top of page

Are you unintentionally alienating your theatre audience? This new data reveals the truth.


Empty chairs in a cabaret setting in a theatre demonstrates that your theatre company may be charging too much for tickets

Are you making up your theatre's marketing strategy as you go along? How do you make important decisions? I'm going to bet there's a considerable amount of anecdotal evidence used rather than hard data. Am I right?


There's a lot of valuable information in the brains of community theatre leaders but I've learned that we tend to use this information to serve our unconscious biases, leading us to make decisions that are incomplete or outdated.


That's particularly dangerous when you're functioning in an economic crisis and most people consider going to the theatre a luxury.


New research released recently by Creative Australia and The Pattern Makers, gives us insight into how Australians are interacting with theatre. Now, I love this stuff but I do understand that community theatre leaders just don't have the time to sift through hundreds of pages of data so I've done it for you - and you might just get a surprise by some of the results.



For my U.S. readers, here are some links to similar publications relevant to your audiences. I'd love your feedback on which of these you found the most valuable.



The two Australian research papers I've delved into here are:

Creating Value: Results of the National Arts Participation Survey, September 2023. Creative Australia (previously Australian Council for the Arts). This document includes separate sections for dance, visual arts, and music.


Audiences 2023+: The top trends shaping Australian audiences in 2023 and beyond. The Patternmakers (Research and Data Consultants). This document is sited by Creative Australia and is more detailed, in my opinion.



I've broken everything down into age groups. What's common to all groups is that ticket prices are the main barrier to attendance. No surprise there, considering our current economic crisis. Interestingly though, people want to attend more cultural events and they're looking for things close to where they live.


Attendance has improved since the pandemic but it's generally only at 2019 levels and any big jumps in attendance numbers is unlikely in 2024.


Let's take a look at audience behaviours by age group.


 

Under 35s

  1. Younger people attend cultural events more frequently than any other group but they spend the least, around $25-$50 per ticket.

  2. Because they're pushed for cash and concerned about their cost of living, they tend to buy last minute and rely heavily on recommendations from friends when choosing what shows to attend.

  3. Interestingly, information is important to this group - the where, when, who and how much detail that most theatre companies fail to make a central part of their marketing content.

  4. The last few years have been tough and more young audiences are looking for fun and uplifting content.

  5. If they consider buying a subscription to your season it will be motivated by accessing discounts. However, they're financially challenged by the one off subscription payment for a whole year.

  6. Their preferences for learning about theatre (communication channels) are, in order: word of mouth, then it will be your website, next your Instagram, maybe an Email, and finally Facebook.



Families (adults 35 to 54 years, with children at home)

  1. The biggest barrier to attendance for families is, you guessed it - ticket prices. They spend around $25-$50 per ticket and are challenged by children's pricing being not much less than adult prices.

  2. Interestingly, 78% of adults with young children attend cultural events compared to 65% of adults without children. The research indicates that parents are consciously looking for ways to introduce their children to the arts.

  3. Because they're pushed for cash and concerned about their cost of living, they tend to buy last minute and rely heavily on recommendations from friends when choosing what shows to attend.

  4. The last few years have been tough and more young audiences are looking for fun and uplifting content, suitable for the whole family. They're time poor so going to the theatre without the kids is less of an option.

  5. If they consider buying a subscription to your season it will be motivated by accessing discounts. However, they're financially challenged by the one off subscription payment for a whole year, especially if it's for the family.

  6. Their preferences for learning about theatre (communication channels) are, in order: word of mouth, then it will be your website, next an email, then Facebook and finally Instagram.


55 Plus

  1. This age group, predictably, spend the most on cultural events. They're more likely to spend around $100 per ticket but they're still very careful with their choices.

  2. This group is more likely to buy tickets earlier to ensure good seats and to lock in their plans.

  3. Whilst also looking for fun and uplifting content, they're more likely to make purchasing choices to 'support' local theatre than the other age groups.

  4. If they consider buying a subscription to your season it will be motivated by locking in their plans early. They're more likely than younger audiences to buy season tickets to the theatre.

  5. Their preferences for learning about theatre (communication channels) differ slightly as they age, so I've broken it down further and they are, in order:

55-65 years: Email>Website>Word of mouth>Facebook>Instagram

65-74 years: Email>Website>Word of mouth>Facebook>Instagram

75 plus: Email>Website>Word of mouth>Facebook



It's interesting to note that print material was not listed as a communication channel for any age group. It's time to question just how many people are learning about your show from flyers in cafes, posters on shop windows or print advertising in seniors magazines. I'm not suggesting you give this channel away completely, just seriously consider how much of your budget it's taken up compared to the return you're getting.


For those quoting that 'older' people like to read things - yes they do but the data shows that they're using email, not print media. Perhaps it's an email signup campaign you need to build your list.


The major takeaway from this information is that a good ticket pricing structure is the key to making theatre more accessible. People do want to attend more cultural events but they're being forced to choose between groceries and a ticket to the theatre.


For many community theatres, you're ticket price is already as low as you can afford to go and still pay the costs of keeping your organisation running but have you considered something a little more creative. Here are just a few things you might consider.

  • A free preview performance for concession and student card holders. You could even give a special code to local support organisations that gives people free tickets when used at checkout.

  • How much of an impact do your season ticket discounts really make? Do I save only a few dollars? Free printed programmes and my choice of seats really aren't attractive options anymore.

  • Understand your audience a little better - parents bringing a five and seven year old to your show might be willing to seat one or both of them on their laps to save $50. Do you offer that option?


I know that we can get stuck in pricing and marketing strategies that were instituted a decade ago (or more) and fail to consider how they serve contemporary audiences.


There are so many ideas you can develop from research like this. Remember that changes require time to make an impact. You could make some great changes to your ticket pricing structure but if you don't take the time to let people know about them, they have no impact. Depending on your marketing strategies, it might take an entire year of shows for your great advances to become local knowledge, so don't allow the results of a once off change to determine the success or failure of your choices.


These things take time and effective marketing. In reality you're always testing and measuring your ideas. You try something, check out the results, tweak the idea and try it again...and again...and again. Refining your idea over time will allow you to make sustainable changes in your theatre company.


Cheers,

Sher




The best you can do is all you need to do!


Sherryl-Lee Secomb writes her blog, An Idiot On Stage, specifically to encourage and equip community theatre to expect more and be extraordinary. Sher has been building brands for performing creatives in Australia since 2011 and now advises theatre organisations and performing artists in marketing their work and building awareness of their brand.

.

Connect & learn more >

コメント


bottom of page