decrease. Here are some general rules of thumb to follow:
The higher the quality, the higher the value. If the venue has comfortable seating or excellent acoustics. If the musical ensemble is excellent and reputable. If the hired musicians and guests artists are professional. These are all indicators that the value is high and therefore the ticket pricing can be higher.
The more exciting the concert, the higher the value. Are you going to have unique or popular programming? Is your chorus entertaining as hell? Is the concert likely to sell-out? Do you have a celebrity in attendance? The excitement and popularity factor adds value which should be reflected in your pricing.
The more events or special offerings, the higher the value. Are you offering a reception with food and drinks? Perhaps a pre-concert lecture or a post-concert meet-and-greet with the artists? When you add special events or benefits, add that into your ticket prices.
Considerations for Pricing Tickets
There are many factors that go into pricing tickets. Use this list of considerations to ensure that your pricing is on track with the value you are providing.
Find out what has or hasn't worked with your ticket prices in the past and use that knowledge to influence your ticket prices for next time. Here is some data you might want to reference:
- What was the lowest-priced ticket you've ever sold and what quantity did you sell?
- What was the highest-priced ticket you've ever sold and what quantity did you sell?
- How many pricing levels or tiers have you sold in the past? Which price tiers sold the most quantity and/or brought in the most revenue? Which had the least?
- What is the average amount of tickets you sell per concert?
- What is the average amount of revenue you bring in each concert?
- If you have performed in the same venue in the past, look at the ticket levels and pricing you had, quantities per ticket type, and total quantities per each level sold. What was the total capacity you sold? Which ticket levels were most successful capacity-wise?
- If you have performed with the same repertoire or program in the past, look at the ticket levels and pricing you had, quantities per ticket type, and total quantities per each level sold. What was the total capacity you sold?
It's very important to keep your target audience in mind when developing a ticket pricing strategy. Survey your audiences for feedback to help identify what your audience is willing to pay. Here is a list of sample questions you can ask:
- What's the highest ticket price you've ever paid to see a musical concert? What was the performing group and what was on the program?
- What's the highest ticket price you've ever paid to see a choral concert? What was the performing group and what was on the program?
- What's the highest price you would be willing to pay to see one of our concerts?
- Are you willing to pay more for a concert with programming that you prefer?
- Are you willing to pay more for a concert with an excellent venue?
- What benefits or value could we provide that would make you want to pay more for a choral concert?
Post-Concert Audience Data
Similarly, you should reference any post-concert surveyed audience data to help support your pricing strategy. If you send surveys to your audiences after each performance, gather information such as:
- How many tickets did you buy for this performance?
- How much did you pay total for your tickets?
- Were you happy with the price you paid for tickets? Why or why not?
- How can we help make the tickets more valuable to you?
- Would you have paid more for this performance? If so, how much more? If not, why not?
Musical Quality & Ensemble Reputation
The chorus's musical quality and reputation play some part in your ticket pricing strategy. If you're part of a brand new amateur choral organization you might start with low-priced or free tickets to get people in the door and start to build a following. Alternatively, if you're a well-known ensemble with professional quality musicians, you'll likely be able to charge more for your tickets.
If you have an excellent venue with a good reputation, comfortable seats, good ushers and door-sales personnel, and wonderful acoustics, then it's perfectly reasonable for you to ask for more money to attend a show. Usually these types of venues are more expensive anyway and you'll need to charge more for your tickets in order to break even!
If you're performing out of a high school auditorium, however, people aren't going to want to pay top-dollar to hear you there. So be sure to factor in your performance space into your ticket prices accordingly.
The number of seats in a venue will help you do some basic calculations for prices. Know how many seats are in the house, how many tiers of seats might be needed, and a general goal for how many seats you may want to sell.
Date, Time, & Location of the Concert
The date of a performance can also influence your ticket prices. Think about whether you should adjust the ticket prices based on when your concerts fall. Should summer concerts be cheaper? Should December holiday concerts be more?
Regarding time of day - it's relatively standard for arts organizations to charge less for matinee or early afternoon concerts whereas evening performances can be pricier.
