audience growth
audience growth
Dec22

This blog post was originally posted on the PatronManager Blog on December 19.2017. Many thanks to Gene Carr, CEO PatronManager for the invitation to contribute. 

Few people are talking about the arts industry’s biggest threat. The problem barely shows up in conference sessions, industry publications or workshops. It is not cuts to arts funding. It’s not greying audiences or Millennials. It’s not a lack of data. Though these issues deserve attention, the problem is patron retention—and its extent is staggering.


Posted December 22, 2017



Jul20

Long Wharf Theatre: 80% increase in new subscriptions in one year

In August 2015, Long Wharf Theatre (LWT) was worried about their subscriptions. Over the last four seasons, they’d seen a 23% decrease in subscription renewals and 8% decrease in new subscriptions. 


Posted July 20, 2017



Jun28

David Seals
How does the country’s largest theatre company, who sells 450,000 tickets a year, get to know each individual patron so well that they write thank you notes of joy? How does a large organization speak so relevantly that its patrons describe themselves as “flabbergasted” and “blown away?” The answer is nerdier than you’d expect: data segmentation.

Posted June 28, 2017



Jun20

Why do we present art?

It’s crucial that every staff member at an arts organization understand this question. In 2016, we’d undertaken a project to diversify our audiences called “Democratizing Our Stages.” As part of that and in preparation for artistic planning for the 2017-18 season, I did an exercise with our staff that was designed to connect myself and my staff with The Cultch’s “why.” 


Posted June 20, 2017



Jun16

One of the biggest challenges for theatre leaders lies in perfecting the balance between commercially popular and artistically ambitious plays. In 2014, Kansas City Repertory Theatre was at a crossroads with programming choices, finding it difficult to grow new audiences and cultivate their current loyal supporters. The artistic and executive director decided to do something quite radical: quantify the impact of programming on audience development. Some of the questions they asked were: Which genres grow new audiences? Which deepen current loyalty? Which plays encourage and discourage repeat attendance? Does venue impact audience behavior? How are factors like per-ticket spend impacted?  Learn what the data said about different artistic genres and the types of audiences it attracted, how KC Rep used the data as inspiration for their new Creative Future Fund, and the results they’ve seen in the following three years in audience and revenue numbers.


Posted June 16, 2017



May23

Delaware Theatre Company's Revenue Rebound


Delaware Theatre Company Revenue Rebound

Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) has been on an upswing since Executive Director Bud Martin arrived in 2012. Before his arrival, their patron base had been slowly eroding, due in part to the recession and in part to an audience that was driven by programming. To build on their artistic and financial momentum, DTC hired TRG in the summer of 2015 to teach them how to use their data to continue to recover lost patrons and grow patron loyalty.

In a single season, DTC has seen a 41% increase in revenue from tickets and subscribers and a 31% increase in subscriber admissions.


Posted May 23, 2017



Apr13

Arts Club Theatre Company puts data to work


Thanks to advances in CRM technology, arts organizations now live in a world awash with data. Getting data points is not usually the hard part. What’s difficult is taking action on what the data tells us and making changes to strategy to cause metrics to move up or down. That’s what makes Arts Club Theatre Company’s most recent success story so impressive.

This Vancouver-based theatre company has been a TRG client since 2008. In the first two years, Arts Club saw $3 million in earned revenue growth. Since then, Arts Club’s focus on building patron loyalty resulted in a further 30% increase in single ticket and subscription revenue. 


Posted April 13, 2017



Mar09

Audience Data Essentials


Announcing a new online course from DataArts and The Results Group for the Arts (TRG Arts)! Would you like to better engage audiences? This course is designed to help arts leaders use data to build loyalty and increase revenue. 

You'll learn about:

  • Types of audience data and data capture techniques 
  • Setting goals and measuring progress with key audience metrics 
  • Segmenting your audience to more effectively engage constituents

 Who should take this course? 

  •  Anyone looking for an introduction to audience data capture and analysis, and audience segmentation. 
  • Arts leaders seeking to increase their comfort with key metrics related to marketing, patron loyalty, and patron revenue generation.

Posted March 9, 2017



Dec13

The story of 3 arts organizations


Subscriptions succeed in 2016

Despite widespread reports of the subscription’s decline, these loyalty programs continue to generate a large amount of revenue for performing arts organizations. Knowing what we know about audiences in 2016, what strategies are proven to help the subscription succeed? TRG Arts is proud to bring you the stories of three arts organizations that have defied conventional wisdom by growing subscriptions:

  • The performing arts center with an already-strong subscription base…whose focused campaign has grown new subscription revenue by 36% over the last two years.
  • The theater that was selling more and more small packages each season…which upgraded 20% of their small package subscribers to full packages.
  • The orchestra whose subscriptions had been in decline for years…whose upgrade and renewal rates are now the best they’ve been in recent memory.

Their secret? A simple, radical idea: when you commit to selling subscriptions, arts lovers will subscribe.


