Today audiences have a myriad of choices as to where and how they spend their money. More to the point, they have two types of currency, money and time. Both need to be invested wisely. While many potential audience members may have the money to attend an event; they often do not believe they have the time.
Research conducted in 2014 into Australian participation in the arts found that while there had been a general improvement in engagement in or appreciation of the arts, when reading was excluded 19% of Australians do not participate in the arts as a creator or as an audience member.
Since then factors, such as disposable income, online access, relevancy and inclusiveness have continued to have an impact. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic served to direct a lot of audiences online and it remains to be seen whether they will all return to live performances from 2021 onwards, or whether digital streaming has become a way for audiences to invest their second currency, that being time.
Arts organisations have their work cut out to attract audiences back to events. Its not the die-hard supporters that need to be wooed, its those that rarely or never attend an art event. Of course if your arts events are fortunate enough to have a full house of paid up guests at every event, then long may that continue. If so, the question becomes, how profitable are those audiences and how well will they future proof your organisation against future disruptions?
Even if your organisation maintains a blended form with both physical and digital events, you still need to work out how to generate a paying audience for both. It is unsustainable, even for funded organisations, to continue to give away their content.
One strategy that may help art organisations is to tap into data regarding their audience. Most organisations already have a wealth of data available to them. audience details, customer records, types of events that prove more popular than others, which events cost more to produce and even how people come to know about your organisation and the events you host. Very few organisations put in place resources to collate and analyse that data; or use the trends to inform future planning.
For those organisations with a website, which is the vast majority, you have a ready-made, freely available source of data about visitors to your site. These visitors reflect your audience, present and future. Your website hosting provider will give you basic data on visitors and user, while Google Analytics will provide you with more detailed demographic data. If you are not accessing website user data then you should begin to do so.
Online surveys, again in a basic form, available from Survey Monkey, and other providers, enable you to obtain feedback from people on your mailing list; or even from those that are not on your list, but maybe follow you via social media. Sending audience members an email, following an event, seeking their input into their customer experience can provide you with valuable information to inform continuous improvement.
However you do it, collect and collate all the data you have available. If you are a small community organisation look to engage young, talented volunteers in this activity. Leaving valuable data, uncollected, or untouched is poor management and can place your organisation at risk.
If you would like to discuss how to start or improve this process within your arts organisation please email John.
I’m John Coxon, founder of art4u.australia, a consulting agency advising and guiding arts organisations in how to remain viable through application of The Cycle a proven model for arts organisations.