When do people buy event tickets? When should you make your event live? Are you ahead or behind in ticket sales? Does the price of your tickets make a difference to when people register?
These are common questions and concerns for organisers of all kinds of events, from gigs to conferences, classes to parties.
So we decided to find out for you.
We asked 1000 people in the general public about the last event they attended, how much it cost and how far in advance they booked their tickets.
Below we reveal the most insightful results, what they mean for you and how to use that information to organise more successful, sell out events (you can also hear the experiences of fellow event organisers over on the EventTribe forum).
There’s a lot of info in here, so we broke it down by the following factors that affect the purchase behaviour of event goers (click to skip to the section):
- Ticket prices
- Parental status
- Relationship status
- Event type
- Key takeaways and advice
Unless stated, the trends and results are all based on paid events. For more information on the general demographics and methodology of the survey, click here.
The impact of ticket prices on when people buy event tickets
Ticket prices have a big effect on when people will register for your events.
45% of people who attend a free event will only book for the event on the same day or get tickets on the door.
For paid events, only 18% of people will do this. That means people attending free events are 60% more likely to book on the day of the event than for paid events.
This means if you’re running a paid event, you shouldn’t expect more than 20% of your total revenue to come in on the day of the event, including at the door. Therefore by the day of your event, you should be at least 80% to revenue target.
In general for paid events, you should be approximately 50% of the way to your target revenue around 1 month out – but that also means you will roughly double your number in the final 4 week run-up to the event, so don’t panic if sales are looking a little slow until that final month!
Meanwhile for free events, up to 50% of your tickets will likely be snapped up either the day before your event starts or on the day.
However when you break down the impact of ticket price more, you’ll find that cheap events (costing £1-£10) follow a pattern much closer to free events than paid events.
In our survey, a whopping 56% of people paying £1-£10 per ticket booked on the day of the event or on the door, while a further 8% booked the day before.
This is in stark contract to events costing £51 or more, where over 50% of people booked their place at least 3 months in advance (rising to 70% when a ticket costs over £201).
This means that an early marketing push and long lead times are essential to the success of higher priced events.
For those events in the middle – costing £11-£50 – the action is all in the 1-12 week period, where 2/3rd of tickets are sold.
For those costing £11-30, the surge comes later (19% will still buy on the day), while those priced £31-50 rely on the earlier birds with 31% of tickets being sold 1-3 months before the event date.
Key takeaways: The more expensive your event, the earlier you need it to be live (giving you longer lead times) and the more you need to get that early revenue booked in.
For free and cheaper events, while you don’t have to panic should ticket sales be slow until much closer to the event, if you can’t afford that risk, you need to offer compelling incentives to book early.
Overall, events need to really focus on incentivising people to register early.
How Gender Affects Ticket Purchases
If your event is particularly targeted at either males or females, then you should be aware of their distinct booking preferences.
In our survey, we found that males were 30% more likely than females to register on the day or the day before an event takes place; while females were 30% more likely than males to book their tickets 3 months or more in advance.
However on average, the majority of males and females (52% and 50% respectively) will get their ticket between a week and 3 months out from the event, while again females were marginally more likely to book further out (22% v 20% booking 1-3 months before) and males more likely to book closer to the event date (32% v 28% 1-4 weeks before).
The key takeaway: If your target attendee is primarily female, make sure you have long lead times and let them plan; if it targets males then don’t panic if sales are slow until closer to the event, but try to incentivise them to book earlier!
Is age a factor in when people buy tickets?
The findings here weren’t too surprising, with older attendees planning further ahead and – on the whole – younger age groups making more last-minute decisions.
There was one big exception to this, with only 11% of 16-24 year olds purchasing their ticket on the day, versus 22% of 25-34 year olds, 18% of those aged 35-44, and 13% for the 45+ age group.
Those aged 45 and above were by far the most likely to book on to an event 3 months or more in advance (51%), making them 33% more likely than the next nearest age group to register so far out.
25-34 year olds not only most likely to register on the day, but they were also least likely to register 3 months in advance.
For events targeting the 16-24 demographic, the most important time period is 1 week to a month out from the event, when 35% tend to register; a further 23% book on 1-3 months in advance.
The key takeaways: Apart from the very young (16-24 year olds), the older your target audience the earlier they will register for your event:
- If your audience is more mature (45+) the key period for ticket sales is 3+ months
- For 16-24 year olds it’s 1-12 weeks out
- For 25-44 year olds it’s under a month, with significant portions booking on the day of the event or the day before.
Geography and ticket purchase lead times
In terms of where ticket buyers live in the UK, there were not huge differences in ticket purchase behaviour.
However those in London and the South East were 23% more likely to book tickets on the day of the event or the day before compared to those living elsewhere in the UK.
The biggest difference in lead times was amongst those living outside of London and the South East, who were 42% more likely to register to attend an event 3 months or more in advance.
Does being a parent effect purchase behaviour?
One of the biggest surprises of the survey came when looking at the different ticket buying behaviours according to whether a person has children or not.
We had expected those without familial responsibilities to be significantly more likely than parents to book last-minute tickets; and inversely for parents to be much more likely to plan further in advance.
However the results showed us this not to be the case.
In fact those with children were more likely to buy a ticket on the door than those without (12% v 9%).
Broadening this out to look at people booking up to a week before, there was a slight trend towards those without children (37% v 33%) but only marginal.
There was also a slight trend towards those with kids booking 3 or more months in advance (29%) versus those without (25%), but again the difference is much less than anticipated.
