Ask Me Anything: Senior Discounts

June 18, 2018

“We are considering doing away with senior discounts. Does that send the wrong message?”


I’ve worked with several organizations recently who are grappling with this issue. As audiences age, they are noticing disproportionately more senior tickets sold than full price. They have concerns ranging from pricing out seniors on a fixed income to being seen as valuing younger patrons (who would continue to have age/student discounts applied) more than the mature crowd.

If we take a step back and look at the purpose of discounts in general, they should fill performances and sections of your house that need help. They should work for the organization and not for the patron. And yet, they should also be ensuring a level of accessibility to groups of people for whom full price tickets are not an option.

Could you use this core framing of discounts to create better rules for senior discounts?

For example, senior discounts might be limited to certain performances only—like Tuesday or Sunday evenings. Or perhaps senior discounts don’t apply to the top and bottom prices. Or you only offer senior discounts during a limited pre-sale period and ensure that is communicated to those communities. Or maybe senior discounts only apply to subscription/membership packages and not on single tickets.

Ultimately, there should be a way to meet in the middle. If you’re offering senior discounts, cutting them off entirely will probably create a backlash. Instead, think through the best possible way this could work for both you and these patrons. How can you offer them a deal while not taking money off the table? What behavior can you influence (earlier buying, higher frequency, filling problem performances) by adjusting the rules and keeping everyone happy? We would then encourage you to apply this same strategy to every standard discount you offer: youth, student, rush, etc. It is entirely possible to honor specific communities with a deal, while still maximizing revenue.


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.