Arts loyalty returning in the US, says audience behaviour report

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JCA Arts Marketing’s latest study into audience trends and loyalty programmes in the US has demonstrated that fixed subscriptions for performing arts organisations were stabilising, but not quite returning to pre-pandemic numbers. 

In a press release, the marketing division of consulting firm JCA said: “The drop in subscriptions for performing arts organisations post-pandemic has been uncomfortable, but not surprising. There has been an ongoing decline in subscriptions sales since the 1990s, and the pandemic only hastened what was inevitable.”

Among the 22 organisations studied for the ‘Trends in Audience Behaviour: Loyalty Programmes’ report, subscription rates even grew slightly compared to last season. JCA Arts Marketing noted that a mixture of loyalty programme types was the most effective way of attracting patrons from different lifestyles to performing arts organisations.

Additionally, ‘Choose Your Own’ packages were considered a revenue-driver, with patrons paying more per ticket. This is mostly because CYO subscribers receive less of a discount than fixed subscribers, and patrons are generally more willing to pay higher prices to see specific shows they actually want to see.

The report urged opera and theatre companies to make sure their subscriptions were not underpriced, especially with the pace of changing inflation post-pandemic.

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

Data for the study was gathered from 22 major organisations across different regions of the US. Participants included eight regional theatre companies, seven music organisations, four opera companies and three performing arts centres.

The analysis then compared subscription sales for the 2023-24 season to past campaigns in 2018-19, 2019-20, 2021-22 and 2022-23.