The key takeaway: If your event is targeted at parents or those likely to have children, then you probably want to get them registered earlier rather than later, with the exception they are more like to make very last-minute decisions and purchase tickets on the door.
Relationship status and ticket sales
Relationship status, much like parental status, showed there was little difference in the tendency to book late with both groups revealing that 22% of them (regardless of relationship status) register for events either the day before or on the day.
However there was a marked difference in how much farther in advance those in relationships will book for an event. On average they are 30% more likely to buy their tickets 3 months (or more) in advance compared to singletons.
In general there was trend towards those that are single booking their tickets closer to the time of the event, with 36% purchasing them between 1 week and a month before the event (versus 27% of those in relationships).
How lead times differ for different types of event
Unsurprisingly, the type of event people registered for had a big effect on when they were likely to book. Here’s a breakdown of the biggest differences and takeaways:
Classes, training and workshops
For classes, training and workshops the sweet spot was 2-4 weeks before, when 22% of people booked their tickets. Just 2% register 6 months in advance. A significant proportion also buy tickets on the day or on the door (22%).
Conferences, exhibitions and trade shows
Very few people who took the survey attended a paid conference, exhibition or trade show (21 out of 1000) so it’s hard to draw significant conclusions from this data set. However a large majority (67%) of those booked between 1 week and 3 months in advance. Just 1 person registered more than 3 months ahead of time, and just 2 purchased a ticket on the day. However 4 people (nearly 20%) did purchase a pass the day before.
Endurance, sports events or races
For endurance, sports events or races there was pretty even spread in terms of booking patterns. 31% registered on the day or the day before, 42% book a week to 3 months in advance, and 27% booked over 3 months out.
Music festivals and gigs
Music festivals and gigs had by far the smallest % of people registering last minute. Just 7% got a ticket on the door, the same day or the day before. This is compared to a 32% average across all event types. They were also much more likely to purchase a ticket a month (26%) and over 3 months (44%) in advance. This trend held when we dug deeper into the data, so even cheaper music events (priced £1-10 or £11-20) had the same purchasing behaviour.
Like conferences, we had a low number of respondents who had attended a paid networking event as the last event they had attended (just 16 in total). However there was clear pattern, with nobody booked a month or more in advance of the event, and 50% buying their ticket either the day before or on the day (and at the door).
Those attending food and drink or other ‘non-music’ festivals were a pretty impulsive bunch, with a massive 41% buying their tickets on the door. Just 6% purchase a ticket more than 3 months out from the event.
Parties, galas, dinners and balls
Parties, galas, dinners and balls saw quite an even distribution of ticket sales with 28% coming on the day or the day before; 24% a week in advance; 22% 1-4 weeks out; and 27% of tickets bought over a month away.
Performances, cultural events and tours
Performances, cultural events and tours were similarly evenly distributed – though with a trend towards longer leader times. 29% of tickets sold on the day or the day before; 30% 1-4 weeks away; 21% 1-3 months out; and 27% of tickets were purchased 3 months or more in advance.
So, what do this data ultimately tell us about organising and promoting successful, sell-out events?
Here are the 4 key takeaways:
The earlier the better
On the whole, for most events and across most demographics, there is a significant advantage to having your event page live as early as possible to capture those early birds that plan ahead.
6 months is ideal, but if that’s not possible, a 3-6 month lead time is strongly recommended based on this survey.
You should also find ways to encourage and incentive early booking to try and get ahead of the curve and bring forward those ticket sales.
A lot of events see a lot of last-minute activity (in general up to 20% of sales but in some cases nearly 50%), so if you’re considering cancelling an event at the last minute, consider whether or not you can afford to hang in there.
If you’re close to break-even a few days out, it might be worth going the distance and pushing for those last-minute registrations with a big marketing push.
Spend money at the right time
For the vast majority of events – regardless of other factors like cost, event type or demographics – the most important period for sales I between a week and 12 weeks out.
That gives you roughly a 3 month ‘peek period’ for marketing, and so it makes sense to dedicate the majority of your resources to this period of time.
So while you should be planning to get early birds registered as soon as possible, and last minute bookings when the time comes, the bulk of your paid promotional budget is probably best deployed during the sweet spot, where it is most likely to give you the best Return On Investment (ROI).
Know your audience
If there’s one thing were advocate a lot on this blog – and that the survey results reinforce – is the importance of knowing who your event audience is!
The demographic makeup of your ideal attendee will have an effect on the purchasing behaviour you can expect, and dictate when is the best time to pour fuel on the marketing fire.
If you don’t know your audience you may not realise you’re way behind the curve in terms of ticket sales; or equally it may cause you to panic and cancel an event that had promise.
Know your audience; create a marketing timeline that reflects their purchasing behaviour; and find ways to incentive earlier bookings.
Do these things and the data suggests you’ll find yourself the proud organiser of a very successful, sold-out event.
This survey was sent to 1000 people aged between 16 and 64 using the service One Pulse on 28th August 2015. All respondents received a small fee for taking part.
31% respondents were aged 16-24
39% respondents were 25-34
20% respondents were 35-44
7% respondents were 45+
60% respondents were female
40% respondents were male
Due to the low response rate in some regions, it made most sense to talk about London & South East in relation to the rest of the UK, with data samples too small to draw reliable conclusions for other areas in the UK.
41% respondents were from London or the South East
59% respondents were from the rest of the UK
Where other samples sizes were too small to draw sensible conclusions, these have been specifically highlighted in the post.
Unless stated, the trends and results were based on paid events.
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