Professor Michael Rushton’s new book helps arts administrators ensure that the price is right

As the director of arts administration programs at Indiana University, Michael Rushton often looks at the arts through the lens of economics.

Now Rushton has narrowed his focus in the book “Strategic Pricing for the Arts,” published by Routledge.

“Even in the nonprofit and public sectors, setting prices is an important source of revenue,” he said. “Arts organizations — performing arts groups, museums, concert halls, festivals — need revenues to cover their expenses.”

Michael Rushton

Michael Rushton is director of arts administration at Indiana University.

The professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs sees his practical handbook filling a void. The right pricing is crucial to the survival of arts organizations, yet strategy has not been widely addressed outside of research publications.

Rushton aims to reach both arts managers and students with his 115-page guide. He plans to use the text in his fall class “Arts Administration and the Cultural Sector.”

“I’m hoping other arts administration programs will find it valuable, but the book is only just released so it might take some time,” he said.

Rather than suggesting specific prices or formulas to follow, the book gives people a framework of understanding to apply across different situations.

Rushton stressed that the challenges of cultural institutions are often universal.

“Every arts organization faces a similar problem: Some people are willing to pay a lot for what they offer, but others are only willing to pay something less,” he said. “An informed pricing strategy looks at ways to gain what revenue you can from those willing to pay a lot, while simultaneously offering a less-expensive option for those only willing to pay less.”

In the book, Rushton shares new perspectives on pricing, some drawn on structures employed by hotels, airlines, media outlets and retailers.

But whatever their strategy and whatever the price, arts managers must make informed decisions.

“Cultural organizations need revenue to be able to produce great art and to experiment with new productions and ventures,” Rushton said. “Strategic pricing allows them to raise these funds.”

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