Posted December 13, 2016



Nov16

Ronia Holmes

Because it isn’t central to your mission. Period.

I hear you harrumphing as mission/vision/values/beliefs and goals statements are dragged out. Sure, your organization has been around for a century or more and these statements about your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion are barely older than the Gen-Z unpaid intern managing the Facebook account, but still, these statements are proof that your organization is committed to community.

No, they’re not. So put them down, and let’s #RealTalk about communities, new audiences, the past, and the future.


Posted November 16, 2016



Oct18


Your annual fund campaign doesn't have to be business as usual. Get the secrets your peers use to reach results that go beyond expectations, and find out how to easily implement them now! You'll walk away inspired and equipped to raise funds in new, exciting, and engaging ways that will leave your supporters asking what else they can do to help.

TRG Arts is collaborating with Blackbaud Arts and Cultural Group to bring you valuable tips and strategies with our new on-demand webinar series: Ignite. Click through to watch the next video in the series.

Posted October 18, 2016



Oct17

Annual operating budget up 32% in 5 seasons



Photo: Joseph Mills

After a poor year for earned revenue in 2012*, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (LTO) had rebounded and was experiencing a growth spurt. In 2013, Director of Marketing Danyel Siler had turned her attention to single tickets. Her hard work had paid off, but season tickets were still a challenge.

“Season tickets were steadily declining,” she said. “The season ticket campaign had been done the same way for years, maybe even decades. And we blamed the fall on the trend that subs were declining everywhere. Our executive director, artistic director, and I all knew something needed to change, but we didn’t know what.”

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma hired TRG in March of 2014 for a best practices consultancy which began with an analysis of income trends, data stewardship, and current marketing practices.


Posted October 17, 2016



Sep06

Ask any married couple, and they will say that a lasting relationship takes work. The same is true when courting potential members of your organization! Find out what moves you should make to attract potential members, and hear about some innovative methods your peers have used to build their membership base. You'll leave this 15-minute on-demand webinar with actionable tips to attract and retain more members than you thought possible!

TRG Arts is collaborating with Blackbaud Arts and Cultural Group to bring you valuable tips and strategies with our new on-demand webinar series: Ignite. Watch the first video by clicking through.


Posted September 6, 2016



Jul25

 Keri Mesropov, 
VP of Client Services, TRG Arts

ALERT: Arts administrators in your area have been overtaken by a new obsession. Believed to be a relative of the mania induced by Pokémon Go, symptoms include an insatiable desire to find brand new patrons for your organization.

If you’re not obsessed with new audiences, you are really behind the trend. You’re missing out on spending hours and big bucks curating and searching for those you don’t have and yet, want with delirious desire. Some might judge you in quiet. To you, I say:

Good. Bravo. Standing O. You may be on to something.

Yes, we will always need new people to buy tickets to our art in order to ask them back and ask them to commit more through a membership, a subscription and one day, a philanthropic donation. It’s the evolution of an arts patron.

But, before we go spending beyond our means to find new fish for our pond, let’s explore a few facts.


Posted July 25, 2016



Jul14

This is the second in a series of two blog posts by TRG and Spektrix, where we examine the role that the box office plays in retaining patrons and providing great service. This series goes beyond discussing ticket sales and focuses on the four key elements of any successful modern box offices; proper data capture, enhancing the customer experience, playing an active role in retaining existing customers, and upgrading customer purchases to increase basket size or organizational investment.

In the last post, we covered the basic actions that will help you lay the foundation for your organization’s new strategies. In this post we’ll cover some more advanced tactics.


Posted July 14, 2016



Jun02

This is a co-authored piece by Spektrix and TRG Arts.

Does your organization need a box office anymore?

Well, yes. But the question is understandable.

Certainly the roles and responsibilities of box office staff have changed. As more patrons elect to buy online, the box office has evolved. Staff are no longer just order takers, but frontline for fundraising, marketing, sales and customer experience.

This shift has come at a time when there’s more data than ever about customers and their activities. Organizations are using data about customers to provide personalized service and more patrons hold this as an expectation. Some organizations (Seattle Repertory Theatre and Phoenix Theatre, for example) have even embraced patron services office models, where staff manage portfolios of customers, giving everyone a personal concierge experience.


Posted June 2, 2016



Jan11


Lindsay Anderson
VP of Client Development
Think audience development is marketing’s job? Think again. All departments play a critical role in retaining and cultivating patron relationships. In order to make a patron-centered business model work, all departments—including ticketing and patron services, artistic staff, development, and executive leaders—must align their objectives with that of patron loyalty. 

In this session, presented at the 2016 Chamber Music America conference in New York City, both executives and staff members will reexamine how they lead and collaborate on initiatives that create lasting patron relationships. TRG's VP of Client Development Lindsay Anderson looked at how cross-departmental campaigns build loyalty, how a sales orientation in the patron services department can bolster marketing-development collaboration, and how artistic programming can also factor into loyalty-building.

