Case Study

Infographic | A Survey of Subscription Packages

October 15, 2018

Performing arts organizations are shamelessly curious about how different organizations package their subscriptions—and so are we. One of the most common questions we hear is “what are other orgs doing that are new/different/successful?” So we set out to answer that question—with data! Our goal was to find out how many performances are typically in a “full subscription” on average, what organizations call their subscribers, and how many organizations have mini or choose-your-own subscriptions. And what, other than these familiar models, are other organizations trying?

We surveyed 106 organizations across North America to answer some of our questions. Here are the results…

It’s not surprising that over 90% of performing arts companies that we surveyed still offer a full subscription, and that most call their subscribers “subscribers.” However, we’re curious about the expectations set up by organizations that call their traditional subscribers something other than “subscriber.” Does labeling them “members,” for example, send a confusing message to people who have “memberships” at other organizations that are radically different than a traditional subscription? Or to people who are used to museum memberships?

Let’s take a look at other types of subscriptions that are popular among organizations…

We were a bit surprised to find that choose-your-own subscriptions are a more popular offering than curated mini subscriptions. Organizations are clearly recognizing that the differing tastes of audience members, as well as an increased desire for flexibility, are not always conducive to curated packages.

Another form of subscription that seems to be acquiring popularity due to its flexibility is a voucher system. Surprisingly, voucher systems have almost the same average amount of vouchers per pack as the average amount of performances in full, traditional subscriptions…

And finally, let’s take a look at the types of “memberships” that some organizations are now offering…

We’ve worked with a few organizations that have new membership programs, and in most cases memberships are an attempt to create loyalty among those who don’t like the rigidity of a traditional subscription. Our arts marketing colleagues theorize that the model of membership with a monthly or yearly fee may resonate in the age of Netflix, MoviePass, and the ever-accumulating amount of memberships that our modern technology allows for. However, the jury is out on the success of these memberships. Are they cannibalizing traditional subscriptions and the revenue they bring in, or are they creating loyalty among new audiences? We’ll have to wait and see.

The analysis shows that arts organizations are all doing pretty much the same thing in regards to loyalty. There are a few exceptions out there if you go looking, but your organization probably hasn’t been left in the dust. And to leave you with one piece of advice after all this research—simplicity is key. Make it easy for patrons to navigate your website. Use plain language to describe your subscription packages. In the day of Amazon, no purchase should be difficult or confusing.

Our consultants at JCA Arts Marketing are experts at helping you communicate the rational value of a subscription. We examine your data and your audiences and collaborate with you to design subscription options that match audience behavior. We have experience with both traditional and format-breaking loyalty models and we would love to help you feel more confident in what you offer and to whom.


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