Can we charge for tickets to our Museums at Night event?

A couple of venues have got in touch with me recently, saying that they’d like to stage a Museums at Night event, but are concerned that they won’t cover their costs.

Yes, you can charge for tickets!

Fear not: it’s OK to charge for tickets to your event. Last year, 48% of Museums at Night venues charged for tickets, while 52% ran events that were free to visitors.

A group of visitors watch a Roman lady in a toga and wig holding a pot of makeup

Visitors flock to the Roman Baths for a makeup lesson with a Roman lady. Image courtesy of the Roman Baths, Bath

Affordable tickets attract visitors

The idea behind the Museums at Night campaign is to attract new visitors to discover all the exciting arts and heritage attractions on their doorstep.

Because you’re trying to draw in people who don’t necessarily know what to expect at your museum, gallery or historic house (and perhaps you have specific target audiences you want to appeal to), we suggest that you price your tickets reasonably: a high admission fee can deter passers-by from stepping through your doors.

Local knowledge

You know your local audiences far better than we do, so you’ll probably already have a good idea of what your target audience will be willing to pay.

Explain the value!

Whether or not you decide to charge for admission to your event, when you register your Museums at Night event details in the Culture24 database, you need to write the Event Description persuasively: make your event and venue sound exciting enough to get people off their sofas, out of their houses and through your doors!

Describe whatever will be on offer as something special: particularly if people will be paying money to experience it, it’s important to communicate that they’ll receive value for money.

Will there be access to artefacts or rooms that aren’t usually on display? Is there going to be a special talk, tour, or opportunity to get hands-on led by an expert? Will visitors be able to see objects or artworks from your collection? That’s great – so how about describing some of the key pieces that will be on show?

Little extras

If you’re running a show, a screening, or showcasing live music, you may like to throw in something extra that adds to the perceived added value, e.g. free popcorn or a free glass of wine or soft drink included in the price of an entrance ticket.

Don’t forget, people who’ve paid for admission may extend their visit for longer than usual in order to feel that they get their money’s worth.

If you have a cafe, will it be open so they can sit down with a cup of tea? Homemade cake can also be very alluring … just let your potential visitors know that food will be available!

Offering more? Shout about it!

If you decide to partner with other local organisations (e.g. Dorchester’s museums sell family tickets which include entry to all their venues, plus a discount on meals in local restaurants), be sure to promote the offer. Visitors need to know about this before your event starts, to help them plan their evening.

Will charging affect whether my Museums at Night event appears on the BBC Things To Do website?

Yes, sometimes.

If your venue is part of our BBC partnership (http://www.culture24.org.uk/bbcpartnership) and you think that your Museums at Night event counts as an activity to be fed through onto the BBC website, it must be:

a) A hands-on activity

b) The activity must fit in with a BBC project theme, e.g. art, history, nature. See the BBC Things to Do website for full details: http://www.bbc.co.uk/thingstodo

c) The activity must be free or cost recovery (after admission)

If you have any questions about becoming a BBC partner, contact Conrad Westmaas at conrad@culture24.org.uk.

Flexible family tickets

The charity Kids in Museums (www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk) has produced a guide to pricing flexible family tickets, which may be useful: you can find out more here http://www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk/2010/03/07/family-ticket/

Are there any other questions you’d like answered on the blog? Feel free to ask me in the comments, or email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

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