Five top tips on setting museum admission prices
New research suggests how you can optimise income and position yourself effectively in the market, while maintaining accessibility. Based on the findings, Jennie Jiricny, Museum Marketing Relationship Manager at Art Fund gives us five top tips on setting museum admission prices.
In partnership with Arts Council England, Museums Galleries Scotland, the Welsh Government, the National Museum Directors’ Council, and Art Fund, the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) commissioned DC Research Ltd and Durnin Research Ltd to explore current admissions pricing policies in museums and their impact
The in-depth research report provides a detailed overview of current charging approaches, useful benchmarking data and a range of case studies. There is also an accompanying Success Guide which condenses crucial findings and is designed to help inform museums in the process of reviewing their pricing strategies.
Here are five top tips from the research for museums to consider when reviewing your own charging position.
The importance of business planning and review
- Pricing should not be considered in isolation, it needs to be part of your business planning process.
- Reviewing pricing strategy annually is good practice.
- Any price increases need to be part of an overall business planning strategy and budgeting.
- Using benchmarking can help to give boards or other decision-makers confidence.
- It is important to look at the relevance of comparators, their offer, circumstances and key characteristics, and whether comparisons are reasonable and meaningful.
- Explain charging decisions. Be clear in communications about why any changes in pricing have occurred.
- Everyone in a museum, from the boardroom to front of house, paid or volunteers should understand the rationale.
- Listen to your audiences and your front of house team – do you collect information about the value of your offer in visitor surveys, for example, to inform future decisions?
- Charging does not mean you focus only on audiences who can pay.
- ‘Fixed variable pricing’ and Pay What You Like is used by some museums to help target specific audience segments.
- Some museums offer free entry for children with paying adults, partly to simplify or streamline ticketing, and partly to target family audiences.
Specific lessons for those that charge for admissions
- Be confident in making decisions about pricing, do not undersell. What do – or could – your visitor surveys tell you about the value of your offer?
- Most museums that increased admission prices reported little audience negativity over this, nor much difference in visitor numbers.
- Previous research has found that on-site secondary spend typically appears not to be affected by changes in price.
- It is helpful to introduce / align any planned significant price increases when introducing significant new developments.
Specific lessons for those that do not charge for admissions
- Charging is not the only method of generating income from visitors.
- If donations are an important part of a museum’s pricing strategy, it is vital to be clear and coordinated.
- This includes communicating expectations concerning Pay What You Like, the location of donation points in the museum, and making it easy (or easier) to make a cashless donation.
You can read the full report on the AIM website for more information, benchmarking data, case studies and to access the report in Welsh.
If you currently charge for admissions, you can reach new audiences by partnering with Art Fund and joining 850+ museums, galleries and historic places in the National Art Pass network. By offering admission discounts for our members with a National Art Pass, you can reach 135,000 culture seekers looking for new experiences. Don’t charge? Café and shop discounts can also attract our members to your venue. Find out more about joining the National Art Pass network.
Jennie Jiricny, Museum Marketing Relationship Manager, Art Fund – get in touch at email@example.com
Art Fund are regular sponsors of AMA events, including Digital Marketing Day 2023 and AMA Conference 2024.