5 min

Success stories are amazing sources of ideas and inspiration.

But buried in each triumphant tale can be something even more valuable. That’s discovering the moment it all could have gone wrong. Important lessons often reveal themselves in response to initial setbacks or unexpected hurdles.

Tessitura members shared great examples of experimentation at our 2022 conferences. In their stories, several common themes emerged. They’re useful to anyone exploring new ticketing, fundraising or membership models. Keep these takeaways top of mind when you face the pressure of navigating unchartered territory.

Important lessons often reveal themselves in response to initial setbacks or unexpected hurdles.

Challenge your assumptions

Locomotion, a free locomotive museum in England, is one of the smallest in the five-member Science Museum Group. The region in County Durham has higher-than-average unemployment and below-average levels of disposable income. Almost 75% of museum visitors are local. Many return often, an average of seven times per year.

Over the years, museum staff developed assumptions about visitor giving potential. Previous direct asks for contributions hadn’t performed well. Donation boxes placed throughout the venue evoked minimal response.

In 2020, the pandemic required the introduction of timed ticketing. The museum added a donation request to its online ticketing path. The response instantly upended their previous beliefs. Locomotion achieved some of the highest per-visitor donation amounts across the group.

Those results gave front-of-house staff the confidence to revisit in-person asks. In 2022, they generated an 800% increase in on-site donations.

Takeaway: It can be hard to let go of old assumptions. Data can provide the push you need to try something new.
A father with his son on top of his shoulders, pointing, look at a model train set at Locomotion museum in the UK.

Locomotion saw a significant uptick in contributions after adding a donation request to its online ticketing path.

Prepare to pivot

Phoenix Theatre Company introduced its All-Access Pass in 2018. The program provides unlimited theatre for a monthly fee of $39. Other perks include discounts on concessions, merchandise and extra tickets purchased for friends.

Staff initially targeted the offering to the Arizona theatre’s most engaged audience members: its traditional subscribers. The thinking was they would be most likely to want to engage more. But the program didn’t take off.

What the team didn’t expect was how strongly this group valued their specific seats. Subscribers didn’t want to lose them. Once the theatre shifted the target audience, the program experienced rapid growth. Phoenix began its 2021–22 season with 26 pass holders and now has more than 400.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to pivot. Sometimes a small change rather than a big overhaul is all that’s needed to create a path to success.
Promotional message for Phoenix Theatre Company's All Access Pass at $39 per month.

The Phoenix Theatre Company All-Access Pass offers unlimited theatre for a monthly fee.

Turn limitations into opportunities

Scottish Ballet performances regularly sell to audiences of more than 90% capacity. But each touring venue handled its own ticketing, so the company had little data about those patrons. It was hard to grow new audiences. It was almost impossible to build long-term relationships.

In 2020, the company launched a free membership program. Its dual goals were to build community and gain a more holistic view of its audience. New members get exclusive access, discounts and perks when sharing their email address.

Since the debut of the membership program, audiences have grown considerably. Roughly a third of new members live outside Scotland. There also have been big uptakes in engagement. New members drive revenue through class registrations, event attendance and contributions.

Takeaway: The most creative solutions often arise in response to big obstacles. Limitations can become unexpected opportunities when viewed from a new perspective.
A group of dancers holds another dancer high above their heads as their images are projected on a screen above the stage in the Scottish Ballet production of Coppelia.

Through its free membership program, Scottish Ballet is learning more about audiences for touring productions like Coppélia. Photo by Andrew Ross.

Don’t go it alone

Miami City Ballet performs its holiday production of The Nutcracker in three cities: Miami, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Sadly, scheduling conflicts eliminated the latter as an option in 2022. Staff knew they needed a creative way to ensure Fort Lauderdale audiences could still join the fun.

They partnered with Brightline, a passenger rail service that connects the three South Florida cities. Fans could buy an all-in-one package including the performance and round-trip train travel. The company turned the experience into an immersive event. The 40-minute trip featured food and character greetings.

The appeal was immediate. Within a couple of weeks of the launch, Miami City Ballet had sold more than a hundred packages. Plus, clever videos took the promotion viral and helped reach new audiences.

Takeaway: Hurdles don’t need to be navigated alone. Seek out like-minded partners that can help.
Two dancers, one costumed as the Nutcracker and the other in pink as the Sugar Plum Fairy, stand at the edge of a sandy beach gazing out into the ocean.

Clever videos helped Miami City Ballet’s Nutcracker promotion with Brightline go viral.

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Tessitura provides the flexibility to support all your ticketing, fundraising and membership experiments. To learn more, explore Tessitura’s comprehensive functionality.

Top photo of the Phoenix Theatre Company production of Singin’ in the Rain by Reg Madison.


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