Case Study: Albany Symphony Orchestra

Case Study: Albany Symphony Orchestra

Doubled Subscription Revenue

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The Challenge:

Music Director David Alan Miller conducts the ASO. Gary David Gold Photography.
Music Director David Alan Miller conducts the ASO.
Photo by Gary David Gold Photography.
By 2010, the Albany Symphony Orchestra (ASO) had experienced a steady decline in subscribers over seven years. During the 2009–10 and 2010–11 seasons, ASO had implemented an idea popular in the orchestra field of growing new subscriptions by offering them at half price. Units increased significantly. However, per-ticket revenue declined and renewal rates were poor. The result was that subscriptions stagnated, coming in at just under 900 units in 2010–11.

To reverse this trend, a three-year “Sustainability” campaign was established. The goal: increase revenue sustainably, primarily earned and contributed income from individuals. ASO hired TRG Arts in 2010 to assist in rebuilding the patron base with a particular focus on subscriptions, and to increase revenue across all patron types.

Albany Symphony subscription chart


Over the past 2 ½ years of work with TRG, ASO has seen:
• A 118% increase in subscription revenue
• 75% increase in units
• 21% increase in per-ticket revenue
• The full, 8-concert package drove growth and showed big increases—81% in two years.

TRG’s recommendations also increased single ticket revenue in the classical series by 116% total. ASO saw a 154% increase in average revenue per concert.

How ASO did it:

ASO followed TRG counsel to focus on the full series package of 8 concerts. The strategy: position the full series as the “best value” for subscribers in every way – seating, pricing and priority access. TRG also helped ASO leverage the appeal of major artists and repertoire while maintaining its commitment to new music. ASO implemented a series of TRG-guided integrated strategies to generate subscription growth, while at the same time driving increases in single ticket sales:

Albany Symphony subscription chartPrice to attract and retain subscribers…

TRG worked with ASO to rescale their halls and plan subscription and single ticket pricing. The largest package was priced to give it the greatest value proposition to subscribers, a message that was consistently highlighted in all materials. TRG restructured prices to incentivize upgrades between series and price points. To drive new subscriptions, the ASO also introduced a low-priced, entry-level seating area for subscribers.

 …and maximize revenue.

The pricing plan increased the potential per ticket yield on the ASO’s classical and holiday concerts and instituted dynamic pricing to respond to high demand. TRG also introduced the Orchestra to inventory management strategies which aimed to maximize the perception of success regardless of audience size.
ASO also began planning discounts in advance to incentivize early buying and setting stricter controls on comp tickets—both of which support, rather than detract from loyalty. The Orchestra started to monitor per capita revenue weekly, have regular integrated revenue pacing meetings, and use TRG sales pacing tools to track weekly revenue and unit goals.

But, how to actually sell subscriptions?

In addition to their relentless focus on the value of the full series subscription, ASO did the following:
• Leveraged big name artists and repertoire by including them in the full series subscription only.
• Instead of mailing one brochure to attract new subscribers, sent multiple waves of materials with different offers and deadlines.
• Rolled out smaller packages later in the campaign to encourage larger package buying.
• Used TRG Response Reports to understand who was buying subscriptions.
• Hired a telemarketing firm to increase the number of times a prospect was contacted.

Retention, Retention, Retention.

To turn around subscription renewal rates, ASO planned and implemented a retention program specifically for new subscribers. The Orchestra also instituted an onsite promotion plan to thank all subscribers and incentivize renewals, as well as developing an upgrade plan for every renewing subscriber. In renewal materials and invoices, ASO now invited subscribers to increase investment in the organization. Additionally, ASO began tracking new single ticket buyers in the database and began to systematically invite them back after their first visit.

About ASO:

The Albany Symphony Orchestra is one of the region’s most revered music and cultural institutions, having won numerous national awards for its adventurous concert programming, recording projects, composer residencies, and innovative educational efforts involving area schools throughout the region. As the only professional symphony orchestra based within the Capital Region, the Albany Symphony enriches a broad and diverse regional community, engaging over 150,000 people each year across an extended geographical area.

Posted March 22, 2013

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