Putting your Best Numbers Forward with Sales Forecasting: Part 3

Jennifer Sowinski Nemeth

Senior Consultant & Analyst

Jennifer enjoys working with arts and culture clients to help them increase revenue and grow audience through data-driven strategies including pricing studies, venue re-scaling, customer behavior analyses, and segmentation.
February 26, 2020

It’s that time of year again, when many of us are thinking about forecasting sales for the upcoming season. Each new season brings unique challenges, so how can you make sure that you’re creating the most effective forecasts possible?

Your most important asset for forecasting is the data you already have at your disposal from past performances. Using past data, you can predict how your audience will behave, what they’re most interested in seeing, and how much they’re willing to pay for it. The trick to successful forecasting is recognizing which past performances were most like your upcoming performances, then using that data to inform your predictions. But, choosing the right performances for comparison can be tricky!

One of the biggest pitfalls in forecasting is making assumptions about which criteria to use when comparing performances. We want to avoid assumptions, so always let your data be your guide! To make sure you’re using the right comparison criteria, let’s examine a few common ones, and how to determine if they’re right for your organization.


In addition to time of year and programming, there are a few other considerations that will affect your bottom line. These financial considerations can be adjusted for, so they won’t necessarily help you determine comparator performances, but they will help make sure your forecasts are as financially accurate as possible.

  • How long is the run? If you’re comparing a 3 week run to a 5 week run (or a 2 show weekend to a 3 show weekend), you’ll need to take that into account for your forecasting.
  • How does the day of week/time of day breakdown compare? If matinee performances sell better than evening performances for your organization, make sure to compare the number of each in your forecasting.
  • How do prices compare? If you’re using a performance from five years ago to forecast, make sure to take into account any price changes since then. Look to the most recent similar shows you have and take note of the average yield (total income divided by total seats sold) on those performances for your forecasts.

There’s no magic formula to getting a forecast right every time. But, if you focus on what you’ve learned from past performances and avoid making assumptions, you can feel good that you’re putting your best numbers forward!

Thanks for reading our 3-Part Series on Sales Forecasting. Missed a segment? Read Part 1: Time of Year and Part 2: Programming.  

Want to make better, faster forecasts?
We’re here to help. Our JCA Arts Marketing consultants can leverage our advanced tools (such as the recently released Revenue Management Application v6) to help you easily create accurate, data-driven sales projections. Contact us to learn more.

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.