I went to the ROM a few weekends ago for the first time in several years. Like many others standing in line, I was enticed by CEO Janet Carding’s recent announcement that admission prices were being lowered by up to 37%. ROM drops prices! The press coverage was extensive, and the afternoon crowds seemed to indicate that the strategy of cutting prices to boost attendance is working.
The ROM is not the first to take this bold step. In 2005 Young People’s Theatre (then LKTYP) initiated what they described as an “extremely risky experiment” that they knew was necessary. Under Artistic Director Allen MacInnis and General Manager Nancy Webster the company made a drastic cut of 40% to their public ticket prices, including much lower prices for kids, as a way to remove price barriers and diversify and expand audiences. They were soon reporting increased capacity for both public and school shows, and an overall rise in box office revenues.
Both the ROM and LKTYP made this move following a complete review of their audience relations and marketing activities – which included audience surveys and interviews, both now part of the planning and skill sets of Creative Trust members, thanks to our work with Alan Brown and Donna Walker-Kuhne .
For LKTYP, reducing ticket prices to engage a larger, more economically and culturally diverse audience was one of a number of important organizational changes during their early years as members of Creative Trust. Along with increased sales and revenues, they also reported improved company morale and the ability to make a bolder commitment to pursuing their artistic mission. It was, I believe, one of the important moments in the company’s significant and impressive turnaround.
I hope the same will be true for the ROM. Although my afternoon visit was still pretty pricey (I wanted to see the Mayan exhibition before it closed), the young woman at the ticket desk did all the right things: she kindly explained that prices dropped even further 45 minutes later, and asked whether I wanted to browse the gift shop while waiting for this further discount.
Smart; very, very smart.