Is the subscription model dead?

written by:

Et tu, Subscriber?

A Wall Street Journal article written a couple years after the recession hit hinted that the subscription model was close to meetings its end. That pronouncement was understandable given that subscriptions require a commitment of discretionary income that was no longer available to many. It’s been nearly 8 years since the recession, one that took its toll on the arts industry, and it’s worth asking: is the subscription model dead? A quick Google search of “theatre subscriptions” returns page after page of theaters still offering subscriptions. Such extensive and reassuring results begs the question of whether or not the model was truly on its death bed after all.

It turns out that rather than dying, the subscription model has evolved. Organizations are no longer depending on the traditional (First Friday, Matinee Sunday, etc.) fixed subscription option because it’s simply no longer feasible. Additionally, organizations are getting more creative in the ways they thank their patrons for being subscribers. (More on that a little later.)

Of course, we’re not suggesting that you do away with your traditional “fixed” season subscription.  That option is still widely (and successfully) used by many organizations of all shapes and sizes.  However, if that is your lone season subscription offering and your organization is experiencing flat season subscription sales perhaps it’s time for you to consider expanding your subscription offerings to include more intuitive options, rather than solely relying on the traditional subscription model.

Consider the following types of subscriptions that can be used in combination with your fixed subscription offerings:

  • Flexible Subscriptions
    This option lets your patron have more control over event selection and prioritization. Let your patron decide which performances they wish to attend and discount their purchase appropriately. While fixed subscriptions offer a structure many patrons prefer because of its consistency, if your patron has a scheduling conflict on one of their pre-determined dates, they may be hesitant to purchase a subscription. The flexible subscription option allows your patron the ability to, let’s say, go on a Saturday for one production, Friday for another, etc. This type of flexibility lets your patron commit to purchasing a full season subscription without feeling like they are being limited in their choices.
  • Tip: Many organizations that offer flexible season subscriptions combine them with a tiered season subscription discount – the more tickets their patrons purchase, the better the subscription pricing they get. So, for example, on a 5-show season subscription patrons may get a 10% savings if they purchase 3 of the 5 shows, a 15% savings if they purchase 4 of the 5 shows or a 20% savings if they purchase all 5 shows.
  • Packages or Mini-Plans
    For some patrons doling out a large amount of money for a full season can be difficult. For others, the scheduling commitment required to attend a full season’s worth of shows is simply not realistic. That’s where packages and mini plans come into play. By offering a fixed or flexible mini plan, you make your events accessible to patrons who are a budget-conscious, or unwilling to commit to purchasing a full season’s worth of events. A mini plan is a perfect fit for the millennial crowd who love the arts.
  • Tip: Use interesting package combinations as a way of cross-selling your shows. For example, if your organizations produces musicals and non-musicals, you could create a package or mini plan that includes both. If the incentive is right, you may pick up new audience members for both types of productions. If your organization puts on a new work every season, try combining that with a proven production, leveraging its popularity to increase attendance to your new production

Subscribers?  They’re the real MVP’s, and they love being made to feel special. In reality, they are special because they represent a segment of your patron base that has shown loyalty and commitment to your organization in a real and tangible manner.  Putting their name in your program is always a nice gesture, but showing your appreciation to your subscribers can take other forms, too.  For example:

  • Perks on Perks on Perks!
    People love feeling appreciated! Give your subscribers privileges only available to them, like waiving exchange fees you may normally charge, or by giving them discounts on merchandise or concessions. Some organizations may be in a position to offer more elaborate perks, such as branded merchandise, or seat upgrades, but even if you operate under limited resources gestures like giving subscribers free snacks and drinks at a show, or providing them with their own special entrance works just as well.
  • Priority
    Give your subscribers first chance at keeping the seats they had the previous season by offering same-seat renewals. Many organizations use automated same-seat renewal programs to allow their subscribers to renew their season subscriptions online.  Our same-seat renewal program is also capable of printing renewal forms, and sending renewal email messages.
  • Access
    Show your appreciation to your subscribers by giving them access to your high-profile shows before they go on sale to the general public. Doing this gives the subscriber the ability to get the best seats before single seats tickets go on sale, and adds a sense of being a valued customer to their ticket purchasing experience. For many patrons, this perk is reason enough to become a subscriber.

Take your subscription offerings to the next level by thinking outside the box.  Showcase your creativity by coming up with new and inventive subscription offerings and benefits that will help convert your ticket buyers into subscribers!

Tix is a state-of-the-art, cloud-based ticketing system that features fully integrated access controls, event management controls, multi-channel distribution capabilities, and a robust reporting suite. We specialize in no-cost, feature-rich ticketing solutions for venues, promoters, producers, universities, theme parks, tours, museums, casinos, theatres, film festivals, concerts, night clubs, music festivals, race tracks, and more.

To learn more about who we are and what we do, give us a call. We can be reached at (800) 504-4849 or