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Your Questions Answered: How to Price Your Event

“I base the ticket price on the economy…Some guests will ask why the ticket prices are high, that $40 is a lot for yoga and mat rental. Way I look at it, rent is high. My staff has to support their livelihoods.”
— Jimmy Naron, Owner, Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga

You’re halfway through your first pass of your event’s business plan when it hits you — the cold realization that you have no idea how much to charge for your tickets. Or you’re adding a VIP ticket tier for the first time and you’re not sure what’s standard.

After doing some research on pricing in your area, you put together a number you think might work. But is it the right one? And how can you tell?

It’s a bind all event creators experience. Unfortunately, it’s one challenge that doesn’t always get easier the longer you’ve been in the industry. And like many event planning challenges, it’s one you can’t solve with a one-size-fits-all approach. It takes experimentation, market research, and trusting your gut instincts to get pricing right.

Full transparency: There’s no magic number to nail the right ticket price. But there are strategies you can use to get close. Whether you host a large food festival, a small workshop, or a bar crawl, your event has real value — and this guide will help you find a price that reflects it.

This guide is for…

Events professionals who want to effectively price their tickets, so they can deliver the best experience to attendees while growing their revenue and business.

What you’ll learn:

  • How much you need to charge for your bottom line
  • How to benchmark your value against the competition
  • How to use discounts and ticket tiers to sell out your event

Three foundational strategies to price your event

A smart pricing strategy is essential to driving a profit. But choosing the right strategy can be one of the more stressful parts of organizing a conference. Here are three foundational exercises to help you determine the best price for your next event.

1. Create demand with discounted prices for new events

One truth about hosting events: You have to know your basic costs to price effectively. After all, you need to make at least enough to cover your costs for your event to be sustainable. But there are some strategies that might cause you to challenge this assumption. When you’re first starting out, you might need to lower your price to get the buzz you need.

“We started off at a lower number when we first offered our classes,” says Susie Martin, co-Founder, It’s for Charity! Events. “Once we saw the popularity, we slowly raised our prices until we found a good spot. It was experimental.”

Whether you organize yoga classes, networking workshops, or large conferences, it takes time to build demand for your event that justifies a higher price tag.

2. Raise prices to cover your business costs

The Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, the champagne brand’s signature event, has it all — celebrity sightings, Instagrammable backdrops, gourmet food trucks, lawn games, and plenty of their iconic yellow-labeled bottles to go around. But delivering that high-end experience costs money.

Veuve Clicquot, through experimentation and focus on production costs, has learned to price their events in a way that meets their bottom line and is still attractive to attendees. “We started at around $65, and increased prices in order to continue to invest in building a better consumer experience year over year,” says Nicole Kim, associate brand manager. The 10,000-person event sells out every year.

“It’s all about your numbers first — your P&L (profit and loss) — what your ideal ticket price would be for you and what you need to charge to make a profit,” says Aykut Akcaoglu, owner and host at Aykut Events. Akcaoglu has been creating events for over 20 years and organizes well-known international-themed parties in San Francisco. “Overall, when it comes to pricing, you need to have a good idea of what you have to make.”

While you might need to go below this number for your first few events to generate demand, you’ll then need to increase prices to sustain your business.

How to figure out your bottom line

The only way to know how much money you need to make is to understand how much money you’re going to spend. And while budgeting is no one’s favorite part of planning events, it’s critical to improving your event’s return on investment and managing your total cost.

Follow these three tips to kick off your budgeting:

Not sure how to start or where to track all these numbers? Download the  Event Budget Template You Need to Keep on Track.

3. Play up your value to attendees

When it comes to pricing, you have to put yourself in attendees’ shoes. For sneaker fanatics, going to an event where they can marvel over sneakers is a dream come true. But for people who couldn’t care less about spending a day looking at shoes, paying for an event like that is a waste of money. That means that you need to get in tune with your specific audience to find the right price.

“Consider the value [of] what people are getting in exchange for what they’re paying,” Darrah Brustein says. Brustein is a lifestyle designer and founder of Network Under 40, a series of networking events for professionals in Atlanta, Nashville, and Baltimore. She’s also the creator of the Life by Design, Not By Default Virtual Summit, which in its first year brought together 45 lifestyle design experts and over 10,000 online participants.

“If you’re targeting CEOs of Fortune 500 companies who are looking for big-name speakers, you’re going to charge something different than a small networking event for startup owners,” Brustein says. For example, Brustein only charges $10-$25 for her networking events, but charges $97-$297 for her summit because she knows it provides in-depth value.

