The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra enjoyed a nearly 19-percent surge in ticket sales during the 2013-14 indoor concert season, which ended this month, the ISO said Tuesday.
The ISO sold 110,770 total tickets for the latest season, up from 93,337 the previous year. More than 45,500 of those tickets were part of subscriptions, which rose 30 percent.
The number of subscription sales hits it highest level since the 2008-09 season, bucking conventional wisdom in the performing arts that says subscriptions are a dying marketing tool because patrons prefer making last-minute entertainment decisions.
How those sales affect overall ticket revenue will be announced later in the year, when the ISO makes its annual financial report.
ISO CEO Gary Ginstling credited the rise in sales to the group's marketing strategy to broaden the range of subscription options. The ISO increased the number of concert packages, sold them for a longer period of time and altered prices in some cases.
The changes sparked a 30-percent jump in subscriptionsfor classical, pops, and family concerts, with about 6,000 total subscriptions purchased.
Traditionally in the performing arts, subscriptions are pushed in spring and summer for the following season. Once the performances begin, emphasis shifts to single-ticket sales.
That’s no longer the case with the ISO, which changed strategy in response to what had been lagging sales. Ticket revenue fell $500,000 in the 2012-13 season, to $6.4 million, the organization reported in December.
“We’re now relentless not only about packaging and promoting subscriptions but repackaging throughout the season,” said Ginstling. “When one show is done, we add another at the back end and still market the subscription. You can still buy a family package, for instance, even after the first concert is done. That allows us to continue to make the case that a subscription is a great value.”
In another break with standard operating procedure, the ISO allowed patrons to include the end-of-the-season concerts with popular violinist Joshua Bell in 2013-14 to be part of a subscription for the 2014-15 season, using a marquee name to hook ticket-buyers.
“We’re trying as many touchpoints as possible,” said Ginstling, noting that with one concert still to be played, the ISO Happy Hour concerts have attracted 834 new attendees. In the previous season, 24 percent of those newcomers came back for another concert.
Other popular subscriptions included a package of eight classical concerts featuring a 5:30 p.m. Saturday show, and the Coffee Classical, Evening Pops and Coffee Pops series. Classical subscription sales for 14-concert and 18-concert packages also fared well.
Ginstling said he wasn't concerned with the downward trend for subscriptions elsewhere in the performing arts.
“All we care is how we are doing in this market,” he said. “We focus on fundamental marketing focused on pricing and a compelling message. We make sure subscribers realize that they are our core patrons. And we do everything we can to accommodate them."
The ISO also reported a record number of student ticket sales in fiscal year 2014, with 6,569 tickets sold through June 17. The ISO revamped its student ticket program late last year and shaved $3 off the price of tickets for classical, pops, family and Happy Hour concerts, to $10.