Like any business, organizers are concerned about profits, their bottom line. That translates to cutting costs and boosting revenue. 

To optimize for income, organizers are incentivized to price events so that they sell out, but just barely. But what happens when an event doesn’t sell out?

A Lesson in Accounting

There are two types of costs: variable and fixed. Variable costs directly increase or decrease based on the number of customers. Fixed costs don’t change based on the number of customers. 

Events have a tremendous amount of fixed cost (rent, equipment, artist fees) and very low variable cost. Until a room is full, it doesn’t cost anything to add another customer to the room. It’s similar to the hotels and airline business – if they don’t fill the bed/seat that revenue opportunity is gone forever! Until a room is full, every incremental ticket sale is pure profit. 

How do Organizers Maximize Profit?

It sounds counter-intuitive, but organizers maximize profits by issuing discounted tickets to shows which do not quickly sell out. Selling more tickets is a no-brainer because each ticket has a near-zero variable cost. Additionally, adding incremental attendees has two major benefits (1) additional food/beverage sales (2) higher event energy and better fan experience. 

We’ll start by going through the benefits of discounts, then the drawbacks of discounts. Lastly, we discuss the ways to implement a winning discount strategy.

Organizers Must Optimize Discounts to Maximise Profit

Increasing total ticket sales without reducing full-price ticket sales is a recipe to dramatically increase profitability. To achieve this, organizers need to increase awareness and implement price segmentation. This is a tall order but is possible with a good discounting strategy and the right distribution partners. 

Price Segmentation

Fans often put off buying tickets because of price. A fan could be a regular who can’t afford a full-price ticket every week or someone who lives across town that needs an incentive for the inconvenience of the extra travel. Ideally, these fans should be targeted with discounts. Here are some real-world examples:

  1. Midway is a venue in San Francisco that’s located in the up and coming Dog Patch neighborhood on the far side of town. I’ve been to Midway and know its worth the trek. However, many people haven’t been there and would rather go to a closer venue that they know. If Midway targeted these people with discounts, they can increase event attendance and earn new loyal fans.
  2. One event producer focused on the black community has seriously raised its profile over the last several years. Their success has led to bigger experiences that have priced out part of their core community. Targeting these people with discounts would help drive sellouts and mean a lot to their community.

Increase Awareness

Organizers are killer marketers, but killer marketers still can’t reach everyone. There are many ways to increase awareness, but discounts mainly apply to  “bargain shoppers”. Bargain shoppers don’t have plans to attend a certain event and are heavily influenced by price. Since bargain shoppers wouldn’t already be on an organizer’s email list, organizers need to use 3rd party channels to reach them. Ideally, organizers should utilize channels that won’t make full-price buyers aware of the discount.

Avoiding Pitfalls with Targeted Discounts

Organizers can use targeted discounts to avoid the cannibalization of full-price sales by focusing on specific users instead of the general public. 

Organizers can unintentionally cannibalize full-price sales by issuing public promo codes, using 3rd party channels that publically market discounts, or providing discounts directly through primary ticketing platforms. Here are some examples of discounts cannibalizing full-price sales:

  1. If I intend to buy a full-price item, I’ll still search for promo codes before I click the checkout button. If I find a promo code, it directly hits the seller’s bottom line.
  2. I was looking for tickets to Submission Comedy in San Francisco. The top result from google was the $15.00 main-sale on Eventbrite Immediately below it was the $7.50 discount ticket sale on Goldstar. I would have paid full-price had I not seen the Goldstar link. 
Screenshot captured by Foria
Screenshot captured by Foria

Creating a Winning Discount Strategy

A winning discount strategy is conducted through existing marketing channels and 3rd party channels. 

When organizers use existing channels we recommend they…

  1. Think twice before creating promo codes that can be easily shared
  2. Offer non-cash discounts (e.g. Free entry or drink tickets before 10pm)
  3. Create unique 1-time promo codes for specific fans (e.g. fans from out of state)

To supplement existing channels, organizers can leverage traditional 3rd party channels like Groupon or a more advanced solution like Foria

Traditional discount platforms: Groupon and Goldstar


  1. Large user bases
  2. Will sell incremental tickets


  1. Publically available and shareable discounts
  2. No ability to target discounts and limited price segmentation
  3. Require large discounts and big fees


Foria enables fans to access tickets, exchange tickets, and discover events. Foria, among other things, provides incredible marketing and promotions solutions to organizers


  1. Discounts aren’t publically available or shareable
  2. Price segmentation via targeted to specific users based on certain criteria (e.g. location, new customers, user interests)
  3. No discount requirements and reasonable fees


  1. Smaller user base (as of today) 

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