This concept is value-based pricing, because you price your event based on how much an attendee would be willing to pay for it. When you approach pricing this way, you might find that attendees perceive more value in your event than you’re currently charging, so you can increase your prices.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to charge what you need,” says Akcaoglu of Aykut Events. “People are willing to pay more for some of those special events when they think they’re getting a good value.”

Not sure how much value your event drives? Use the exercises in Pricing Your Event: Value Analysis Workbook to learn how to benchmark your unique value against the competition and price accordingly.

How your ticket price impacts attendees’ perception of value

Attendees’ perception of your value can work both ways: If you price too low, they might assume your event is less valuable than it is.

The result? Less people are likely to actually show up, even if they already have tickets. After all, they’re not losing much money — or much perceived value — by sitting it out.

That’s why, if your event is free, charging for your event will likely decrease your no shows. Of all of her events, which includes more than 30,000 attendees, Brustein found that the higher the ticket price, the better the attendance rate.*

*Brustein notes that this is based on her data and will change based on your local market, but it’s a good starting point to reference.

How to gut check your pricing

It’d be a lot easier if there was just one price for any given type of event. Unfortunately, each event is different and pricing is nuanced. Here are two ways to gut check your pricing based on what’s happening around you.

Fine-tune your pricing for your local community

Ticket prices that work for an event in San Francisco or New York might not work for a similar event in Chicago or Atlanta. Here’s how to make sure your base price also reflects two major influences: geographic location and time of year.

Research your market in similar cities

A large fandom event in New York is going to be priced differently than a large fandom event in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. And it makes sense why — it costs less to hold an event in Eau Claire and the local community enjoys a lower cost of living, so expectations for pricing will reflect that.

It’s important to research similar events, but be sure to look at similar cities (size, demographics, etc.), and at what events at similar venues to yours are doing, too.

Example: Market research

Let’s say you’re planning a large fandom event celebrating gaming, anime, comic books, and cosplay. You know from the get-go you’re in mighty company, but want to bring something slightly unique to your part of the country. Here’s what you’d find after looking at the market.

Market research isn’t just for large fandom events. Whether you host a glow-in-the-dark 5k run, a succulent making workshop, or a sip and paint party, research can go a long way in setting the right price for your event.

How to do this on your own:

  • Start a spreadsheet to track all of your data.
  • Identify five to10 cities that are similar to yours (think population and demographics).
  • Research events in those cities that might drive the same type of crowd.
  • Confirm the average attendance at each event.
  • Look at their ticketing page: Note if there are multiple ticket types and what pricing for each type is.
  • Compile all of your data into your spreadsheet.
  • Bonus: Track how long tickets are on sale before the event.

Adjust your price based on seasonality

Adjust your price based on seasonality. The time of year can have a big impact not only on your ability to draw attendees. If your event revolves around major holidays or seasons, that may increase your prices.

“Our seasonal events (like Halloween or New Year’s Eve) are very popular and over 2,000 people attend,” says  Akcaoglu. “Our regular events, however, are closer to 200-600 people. Those seasonal events require a bigger venue, a bigger investment, and ultimately, a larger ticket price.”

How to tell if your event would benefit from seasonal pricing
If you say yes to any of these statements, you might want to think about increasing your pricing.

  • Your event is holiday themed or on a special day of the year
  • Your event draws a significantly larger crowd than your other events
  • Your event provides extra value for attendees at a special time of year

Market research and seasonality help inform your base general admission price — your true north of pricing. With the right base price, you should be able to grow revenue and, at the same time, deliver value to your attendees. In the next section, we’ll cover how to experiment with different ticket types to offer the most value for your attendees.

Increase your impact with multiple ticket types

After all that hard work establishing your baseline ticket price, it’s time to experiment with pricing. From your baseline figure, you can incorporate different ticket types and promotional offers (like early bird, VIP, and discount codes) into your strategy.

As any savvy event professional knows, the right ticket price isn’t just one price. It’s multiple prices based on the experiences people want — and that’s where ticket types come in.

The most common ticket types

New to using different ticket types? Get up to speed on the seven most common ones below.

If that seems like a lot of different ticket types, don’t worry — you don’t have to use them all, especially if they don’t make sense for your kind of event. You can think of this list of ticket types like an a la carte menu. One might work better than another and you choose what to use.

What ticket types you use depend on your event. For example, for Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga, discount ticket types are a great way to get new attendees into the door. “Discounts are a big driver for sales,” says owner Jimmy Naron. Discounts help attract new customers — and retain old ones.

Here’s a breakdown of how to use early bird, general admission, VIP, and last chance tickets.

