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How Theaters Can Boost Enrollment in Performing Arts Classes

Nic Lyons

April 26, 2023

Increasing class enrollment can be a challenge for any course provider. It might be particularly complicated for theaters with arts education programs. The marketing plans and workflows you have in place for performances don’t necessarily translate into functional course enrollment tools. If your goal is to enroll more students in your performing arts classes in 2023 and beyond, this post is for you. 

Many theaters are just returning to normal programming after a tough few years. Maybe you’ve returned to entirely in-person events, or maybe you’ve found that online learning and events still add value for your audience. Our State of Informal Learning Report found that nearly a quarter of students still prefer online classes in 2022, even after the dramatic spike during the pandemic has started to recede. Either way, if you’re still working toward your enrollment goals, these strategies can help you register more students.

Quick Tips for Performing Arts Classes

We know you’re busy, so let’s start with a quick overview of the ways you can boost enrollment. Read on for more details on how to implement each one.

  1. Fine-tune your marketing strategy
  2. Offer payment plans for big-ticket courses
  3. Provide discounts and promo codes
  4. Make group registration simple
  5. Use the right tools
  6. Integrate systems to simplify processes

Download our free theater enrollment booster tip sheet to learn how to get more registrations for your performing arts classes. 

Fine-Tune Marketing of Performing Arts Classes

Just mentioning classes on your website and in your programs isn’t enough. Why? Because those efforts can miss the people who are most likely to sign up for your classes.

First, because they tend to only reach the people who already attend performances. That means you might need to convince someone to buy a ticket to a show before you can even bring up classes. And theater-goers may not necessarily be in a buying mindset while at a performance. 

You need to catch potential students (and parents if you’re marketing kids’ classes) when they’re ready to buy. For many people, that includes social media and web searches. 

Try these strategies to reach the right people for your performing arts classes at the right time, whether online or in person.

Here are a few strategies to help you reach the right people at the right time:

  • Include a course catalog on your website that’s been keyword optimized to attract people looking for classes like the ones you offer. 
  • Post about your classes on social media and encourage students to do the same. 
  • Share press releases and class information with your media contacts.
  • Put up flyers around town—you probably already post playbills for performances. Do the same for upcoming classes. 

These marketing efforts can help spread the word about your performing arts classes. But how do you push students from interested to enrolled? 

Offer Payment Plans

A patron may not need a payment plan to purchase an orchestra seat for your next production of Murder on the Orient Express, but classes can be a bigger investment than theater tickets. If a student wants to sign up for an eight-week acting class, cost can become more of a factor. Offering payment plans can help make your courses more accessible to more students. 

Many theater education programs avoid payment plans because they add a lot of extra work for staff. But there is another option that allows you to meet student needs without overloading staff. The right class management software lets you easily enable custom payment plans for individual students. The good ones will even help you track payments and send automatic reminders when the next installment is due. 

Provide Discounts and Promo Codes

Why do you give away promotional tickets and offer group discounts to your performances? One reason is that someone who experiences a performance in your theater is likely to return, and maybe even bring friends and family with them. The most difficult part is just getting someone through the door for the first time.

You can apply that same idea to your performing arts classes. Providing discounts or promo codes for your classes can help knock down the cost barrier for someone who has never taken a class with you before. It’s also a great way to thank patrons for their support or attract group registrations. 

You might even consider offering a short course or a single-session class for free

Make Group Registration Simple

Every effort you make to simplify your registration process improves the likelihood that someone will both register for your classes and be happy with the experience. Parents can register multiple children for theater camp, businesses can register their entire customer service team for your improv class, and social groups can choose your mask-making class as their fun night out activity. Making the group registration process simple means you can register more students, more efficiently.

Miami Theater Center stage performance

Stop Treating Performing Arts Classes Like Ticketed Events

It’s important to remember that classes are not performances. The information you gather from students is different, and usually more detailed than what you need from patrons. Software like PatronManager is exceptional for managing ticketing, audiences, donors, and sponsors, but it isn’t designed to manage class registrations. 

Manual processes and student by student data entry can help fill some gaps, but it’s also time-consuming and error-prone. Errors and complexity tend to frustrate staff members. The student is also likely to be annoyed by a cumbersome system, and patrons may lose patience because staff are distracted from their needs.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution that improves the experience for everyone: Use a course registration system designed for that purpose. Staff will be more likely to sell courses if it isn’t such a challenge to register students, and students will be more likely to enroll if the system is simple. 

Increasing course enrollment can be a challenge for theaters with arts education programs. The marketing plans and workflows you have in place for performances don’t necessarily translate into functional course enrollment tools. Download our free theater enrollment booster cheat sheet to learn how to improve enrollment in your theater classes. 

Integrate With Your Existing Systems

Of course, having two completely separate software systems could present challenges as well. The better choice is to find a way to integrate the two. CourseStorm fully integrates with PatronManager to offer theaters the best of both systems.

We call the result PatronStorm. With PatronStorm you can manage your classes using the full range of CourseStorm features including group registrations, payment plans, promo codes, and more. 

See how the East West Players of Los Angeles used PatronStorm to simplify their class registration process. Download the Case Study to learn how they did it.

Data sharing allows you to send CourseStorm data to PatronManager so you can view class registration activity alongside ticketing and donations data. Throw out your spreadsheets and rely on the CourseStorm-PatronManager integration.

Enrolling more students starts with the right systems. Simplify your registration process with the CourseStorm course registration platform. Start your free trial or contact us to get started.

Nic Lyons

Nic is skilled in scaling start-up edtech and education organizations to growth-stage success through innovative marketing. A former journalist and copywriter, Nic holds a postgraduate certificate in digital and print publishing from Columbia University School of Journalism's publishing course.

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