Ask Me Anything: Avoid Upsetting Subscribers

February 06, 2019

“We want to re-scale our house to increase the inventory of some higher prices, but worry that doing so will really upset our subscribers. How do we avoid that?”


The process of re-scaling your house is necessary every few years to ensure that you’re making the house as profitable as possible and also address problem areas that need extra help filling.  However, it can be tedious, and implementing those changes can leave some long-time subscribers feeling put out.

Start by reminding yourself that a majority of subscribers will be in the exact same level of pricing as before. Our research shows that good portions of every organizations’ subscribers are already sitting in the highest price zone(s), and our assumption is that most of the seats in that section will stay that way. It’s the subscribers on the cusp that you need to worry about.

Our research also shows that price-savvy subscribers have figured out your scaling and select seats right on the cusp of zones to get the best possible seat without bumping up a price level. It’s fairly likely that these are going to change—and probably increase. You only have a few options:

  1. Ignore the problem – just send them a renewal notice when the time comes and hope that they either don’t notice or feel loyal enough to not care about the increase.
  2. Placate the problem – one of the most dreaded words in all of arts marketing is “grandfathering.” Offering subscribers their old price despite a new section can help offset some hurt feelings but how long do you do it for? And how much money are you going to lose of those seats in the process?
  3. Address the problem – this is the most time-intensive of the options but, in our opinion, the most effective. Do an analysis of all subscribers who will be changing price (either up or down) and have a conversation with them. Let them know the scaling is changing and their seats are affected. Talk them through what the new price will be but also offer them options to move into similar seats closer to their original price. This one on one conversation will make them feel valued and understood without sacrificing any income on your new scaling. Plus you get to avoid the nightmare of having to track grandfathered subs and prices.

All three have pros and cons given the size of your house, the greatness of the changes you make, and the number of subscribers affected. Just remember that while this project is meant to benefit your organization financially, if you find that the changes alienate your most loyal patrons it may be worth going back to the drawing board.

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JCA Arts Marketing collaborates with cultural organizations to increase revenue, boost attendance and membership, and grow patron loyalty. We provide consulting and software services to hundreds of cultural institutions across multiple genres, including dance, museums, opera, performing arts centers, symphony, and theatre. We can help you achieve your marketing goals.