Arts & Culture

US arts organisations witness steep decline in subscription sales – study

JCA Arts Marketing, a division of consulting firm Jacob Consulting Applications (JCA), has recently revealed through a study of audience behaviour in the US that subscription sales for arts organisations have fallen sharply.

The division aids arts and cultural organisations in utilising data to grow audiences and revenue, and its recent study has shown that many arts organisations have witnessed a steep decrease in subscription sales following the pandemic. 

Data for the study was gathered from 28 organisations in different regions of the US, including 12 music institutions, 11 theatre companies and five opera companies. 

The analysis compared subscription sales for 2022-23 to past seasons in 2021-22 and 2018-19, prior to enforced closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Key findings revolved around subscription sales being down overall and that theatre companies have seen the steepest decline in subscription sales, but are leading the field in innovation. 

Theatres appear to have adapted more to the needs of customers by offering new, flexible packages in higher numbers than other organisations. These flexible subscription packages are performing better than fixed subscription packages and are growing in comparison. 

Across all organisations studied, the number of subscription packages of all types fell by 41% compared to 2019, and subscription revenue dropped by 45%.  In 2023, subscription revenue rebounded to more than 67% of pre-pandemic levels while packages sold still lagged behind, selling at only 57% of pre-pandemic levels. 

Despite subscription sales falling, the percentage of single ticket sales is increasing according to the study. JCA Arts Marketing suggested that this presents an opportunity to reallocate marketing budget from subscription acquisition to new audience acquisition and retention. 

Audiences’ preferred days for arts consumption have not changed since the pandemic, with Saturday and Sunday still the most popular days in the US. 

Jamie Alexander, director of JCA Arts Marketing and co-author of the study, said: “While the data in this study may not be immediately encourage for organisations with subscription programs, we encourage organisations to view subscription decline as an opportunity. There are many advantages to the subscription model, but there are also many disadvantages. Let’s take the data as inspiration to move forward and innovate in this new world.”