A Peek at Performance Arts Subscription Programs—Is Yours Leaving Money on the Table?

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Photo Credit: Annie Gavin

JCA Arts Marketing has published a new study that looks at audience trends for performing arts organizations in the 2023-2024 season.

JCA helps arts and cultural organizations leverage data-driven insights to grow their audiences and revenue. The study, ‘Trends in Audience Behavior: Loyalty Programs’ examines how subscription sales for performance art venues are doing, three years post-pandemic. In conducting the study, JCA sought to understand if performaning arts audiences would be primed to participate in newer loyalty programs—things like choose-your-own subscriptions, memberships, and ticket credits.

The data for the Loyalty Programs Study was gathered from 22 major organizations in different regions of the United States. It included eight regional theatre companies, seven music organizations, four opera companies, and three performing arts centers (PACs). Analysis of these venues compares subscription sales for 2023/24 to past seasons in 2018/19, 2019/20, 2021/22, and 2022/23.

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One key finding is that fixed subscriptions are stabilizing, but they aren’t going back to pre-pandemic numbers. “Subscription numbers remained relatively stable compared to last season and even grew a bit among the organizations studied,” JCA reveals. “However, it’s unlikely that subscription numbers will go back to pre-pandemic levels.”

A mixture approach to loyalty programs seems to have the best audience response. Different types of loyalty programs attract different people with varying lifestyles and behaviors, so the mix helps generate revenue across audience segments rather than catering to a specific demographic. When it comes to offering subscriptions, music venues are the most stable, while theater venues are the least.

Another finding is that ‘Choose Your Own’ (CYO) packages are a revenue driver for performance arts venues. That’s because CYO subscribers pay more per ticket for the privilege of being able to choose the specific shows they want to go see. For opera and theater companies, subscription prices should be optimized to avoid leaving money on the table.

“We’re thrilled to report stabilization after the three somewhat tumultuous producing seasons since the pandemic closures,” adds Jamie Alexander, Director of JCA Arts Marketing & a co-author of the study. “We hope that performing arts organizations continue to fix their sights on innovation and create reimagined experiences for today’s audiences.”

Read the full study here.