Rethinking Event Pricing

Why does event registration become more expensive as an event draws near?

The motivation is to encourage early registration, and thereby facilitate the promoter's ability to predict financial outcomes and improve communication with the venue. That sounds sensible at first, but this is called negative reinforcement, or response cost punishment. This tactic does not have the effect desired by promoters.

Because a higher ticket price has no relationship to event quality, and attendance is neither compulsory nor essential, and late registration carries inherent disadvantages and risks (e.g., less access to parking and lodging, less convenient travel, less preferable event seating, the possibility of no entry to a venue at full capacity), there is zero motivation for consumers—who may not have been aware of the event prior to any price changes—to pay higher ticket prices.

Instead of driving early registration, increasing ticket prices logically heightens existing barriers to consumption, reducing the size of the total addressable market for an event with each shift. Future events by the producer may also be impacted if the price hikes are egregious.

If attendance is limited and the promoter wants to discourage attendance, this tactic is fine. If not, a better approach to motivating early registration would be to offer peripheral material and intangible rewards for early registration, such as memorabilia, access, and services.

Furthermore, these rewards can be an opportunity to pursue and negotiate sponsorships and promotions. Some early registration incentives might include:

  • a digital unlock code for an exclusive track, mix, or demo;
  • a collectible poster or card with unique art;
  • a pendant necklace with a logo;
  • a promotional bottle opener, t-shirt, or hat; or
  • a meet-and-greet / photo opportunity with the guest.

With promotional rewards, ticket pricing can be normalized, the pool of potential attendees can be maximized, and additional revenue channels—and more profitable channels at that—would offset any expenses related to the production of early registration incentives.

Quite frankly, I'd bet that something as simple as a customized "thank you" card would be far more effective at motivating early registration than the threat of higher prices.