It’s That They Think Ticket Prices Are Too High

A little while ago I came across a presentation by the Wallace Foundation that seeks to aggregate a number of studies to provide insight for building millennial audiences.

If you have been following the research about performing arts audiences for any length of time, there probably won’t be much in the presentation that will surprise you. The barriers to participation, for example, are familiar: cost, no one to go with and the variety of available choices.

However, if you are new to the topic or just seeking a review, the presentation is a good tool. The visuals are easy to navigate and provide some useful insights.

Of particular interest was the topic of cost and younger audiences. In response to the objection that the cost is too high, I have often heard colleagues note that young people will easily drop more money at a bar on a week night than a ticket would cost.

As it so often is, cost is just an excuse for something else. In this case, it is the assurance that one will enjoy the experience.

Among the responses quoted in the Wallace presentation are the following:

“It’s not about the cost or whether I have the money, but just about the investment and the risk.”


“I can see myself paying $100 for a show I’ve wanted to see for a long time, but not more than $50-60 for a normal show, and really more like $20 to 30 if I can.”

What was most interesting was that millennials tended to overestimate the cost of the ticket by a significant margin. Check out this chart.

One of the suggestions in the presentation is obviously to find a more effective way to communicate the pricing.

As I looked through the findings, I realized there was a lot in common with the recent survey findings communicated by Ballet Austin which noted audiences were open to experimenting with unfamiliar works if they were provided with information that assured an enjoyable experience.

I subsequently realized the Wallace Foundation funded Ballet Austin’s research so the common elements are to be expected. (And explains why I was experiencing deja vu reading some of the survey quotes.) The Ballet Austin results are worth a read for the detail not mentioned in the presentation document.

One other image I wanted to share, especially for those who may not take my advice to view the full presentation, is this handy chart on experiences millenials in general seek from different performance disciplines. (As they say, your mileage may vary.)

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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