Ask Me Anything: Moving Younger Audiences Up The Ladder

February 20, 2018

“We’ve seen some really great engagement with our student rush program but we lose track of them after they graduate. Is there any way to keep students/young people engaged after they’ve aged out of the program?”


By doing a quick glance at 21 company websites from prominent theatre, opera, and symphonic organizations across the country, I have found that most have a student rush or similar access program. What the vast majority don’t have, however, is a membership or subscription option to engage young people with their programming at an early age with accessible pricing and subscription perks.

Among these 21 companies:

  • 14 have student rush.
  • 9 have a general rush program (not restricted by age or student status).
  • 7 have a single ticket program where under 35s can buy tickets for less in advance without subscribing.
  • 4 have a membership option (like a flex pass for the season).
  • 3 have a subscription option.

Only a third of the organizations have programs in place to engage a younger audience early on, encouraging repeat behavior within the season that makes them more likely to return the next season and keep coming back as they get older and move into regular subscription/member territory.

If you take the time to show your young ticket buyers that you care about them by having a system in place that provides access to advanced ticket booking, rather than just the scraps left on the table for each performance, you are going to build a relationship with them. Ideally that relationship will grow over time as young people move themselves up the ladder and become young subscribers or members (and eventually fully-fledged subscribers, members, or donors). If you’ve been engaging them from the beginning, you won’t have to work so hard later on to re-engage them after they are no longer eligible for student tickets.


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.