Ask Me Anything: Tough Seasons

May 07, 2018

“This past season has been tough for us. Several shows were poorly reviewed and missed goal. We are all feeling worn down. What advice and encouragement can you give for organizations facing a string of failures?


Knowing that a production or concert didn’t perform as well as your organization hoped can cause not only frustrations externally, but doubts internally. Did we market this correctly? Did we price it too high? Why didn’t people come? What happened? These are all very important questions to ask your department as well as your company, especially if the expected outcome was a hit that would be a boon financially.

However, just because the programming underperformed doesn’t mean that there aren’t narratives of success to be found. In nearly every instance something worked. It may be a tried and true initiative such as third-party discounts or fire sales. Perhaps it was something specific to this production such as engaging with and creating access to an underserved community. Find the one thing that worked and build on that as a use case for when to launch those initiatives in an even more effective way next time.

Here are some other examples of data to analyze to find the accomplishments within a failure:

  • Were you able to make dynamic price increases (and thus incremental income) on specific performances and sections of the house where die-hard fans were still purchasing?
  • Did the work meet up to your organization’s artistic standards and, in turn, help solidify your brand and mission to the audiences who did enjoy it?
  • Are there new patrons who came (for whatever reason) who you can now engage-with as “review-proof” and further develop their loyalty?
  • Were your discount strategies effective in bringing in the right audiences (either price-sensitive or culturally significant to the piece) and helping to intentionally fill the house?
  • How did your team respond to the challenge? Are there internal workplace successes to celebrate about the effort put forth to improve the circumstances?

We don’t believe that any production or artist or concert can be written off as a complete failure. There is always something to learn and there is always a reason to be proud of the hard work that is put into solving a problem. Resist the urge to move onto the easier sell in your season, but instead sit with the challenge and resolve to take those lessons and successes, even small ones, further down the road with you.


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.