Correlates of Season Ticket Subscription Behavior

ABSTRACT - Recent research efforts regarding consumer behavior in the market for the performing arts have provided valuable descriptive information for managers of art organizations. Using descriptive and predictive analytical techniques, the results of these studies have provided useful information for market segmentation and media strategies. The present study attempts to add further to the understanding of consumer behavior in the arts. A survey of a national sample of opera patrons provides a basis for the investigation. Results indicate a broad range of behaviors associated with season ticket subscription behavior and opera attendance.


Richard J. Semenik and Clifford E. Young (1980) ,"Correlates of Season Ticket Subscription Behavior", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 07, eds. Jerry C. Olson, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 114-118.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 7, 1980     Pages 114-118


Richard J. Semenik, University of Utah

Clifford E. Young, University of Utah

[The authors would like to acknowledge research grants from Opera America and the University of Utah Research Fund which provided funds for this research.]


Recent research efforts regarding consumer behavior in the market for the performing arts have provided valuable descriptive information for managers of art organizations. Using descriptive and predictive analytical techniques, the results of these studies have provided useful information for market segmentation and media strategies. The present study attempts to add further to the understanding of consumer behavior in the arts. A survey of a national sample of opera patrons provides a basis for the investigation. Results indicate a broad range of behaviors associated with season ticket subscription behavior and opera attendance.


The study of consumer patronage of the arts has relied heavily on descriptive research approaches. One such approach has been a managerial orientation (Laczniak and Murphy 1977; Raymond and Greyser 1978; and Kotler 1979). Examples of an approach more closely aligned with a consumer behavior orientation are empirical efforts that have identified art patrons for organizations and provided an analysis of season ticket subscriber characteristics (Ryans and Weinberg 1978; Semenik and Young 1979). These studies have demonstrated that a reasonably well defined profile of the art patron can be constructed from demographic, socio-economic, and behavioral descriptors. These same identifying variables were also shown to function well in a predictive fashion for understanding season ticket subscribing patrons.

The managerial and descriptive/predictive orientation of these early works in consumer esthetics have provided necessary and useful information. These studies have helped define the appropriate parameters of investigation for consumer behavior in the arts. Further, the conceptualizations of these works could he readily adapted to managerial decision making and planning.

The research and analysis reported in this paper attempt to provide a different orientation to the investigation of consumer behavior in the arts by addressing the question of behavioral tendencies within the arts patronage context. The perspective of this study views tendencies regarding patronage of an art form as encompassing two basic types of activities on the part of consumers. First, there are those behaviors specific to patronage of an art organization: season ticket subscription behavior for example, or recent and historical attendance behavior. Second, there are those behavioral tendencies that are related to the specific patronage behaviors -- that is, a set of consumer activities and influences that are highly associated with consumer patronage behaviors but much broader in scope. It is through an examination of these two types of behavioral tendencies and their association to one another that a behavioral profile of consumers can be established.


In an attempt to construct a behavioral profile of the art patron, data were obtained from six major opera companies representing five distinct regional areas of the United States: the midwest, east, southwest, west and northwest. A questionnaire was administered to audiences at each of these six opera organizations. After self-administration, this questionnaire was deposited in boxes provided for collection purposes in the lobbies of the theaters. This data collection technique allowed ready access to season ticket subscribers. A total of 2607 useable questionnaires were obtained through this procedure.

The questionnaire included several categories of items directly addressing the behavioral issues of art patronage: life-style characteristics, media habits, reasons for attending opera, opera preferences, attendance behavior at opera, season ticket subscription behavior (for several art forms), and cross patronage of other art forms. [The data collection instrument also obtained demographic and socio-economic information from the respondents. These factors proved to be useful in a managerial sense and are reported elsewhere (Semenik and Young 1979).]

Through the use of these variables, the question of factors associated with season ticket subscription behavior could be addressed. Further, the broader behavioral consideration of opera attendance and its associated activities and influences could be analyzed. Together, these elements provided the basis for constructing a profile of the arts patron.


The main purpose of the data analysis was to identify those factors associated with season ticket subscription and attendance behavior. In this way, an examination of relevant factors of consumer behavior in the arts could be achieved beyond a strictly descriptive analysis. Toward this end, correlation analysis served to identify the significant associations with the behavioral tendencies of interest. This approach to analysis of the data was chosen with the expressed purpose of maintaining a broad perspective with regard to the inspection of the data. In this fashion, a wide range of behaviors potentially associated with opera attendance could be preserved. The objective of this analysis was to try to establish that a myriad of behaviors surround the specific behavior of opera attendance. More definitive analytical techniques would serve to restrict the breadth of potentially relevant behavioral tendencies.

