Building Audiences

Update from the National Arts Marketing Project 1/20/2012 – click here for another vital audience development resource A free e-book download. Plenty of other material here. Sign up for their enewsletter.

Link and Thoughts posted by Art Menius 1/19/2012

The Wallace Foundation has made available four free downloads of case studies in audience development. You can get them here as PDFs:

Building Arts Audiences: Wallace Foundation Studies of Four Arts Groups – The Wallace Foundation.

The Wallace Foundation has been investing heavily in the theory and practice of audience development in the arts. The roots, folk, and bluegrass presenting community has made far too little effort to learn from arts, rather than commercial, audience development methods. Commercial methods, in my opinion, focus too much on marketing individual performances or events. Arts presenters provide stronger, more durable methods for building audiences for your presenting programs. Is not the Holy Grail for audiences to trust the producer’s choices rather than attending only shows by names they recognize?

Wallace commissioned these studies in response to public participation in the arts dropping to their lowest levels since the first such survey 30 years ago. Wallace believes that we are undergoing a generational transition in arts consumption. These free downloads address how to reach younger audiences during this fundamental shift.

The 4 organizations in these studies (the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, and Boston Lyric Opera.) deal with audiences and art forms quite divergent from bluegrass or folk.

Nonetheless, these ideas are inspirational and can get roots presenters thinking in new ways. The study of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, for example, directly addresses drawing new audiences for music about which the general public has a stereotype. Sound familiar?

Beyond that, Wallace researchers have identified five overarching principles common to all four successful programs:

1. Market research can sharpen engagement-strategy development
and execution.

2. Audiences are open to engaging the arts in new and different
ways. We have to provide and promote new entry ways to events rather than waiting for new audiences to find bluegrass, folk, blues, and old-time.

3. Participation-building is ongoing, not a one-time initiative. This is particularly true for the roots music fields. We are far too prone to rest rather than pushing 24/7 to build larger audiences.

4. Audience-building efforts should be fully integrated into every
element of an organization, not a separate initiative or program.

5. Mission is critical.

These four downloads prove just the latest of many free publications about audience development Wallace Foundation offers. The primary gateway to this wealth of information than bluegrass, folk, and traditional presenters can use is here.

Many more resources about audience development, from the arts world largely, can be found on the Internet.

The League of American Orchestras provides information here.

Audience development consultants ADS blog here.

This column from last spring concerns applying AD concepts in new ways.

From Scotland, a broad overview slideshow on cultural audience development, especially cultural tourism.

That is just a start. Much information about audience development exists that we can use far better to build our audiences going forward.