99 Economic Concerns, But Admission Price Ain’t One

In a recent post Colleen Dilenschneider reported that recent research reflects the title of this post.  While inflation is a big concern for people right now, ticket/admission pricing does not seem to be a barrier to participating in a cultural experience.

However, the cost of everything else surrounding that experience is a concern – food, gas, parking, babysitting, gift shop purchases.

While those may impede the decision to attend, Dilenschneider says the research shows that often people are opting to downgrade on these ancillary aspects in order to still have the central experience.

This research suggests that people expect to spend less overall in support of their cultural experiences. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they are abandoning or deferring cultural experiences; instead, they are contemplating economic tradeoffs to align their actual spending to expectations. Think carpooling instead of driving separately. Parking in the garage instead of using the valet. Eating at a fast casual restaurant instead of the Michelin-starred culinary temple.

Dilenschneider cautions arts and cultural organizations against discounting admission as a way to entice purchases because most of the concerns people have are far outside the scope of the organization’s control and are multiple time as concerning as admission prices.  Among those with a high propensity to attend, factors like inflation, the general economy, and financial markets were much greater concerns with much more weight than admission cost.

Taking $3 off your admission prices won’t offset an airplane fare costing $400 more than it did last year. Nor will it reduce the amount of fuel required to visit or improve the ROI for someone’s 401k. More to the point, there is scant evidence that a significant number of high-propensity visitors are even asking organizations to lower their admission costs.


Tampering with your ticket prices in reaction to broad economic perceptions risks doing more harm than good. While admission pricing may be one of the few cost-related factors within our control, the research indicates that it is not a notable barrier for those with interest in attending.

Instead, the solutions are strategic: Keep engaging digitally to motivate attendance. Underscore your credibility with fantastic content. Continue to strive to be relevant. Keep being your inspiring, amazing institutional self, such that the quality of your experience cannot be ignored.

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

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.


Leave a Comment