Season Ticket Subscription Behavior

The esthetic behavior of art patronage by consumers is perhaps most strongly manifest in the commitment to a season ticket subscription. The decision to buy a season ticket can be characterized as "important" given the relatively high cost of a single subscription (usually more than $100.00 and sometimes as high as $500.00) and the long-term time commitment to attend. A profile of the season ticket subscriber, based on demographic and socio-economic characteristics, is beginning to emerge (Ryans and Weinberg 1978; Semenik and Young 1979) and has direct managerial implications. From a different perspective, however, the question of behaviors that are associated with the subscription act can also be addressed profitably.

Table 1 identifies several behaviors and influences that are correlated with season ticket holding for the total sample set. First, patron age of the opera through the mass media of television and radio is positively associated with the subscription act (p g.001). Patronage of other art forms such as modern dance, symphony, and ballet also shows a significant association. It is, however, difficult to interpret such relationships to other art forms since for each of the art forms associated with opera subscription behavior, patronage is also realized through the season ticket holding. Because there are also positive associations among the other art forms, the hypothesis could be forwarded that the determinant factor really is the "subscription'' act rather than the "patronage" act. Research designed to investigate this issue directly would be of great value.



It is interesting to note the significantly negative associations of the season ticket subscription act with a friend's recommendation to attend and with the viewing of newspaper advertising for opera performances. One possibility is that other information seeking behaviors are more relevant to the subscription act. This suggestion is supported in later analyses.

Further information regarding subscription behavior is gained by examining the results reported in Table 2. Here associations with subscription behavior are identified by major geographic regions. It can be seen that the associated behaviors and influences are fundamentally the same in the disaggregated view of the data. There are, however, some notable differences with regard to the associations prevalent within certain regions. For example, attendance to rock concerts and movies shows negative correlations (p < .001) in the east, southwest, and western regions of the country. Season ticket holding behavior to other art forms also shows varying association between regions. The prevalence and availability of other artistic offerings appears to introduce a "competitive" element to consumer' esthetic pursuits.



Those factors of association that are most powerful on a regional basis (consistent with the aggregated view provided by Table 1) are the negative associations of certain information sources to season ticket subscription behavior and significant associations of being an opera "fan" and "regular subscriber". The "fan" and "subscriber" variables are particularly intriguing. These factors represent a self-perception on the part of the season ticket holder that consistently emerges as an overriding influence on the subscription act. [The variables, "I am an opera fan" and "I am a regular subscriber", were part of a group of items employed to identify reasons for attending opera. This group of items included various social, business, and esthetic motivations for attending. The "fan" and "subscriber" variables proved to be underlying dimensions.]

In terms of using these data to better understand dimensions of consumer behavior relating to season ticket subscription, some observations can be made. First, there are several behaviors and influences associated with the specific patronage behavior of season ticket subscription. The behaviors can be categorized as 1) cross patronage of other art forms, 2) media patronage of opera and other art forms, and 3) a tendency toward season ticket holding per se. Second, beyond the behavioral correlates, influences stemming from preferences within the art form, information seeking behavior, and self-perceptions provide further associations. Finally, the relevant associations appear to vary somewhat among regions of the country although the underlying patterns seem consistent.

Correlates of Attendance Behaviors

A second category of behaviors specific to patronage of an art organization is that regarding recent and historical attendance. In this study, these behaviors were measured by obtaining information from respondents concerning the number of times they had attended opera performances in the past year and how many years they had been attending opera. In examining these behavioral tendencies, it was useful and informative to separate season ticket subscribers from non-subscribers. The results of this basic analysis are reported in Table 3.



Attendance behaviors relative to other art forms, media patronage of the arts, opera preferences, and reasons for attending opera are again associated with patronage behavior. The non-subscriber group, however, shows a broader range of activities and influences significantly associated with their attendance behaviors. First, a greater number of art forms and patronage of these art forms is associated with the non-subscribers' attendance at opera. Second, the attendance at opera for non-subscribers is associated with the direct mail source of information, an influence that is not associated with the subscribers' attendance. Finally, a preference for "new works" on the part of non-subscribers emerges as a relevant factor and is significantly associated with their attendance in the past year.

