We are not in the big league, but I share how we do it. By the way, Karl did an awesome job with his explanation.
We have a greeter/starter that asks the customers for a city or town and marks a tally sheet. This helps to see where our marketing is helping. Sometiimes they will also get email addresses for our marketing. The ticket seller has kept a tally sheet as well, and this past year, we had a simple program that did it for the ticket seller. We will try to make it a touchscreen this year and tie in the money drawer so they don't forget to record it. We use the various coupons and free passes for the night to plug the nightly numbers into the spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet has evolved over the years so that I now know what percentage of my customers use each value coupons. Also, it is helpful to see what percentage of the free tickets we distribute to radio, groups, sponsors. The numbers then can be cross checked from the tally sheets to verify the nights income that has been counted.
I have records for each year's attendance and budgets since we have been at this location (1999). This year we had 5 nights that were in the top 13 all time. The actors always want to know how many and we keepit vague because it is none of their business, but we do let them know where it falls all time. Like top five, ten, etc. The budget spreadsheet also uses those numbers to tell me where we are through the season as far as the breakeven point.
One figure I will share with you is that prior to last year, only 18-20 % of our free passes were brought to us. These were primarily radio stations. A few years ago, a friend was runing an event that I had done previously and I passed the radio promotion person on to them. When I asked the friend if she was contacted, she told me that they couldn't give the radio person the tickets as they said they couldn't afford to do that. The request was for 100 tickets ($7 each). I reiterated the 18 % return rate was only 18 tickets, the friend couldn't comprehend it. First, it doesn't cost you anything to send someone through your event other than the cost of printing the tickets. Second, the promotion from the radio station for ticket give-aways are two or three mentions for each pair or four-pack they give away. And third, 18 tickets time $7 was only $ 126 (if you are calculating it that way) for 50 to 100 mentions on the radio during peak times. Absolutely should be a no brainer.
I asked if they would mind if I offered my tickets to the radio station since they weren't going to and they said sure. When I called the radio person, she asked how many tickets could I give her and I replied, how many CAN I give you? She asked again, so I told her I would give enough for every day through the season. She quickly calculated 160 and asked if that was too many for the next two weeks. I replied, no problem, can I give you more??? She said she had the next two weeks after that covered. (darn) So I got at least 160 mentions out of that. And only 18 % returned them. (28 tickets)
Now, this past season, our sponsor return rate was closer to 50 %. But they did such a fantastic job for us, I was still way ahead on that deal. And I thanked Rich from Vegas a few times for that sponsor idea.