Early bird

Early bird tickets are most often used to give people the largest discount possible to reward them for buying tickets early. You get to decide how long the early bird presale lasts and how much of a discount you want to offer attendees.

Example: Early bird ticket strategy

Your use of early bird tickets will be unique to your own sales cycle, but here are some ways you could use them to create fear of missing out (FOMO):

  • Make early bird tickets only available during the first week of sales. Leverage this strategy to generate buzz for new events or when you haven’t sold out in the past.
  • Limit the number of available tickets for purchase at this price point. The bulk of your ticket sales will come from general admission (which you’ll read about next). Use this ticket type to get your most loyal attendees to secure their ticket as soon as possible.
  • Offer special, early bird perks (such as free beverage coupons). Even small perks can incentivize attendees to click “Buy.”

Why it’s good for you: Revenue from early bird tickets means you’ll start earning money earlier, which you can then invest back into the event if needed. Plus, you can build buzz on social media by promoting the urgency to buy early bird tickets.

Why it’s good for attendees:  It creates a sense of urgency and makes them feel like they’re getting a deal on admission to your event.

What’s typical among event creators:  People who use early bird typically charge 80% of their full-price ticket and go on sale 16 weeks before their event.

General admission

This is the most common of ticket types and is used by almost every event for the bulk of their admissions. General admission provides entrance to your event without any extras. They’re typically on sale the longest and usually one of the least expensive of all the tickets you offer.

Example: General admission strategy

Your use of general admission (GA) tickets will be unique to your own sales cycle, but here are some ways you could use them to create the most value for your would-be attendees:

    • Advertise during early bird promos that ticket sales will go up to GA price. This will let potential attendees know that getting their tickets early is a deal.
    • Use your base price as your GA price.
    • Create urgency with last-minute buyers by increasing prices for day-of sales.

Why it’s good for you: General admission tickets are likely the majority of your sales. If you’re looking for simplicity, GA tickets are your best bet.

Why it’s good for attendees: It provides a baseline experience for attendees and offers a price point that’s valuable enough to interested event-goers to get them to commit.

What’s typical among event creators: GA tickets are the type that most event creators sell the most of, and they typically go on sale 11 weeks before the event.

VIP

VIP packages let you offer attendees the exact experience they’re looking for, at the exact price they’re willing to pay. If you have the resources to provide this premium experience, this is an important ticket type for driving revenue.

Example: VIP ticket strategy

Your use of VIP tickets will be unique to your own event, but here are some ways you could use them to create more value for interested event-goers:

  • Let people tailor their VIP package with an a la carte menu. Not every attendee wants the same experience so let them customize it for themselves.
  • Limit the number of VIP tickets available for purchase. Limited tickets creates a sense of exclusivity for attendees.
  • Upgrade the attendee experience with certain offers. These attendees are looking for an elevated experience and special officers (like special access) that add to the value of your event.

Why it’s good for you: Premium ticket tiers can help you attract new attendees — and make more money from your current audience.

Why it’s good for attendees: VIP tickets let people who want to pay more for the exact experience they’re looking for get what they want.

What’s typical among event creators: VIP experiences account for 10% of ticket sales and generate approximately 25% of revenue. They also help reduce no-shows at free events.

Last chance

As event day draws closer, you might be left with a few tickets to sell. Most events see a serious spike in ticket sales in the weeks leading up to their event, so you can turn this demand from the procrastinators among your fans into an opportunity to apply last chance pricing.

Example: Last chance strategy
Your use of last chance tickets will be unique to your own sales cycle, but here are some ways you could use them to create FOMO:

  • Since 43% of Americans plan one to three days in advance, release last chance tickets within a week of your event.
  • Time your marketing efforts to coincide with the last chance price changes.
  • Increase the price to demonstrate your event is a can’t-miss event.

Why it’s good for you: These are tickets you had already accounted for and by increasing the price, you can get more bang for your buck. There’s no added cost for you and it´s an easy way to sell those last tickets.

Why it’s good for attendees: 56% of Americans make buying decisions at the last minute. For those attendees, cost is the number one factor in making a decision. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t raise your price — you just need to do so within reason.

While these are the most common ticket types, they are not the only options. The reality is there are multiple sweet spots, and by using multiple ticket types, you can hit each potential attendee’s perfect price.

Put your pricing strategy into action

Ticket sales are a top source of revenue for 70% of events. That means, to survive from year to year, you need to make the most impact with your ticket pricing strategy today.

Whether you’re already selling out or you’re struggling just to sell, you can always fine-tune your price. The real value for your attendees is what they get at your event — so get started on that event now.

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