Arts Audiences now: Five key takeaways

On Thursday 25 April, we shared the collective results which form our UK-wide benchmark for 2023/24 in a free webinar

In this blog, Katy Raines reflects on what this data tells us about how to connect better with arts audience now. 

1. We need to do more to make our audience profile better reflect that of our communities. 

Of course, we all know this. Since Indigo started collecting data in this way over 15 years ago, I’ve barely seen the dial shift on age or ethnicity, and this year’s results don’t really shift it either.

If it was easy to fix we’d have done it by now, so I’m not pretending it’s easy.

But – perhaps a glimmer of hope – our Tomorrow’s Audience research, and the data we’re seeing in this benchmark, shows that new attenders are slightly more likely to be younger and more ethnically diverse. We need to understand and listen to these audiences, and not let them be drowned out by the swathes of older, more established (and probably more vocal) audiences, some of whom may just want everything to stay the same. If you haven’t read our Tomorrow’s Audience report, I’d encourage you to, as hopefully you’ll feel less overwhelmed by the challenge that faces the whole sector, and can instead focus on things that you ARE able to do right now.

2. Consider family audiences

Families are really under-represented in this data set, but we know from our research during Covid that they were the first to re-attend, and are keen to seek out opportunities to widen their children’s horizons. We also know from Tomorrow’s Audience that taking your child to something cultural is often the motivation to attend yourself for the first time. However, families are time-poor and have a lot of practical things to sort out in order to come. So we need to 

a) wave our family opportunities in front of them with a very big flag (if you haven’t developed family-specific communications already, do it now)

b) really make your value for money proposition very strong, including any reassurances you have about refunds/exchanges or ticket protection; they may be the most reluctant to commit without a get-out if something changes.

3. Focus on your local area

Not only are audiences travelling less far than they were pre-Covid, 91% of people say you are an important part of the local community. How visible are you in your local community? With lots of marketing now happening online, there’s a danger that the old-school posters and banners in the local area just aren’t there any more. What opportunities are there for your stuff to be everywhere out and about in your hyper-local area? Have you door-dropped a postcard announcing the new season with a QR code into all the key postcodes locally? Also, with over a half of under 35s eating somewhere locally as part of their visit, your organisation is benefitting local businesses hugely. Use these stats. Get boots on the ground and find the local businesses that can be advocates for you and can provide some of that visibility for free.

4. Use your customer feedback in your marketing

Promote your overall star rating for staff, as well as customer comments and quotes (anonymised, obviously). The key is to keep them generic. I know we use loads of quotes and reviews about individual shows, but I’ve seen it less about venues or organisations generally, and I think there’s a place for it in building your brand and developing a relationship with audiences. We know that the most ‘trusted source’ for most people is ‘someone like them’, so seeing peer reviews and ratings is likely to have an impact on them; in many cases, it may have more of an impact than 4- or 5-star reviews for a show they’re not that interested in. Thinking back to families, for example, if you’re on Indigo Share, we can help you to pull out the overall star rating from families and you could use that in your family communications. By doing this, you can show families that a) you’re interested in them and b) other families rate you highly.

5. Talk more about sustainability

Only half the respondents (and only 41% of under 35s) think you’re showing a visible commitment to sustainability. If you’ve been part of our Act Green surveys for the past two years, this will not be news to you. And if you’d like to join Act Green 3, there’s just about time to get on board. We’ve learned a lot from this that can help you in the challenge of communicating sustainability appropriately and effectively. Audiences want to see the cultural sector leading on this issue, and on the basis of these figures, we’ve still got a long way to go.

We're seeing our Indigo Share Subscribers using their data to understand and connect with audiences in this way. If you want to join us, get in touch

Arts organisations across the UK use our Indigo Share: Subscription to gather vital post-visit feedback and information about their audiences. 

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Katy Raines
Founder & CEO

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