Ask Me Anything: Differentiated Pricing in a Small Venue

March 04, 2019

We have a small 199-seat venue and, while we do reserved seat ticketing, we only have one price zone. Would it make sense for us to create multiple zones? If so, how many? What factors do we need to consider as we make this decision?


Great question! There are several reasons we suggest having multiple prices in your venue, even in a house that’s only 200 seats.

The value of attending a performance is different for every patron, every time they purchase a ticket. The trick in pricing your performances, then, is to match your prices with perceived value for as many different customers as possible. By offering multiple price points, you have increased the number of potential buyers who can find the price that’s right for them. From an income standpoint, that means you’ll be able to maximize revenue from those that are willing to pay more for the best seats, and you’ll be able to sell tickets that would have otherwise gone unsold by offering them at a lower price.

One concern that we hear, when we talk about differentiated pricing is “But there’s no bad seat in the house!” That may be true, especially in small houses, but here’s where we can turn to data for guidance.  Take a look at which seats in your venue sell the earliest and most often.  Your customers are telling you that those are what they consider to be the best seats. On the other hand, pay attention to where seats often go unsold or only sell when that’s all that’s left, and you’ve found your “worst” seats.

Consider this example, a small house of only 128 seats, all at the same price. This is a chart of the number of times each seat sold, with Red being the most times, and dark blue being the least. We can see a pretty clear pattern telling us which seats our patrons prefer, and which seats sell first.

This organization ultimately settled on three prices, layed out in green, pink, and orange below. This structure allows them to sell a small section of top-priced seats, another small area of bottom-priced seats, and the majority of seats at a middle price.


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.