The categories of association and their directionality between the subscriber and non-subscriber groups are generally quite similar as the data in Table 3 reveal. Of the twenty-two variables indicating behaviors associated with attendance, only five are not associated with both groups (attend plays, saw direct mail ad, I am a subscriber, prefer new works, and come to see featured stars). Of those variables that are significantly associated with attendance behaviors of both groups, however, it is interesting to note that the correlations to non-subscriber attendance behaviors are consistently stronger. An explanation for this result may be in the entry pattern to season ticket subscription hypothesized by Michaelis (1976) and supported empirically by Ryans and Weinberg (1978). That is, season ticket holding follows a pattern of infrequent then frequent single ticket purchasing before a level of commitment to an art form (organization) is sufficiently high to warrant the season ticket subscription act. The results reported in Table 3 seem to indicate that the non-subscribers to the opera organizations have an involvement beyond opera to the many activities related to opera attendance. Their involvement in other art-related activities is strong and perhaps stronger than that with opera. Thus, the final and most significant commitment to opera (season ticket purchase) has not yet occurred. The non-subscriber has more broadly based behavioral tendencies in the arts and has not chosen opera as an art form for singular or dominant involvement.

The data in Tables 4 and 5 carry the inspection of subscriber and non-subscriber attendance a step further by examining the correlates for each group on a regional basis. The same basic set of behaviors and influences are again associated with subscribers and non-subscribers on a regional basis. In general, cross patronage of other art forms, media habits, season ticket holding behavior, artistic preferences, and information-seeking behavior are significantly correlated variables. Some differences among regions are again in evidence, signaling the need to examine behavioral tendencies toward an art form on a case by case basis. This result has implications for both the study of consumer behavior in the arts and the managerial application of empirical evidence regarding esthetic behavior.


The approach taken in the present study allows for several conclusions, observations, and speculations regarding consumer behavior in the arts.

1. The specific behavior of season ticket subscription on the part of consumers is correlated with a set of other behaviors. Subscribers' attendance and patronage of other art forms, use (or non-use) of information sources, and preference for type of performance within an art form are significantly related to the subscription act.

2. The preference for type of performance within an art form constitutes one possible basis for examining attitude structure in esthetics.

3. Not surprisingly, there is a positive association between subscription behavior and season ticket holders' self-perception of being a "fan" of an art form. Further, this perception is also associated with the non-subscribers' attendance behaviors.

4. Correlates of both subscription and attendance behaviors differ on a regional basis. Only certain behaviors and influences are consistently associated with art patronage on a national scale.

5. A broader range of art-related activities is associated with non-subscriber than with subscriber attendance behaviors. This may indicate a lower involvement with a specific art form for non-subscriber attendance behavior.

The examination of behaviors associated with specific art forms provides a perspective beyond descriptive analysis. The factors identified in this study are useful in understanding consumer behavior in the arts or, more broadly, consumer esthetics. From a methodological standpoint, the behavioral orientation establishes a context wherein a broadly based perspective of consumer esthetic pursuits can be considered. With regard to empirical evidence, the data presented here suggest that the associations identified with subscription behavior help to form the particular framework within which this unique type of consumption behavior can be studied. The underlying dimensions and fundamental influences associated with behavioral tendencies in art patronage help establish a direction for future theoretical development.





Future research in the area of arts behavior and consumer esthetics can continue to extend the parameters of behavioral tendencies. Through the continued study of fundamental behaviors related to consumer behavior in the arts, entertainment choices in general, and responses to media offerings, managerial decision making for the marketing of these artistic endeavors can be enhanced.


Kotler, Philip (1978), "Strategies for Introducing Marketing Into Nonprofit Organizations," Journal of Marketing, 42, 37-44.

Laczniak, Gene R. and Murphy, Patrick E. (1977), "Marketing the Performing Arts," Atlanta Economic Review, 27, 4-9.

Michaelis, Donald (1976), Untitled paper, Association of College, University and Community Arts Administrations Bulletin, 48.

Raymond, Thomas J.C. and Greyser, Stephen A. (1978), "The Business of Managing the Arts," Harvard Business Review, 56, 123-32.

Ryans, Adrian B. and Weinberg, Charles B. (1978), "Consumer Dynamics in Nonprofit Organizations," Journal of Consumer Research, 5, 89-95.

Semenik, Richard J. and Young, Clifford E. (1979), "Market Segmentation in Arts Organizations," in Nell Beckwith et al, eds., 1979 Educators' Conference Proceedings, Chicago: American Marketing Association, 474-8.



Richard J. Semenik, University of Utah
Clifford E. Young, University of Utah


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 07 | 1980

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