Ask Me Anything: Which Factors Predict Sales

July 23, 2018

“When trying to budget we are never sure whether to consider or disregard things like Title, Seasonality, Artist, Etc. Is there a way to know what factors best predict sales?”


There is, what seems like, an endless menu of influences to think through when trying to forecast how a performance might sell. Therefore, it is understandable to feel a bit lost, without a compass pointing to the most accurate predictor. While we cannot say with confidence what will work, we can point you in the right direction and also help you avoid some common misconceptions.

  • Name Recognition Does Matter. In all of our research, the productions and concerts of known quantities are always the best sellers. Familiar musicals, established comedy troupes, big-name artists are all safe bets on healthy sales. Study past seasons to find like to like titles or performers to examine how much and how quickly those sold. Then use those as benchmarks against your upcoming production.
  • Season Slots Don’t Matter. We often see organizations fall into the trap of thinking “show 2” compared to “show 2” and while sometimes there may be content similarities, your audiences aren’t thinking this way at all. I guarantee not one single person is thinking, “Well I went in October last year, so it’s time to see something else.” Holiday shows are an exception to this rule, but it’s also very easy to know how to forecast for a Holiday show.
  • Subject Matter Sometimes Matters. There is a lot to be said for examining the content of your work to decide if that is valuable for building a sales trajectory. For example if you have produced several works that are more avant-garde or deal with a similar subject matter, there is a possibility an audience exists for that work and will continue to repeat their purchasing behaviors for that type of programming in the future. However, if you do some analysis and find this to not be the case—scrap it.

You can also generally avoid considering things like: beginning of run vs. end of run, or, length of the piece. But you should do some analysis to decide if weekday vs. weekend or amount of time since the last time it was performed has any effect.

There isn’t a set rubric, every organization is different, and even the best of predictions could be wrong. It’s a bit of trial and error but using these guidelines may help you get into a stronger position than you have been currently.


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.