If the concert is conveniently located for your audience - accessible by car and public transportation, for example - then you might get away with higher-priced tickets. If it's a pain to get to your performance venue, considering decreasing the price of tickets to help overcome this obstacle.
The concert programming must be a part of your ticket pricing strategy. Think about the musical pieces in your program - are they extremely popular or well-loved? Do you have a unique, once-in-a-lifetime program? Are premiering something brand new or perhaps celebrating something exciting? These are all indicators that your ticket pricing should be on the higher side.
If the program is just a run-of-the-mill performance, it's going to be hard to justify higher-priced tickets.
Guest Musicians, Speakers, or Celebrities
The more prestige and popularity of your guest artists, the higher the value. If you're one of those choruses lucky enough to get a celebrity to come to your concert, you better be upping those ticket prices! Even local celebrities can help add value to your ticket buyers. So be sure your tickets accurately represent the celeb-status of your guest artists and speakers.
Concert Expenses & Expected Other Income
You'll need to consider both your concert expenses and other non-ticket-sales income you'll bring in. This is just to help give you a baseline for what income you need from ticket sales in order to break even financially.
It's a good idea to get a sense of what other choruses of similar quality, size, and repertoire in your community are charging for their performances. Are you in line with their pricing? Do you provide more value and can offer higher prices? Or vice versa?
Discounts are a great way to motivate ticket buyers to purchase tickets earlier. But it's hard to offer discounts if your tickets are priced too low. So make sure that you've thought about what discounts you'll want to offer your audiences before setting the price of tickets.
Pricing the Tickets
A Simple Formula
Okay, so we've discussed a lot of considerations for pricing tickets. So, how do you get started? I have a simple formula for you to get a baseline pricing strategy going:
(Actual Expenses - Expected Other Income)/Seats Likely to Sell = Average Ticket Price Needed
Let's break this down a tad.
Take your "Actual Expenses" (all concert expenditures) and subtract out any "other" income you'll get apart from ticket sales (such as sponsorships, donations, advertising, etc.). This leaves you with the total amount you need from ticket sales to break even for that concert.
Now take a look at your historical data of selling tickets. On average, how many tickets can you sell at this venue with this type of programming? That number becomes your "Seats Likely to Sell."
So you simply take your "Break Even Ticket Sales Revenue" and divide that by the "Seats Likely to Sell." This becomes your average ticket price needed.
Go ahead and try the formula with these sample numbers:
- Actual Expenses = $30,000
- Expected Other Income = $20,000
- Seats Likely to Sell = 300
($30,000-$20,000)/300 = ~$33 average per ticket
If you're only selling one ticket level or tier, this makes everything easy. You can sell tickets around $33 each and you'll break even for the performance.
If you decide to tier your ticket prices, you'll want to make sure that the ticket price levels and your estimated ticket sales quantity for each level average out to around $33 per ticket or a total of $10,000 in ticket sales revenue. A quick example of this: (100 tickets @ $20) + (100 tickets @ $35) + (100 tickets @ $50) = $10,500.
If you want to make money off of a concert (and not just break even!), then add the additional revenue you hope to bring in for that performance to the calculations.
Taking Considerations Into Account
Once you've put together your first draft of ticket prices, let's go back to each consideration above. Ask yourselves the following questions:
- Is this pricing strategy in line with what our historical and surveyed audience data is telling us?
- Does the ticket price reflect the value of the musical ensemble they will be hearing?
- Does the ticket price reflect the value of the venue or location they will be experiencing the performance in?
- Can the venue hold this many ticket buyers and do we have a good marketing strategy in place that will help us sell this many tickets?
- Is this a reasonable price to pay for the program, guest artists, celebrities, or other musicians the audience will see?
- Is this comparable to our competitors' prices? If not, can we explain rationally the difference in value and price?
- Will this pricing give us some room to experiment and play with marketing discounts?
If the answer is yes to each of these questions, then your ticket pricing strategy is a go! If not, don't be afraid to go back to the drawing board. This could mean that you need to rethink the value of your tickets. Or it could mean that you need to adjust the concert expenses and other income. Keep reworking the prices until you feel comfortable with the money you'll bring in and the value you'll provide to your audience!
Tori Cook is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection. She sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and is a board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro Musica in Boston. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.