A new ticketing system designed by museums and for museums is providing free support with the twin challenges of running timed entry and generating much needed income. Merrin Kalinowski explains.
© Janie Airey/Art Fund 2020
Museums and art venues having to close their doors once more nearly a year after the first lockdown came as a devastating blow. It is always darkest before the dawn though, so we must look to the future, and planning for a post-pandemic world is now a priority – even though the future still seems so uncertain.
Not just a grant giver
At Art Fund, we have been working throughout the past twelve months to provide support for museums and galleries in these unprecedented times. We have been doing this since 1903 – including through the last pandemic! But we’re certainly not stuck in our ways.
You might think of us as ‘the charity that saves works of art for the nation’, or ‘the founders of the National Art Pass’, or perhaps you have been the recipient of a grant. But in fact we do a lot more than that, and there are many different ways in which we are working behind the scenes, out of the public eye, to support museums and the people who work in them.
Over the past 10 years our funding programme has broadened significantly and we have been developing new ways to support our partners, including and beyond collections. As well as giving grants, we help empower museums to embrace the world of digital; support their efforts to reach new audiences; strengthen their crowdfunding efforts; and most recently, help them access a ticketing platform that can meet the specific needs of museums and galleries, both during and beyond the pandemic restrictions.
Soothing ticketing headaches
Now more than ever, having an online presence and reaching new audiences isn’t just an ambition or an objective, it’s a necessity. And that’s why Art Fund has created Art Tickets, the only online ticketing system created by museums for museums. But that’s not enough if arts venues can’t afford it, so we’ve made it completely free to use for all.
When museums were told that they could reopen their doors on 4th July, as the first lockdown came to end, some had just a matter of weeks to implement a plan that would involve getting timed entry and ticketing in place.
Launched in 2018, Art Tickets has proved its worth to the 38 museums already using it by providing a huge boost to reopening plans, and it has since helped more than 120 museums reopen their doors safely to the public. It is easy to use, quick to set up, and works effectively for timed entry, giving every organisation total control of their visitor flow.
When developing Art Tickets, timed ticketing had been an important factor for organisations with small but free-to-enter spaces, so the platform has the functionality in place to manage capacity and visitor flow for safe reopening. This practical support helps you not only to safely re-open and welcome your visitors back, but also generate income.
Nicky Brier, who leads Business Development at Macclesfield Museums, summed up the relief of many who were facing the future with trepidation: “Ticketing has been a major headache. And I now feel as an organisation we can move forward.”
An important feature of the Art Tickets system is the way it creates an environment that encourages donations when a visitor buys a ticket either as a top up donation at checkout or by choosing a ticket with a 10% donation, handling Gift Aid along the way. There is also a new ‘donation only’ option to maximise income while museums are not able to open. So even if your building is closed you can still continue to grow your donations and build relationships with your supporter base.
The system is also more than capable of handling tickets for general admission, events and exhibitions - whether those tickets are free or paid for. It has helped museums refine their customer service and reduce front-of-house administration. It can be used for over the phone and front desk bookings, as well as online, putting an end to the juggling of several lists.
Crucially, Art Tickets also allows museums to get to know their audiences better. The visitor data gathered is hugely valuable for post-pandemic planning. As well as being able to ask your visitor to sign up to your museum’s newsletter and having access to this data to grow your online audiences, it has an analytics dashboard which pulls data from Google Analytics and Art Tickets to give you an oversight of where your visitors are coming from.
Nicola Kalinsky, Director of The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, has been delighted with the both the system, and the information it generates: “Art Tickets is very easy to use – simple and elegant. It’s also providing us with postcode data and mapping info, which we never had previously, and it’s free! And we can sell membership on it! And ask for donations!’”
In 2021, further developments will mean that museums using Art Tickets will be able to get even more intelligence about their audiences. A new partnership with The Audience Agency will mean all Art Tickets users will have access to Audience Finder – the world’s largest cultural database.
We are continuing to develop the platform to ensure that the technology goes on performing strongly and meeting the needs of museum partners. What’s more, our dedicated Art Tickets team are on hand for one-to-one support to help you get started and answer any questions you have about using the system.
As this year has shown us, no-one can see into the future, but we can start to plan for it. The data from Art Tickets can provide us with some certainties about our audiences that will enable us to do just that. You will open again; people will come back and fill your spaces; and Art Fund will be right alongside to help you every step of the way. Now is the time to take the first step in planning to welcome your visitors’ back safely and with confidence.
Merrin Kalinowski is Museum Marketing Relationship Manager at Art Fund
This article, sponsored and contributed by Art Fund, is part of a series sharing information and expertise to support museums and galleries to recover from the pandemic and develop audiences for the future.