Posted January 11, 2016



Jan06

Single tickets up 59%, gifts up 125%

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Royal MTC) was stable throughout the recession. However, the company saw a dip in patron-generated revenue in the 2011–12 season, attributed to changes in their entertainment landscape, including the return of the beloved Winnipeg Jets. With flat annual fund donations and declining single tickets and subscriptions, Royal MTC prioritized reversing patron decline and revenue losses.

Royal MTC relied heavily on their subscriber base, which was one of the largest among Canadian regional theatres. Even with strong renewal rates, subscriber decline is inevitable without strong campaigns to attract new subscribers. In Royal MTC’s case, the subscriber audience far outweighed the single ticket audience, which meant they often did not have the sheer number of leads necessary to fuel successful subscriber acquisition campaigns. That, coupled with a low volume of individual donors, created a patron loyalty challenge at Royal MTC.


Posted January 6, 2016



Dec16

Like most people who work at TRG, I love data. One of my favorite activities near the end of the year is to open up Google Analytics and see which blog posts, case studies, and other content were most popular with our readers.

The top content from our blog reflects the topics which we see getting the most attention in our industry today. Some topline observations:

  • The topic of subscription and the evolution of the arts business model continues to inspire research and dialogue.
  • We see more interest every day in data and how arts professionals can use it to make decisions.
  • We’re hearing and thinking more about the relationship between marketing and other departments and how organizations can build patron loyalty collaboratively.
  • The topic of pricing and its impact on patrons seemed to be more often discussed this year as organizations balance revenue and accessibility.

Find below the eight most-read insights from TRG this year. We thank you, our readers, for continuing to read, share and respond to our content this year!


Posted December 16, 2015



Nov18

Photo: opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I recently delivered a keynote at the Conferencia Anual de Marketing de las Artes (Annual Conference on Marketing the Arts) in Madrid and Barcelona, hosted by Spanish consulting firm Asimetrica. The focus of this year’s convening was “Cambio de Mentalidad,” about changing mentalities about marketing, and audiences, in the arts. Speakers were from many countries, and had many different perspectives. But one that arose consistently was a fixation that arts managers from all over the world shared.

They were obsessed with new audiences.


Posted November 18, 2015



Nov04

This post is part of a series of collaborations with Doug Borwick and is cross-posted to his Engaging Matters blog on Arts Journal.

Photo: Dean Hochman (CC BY 2.0)

A year or two ago a mentor introduced me to the concept of “polarity management.” It sounds like just another business buzzword, but—stick with me—it gave a name to something that I and many of us have experienced and struggled with.

The concept is this: every challenge you encounter, in business and in life, is either:

- a problem you need to solve, or

- an ongoing “polarity” you need to manage well

A polarity is made up of two interdependent factors that are at odds with each other. While a problem has a correct solution or a set of independent solutions, a polarity is an ongoing challenge where you will need to continuously address and manage both solutions.


Posted November 4, 2015



Oct21

This post is part of a series of collaborations with Doug Borwick and is cross-posted to his Engaging Matters blog on Arts Journal.

Photo by Neo Wang (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Arts Journal blogger Doug Borwick recently wrote a post on the role of marketing and development departments that captured my attention. In the following quote he summarizes an issue that I’ve been thinking about for a long time:

In the nonprofit world, marketing and development have been viewed as two different disciplines. Marketing has focused on messages to external publics and sales. Development has focused on messages to external publics and contributed income–grants and donations…

Do you see what I just did? It’s an old professor thing to set up a question in the listener’s mind. “So, if they both begin with ‘messages to external publics,’ aren’t they pretty closely related?” Bingo.

Marketing and development are closely related. But there are differences. In strict transactional terms, marketing departments largely manage Business (arts organization) to Consumer (patron) relationships. On the other hand, development department work is both “B-to-C” (where the consumer is in the form of donors/members) and “B-to-B” (Business to Business, where the organization is managing relationships and income from foundations, sponsors and other funding agencies). Talk to any marketing or development professional and they’ll tell you: the work is different in managing these different kinds of relationships and revenue streams.


Posted October 21, 2015



Oct14

This post by Doug Borwick is part of a series of collaborations and is cross-posted to his blog Engaging Matters on Arts Journal.

Photo: Some rights reserved by greeblie

This is part of a series of blog posts in conjunction with TRG Arts on the interrelationships among marketing, development, fundraising, and community engagement. The point of the series is that they are all rooted in relationship building and maintenance.

Today we’re talking about definitions. Oh great! But if all of these things are related, we’ve got to be able to understand how they are similar and how they differ. That’s what definitions are for. Plus, what can you expect from someone who spent three decades as a college professor? And that is actually a critical point.

I am not nor have I ever been an on-the-ground professional in marketing or fundraising. Being aware of that, my level of humility in talking about these subjects is very high. What I do have experience in is analyzing words, differentiating among related concepts, and crafting definitions that clarify them. That requires theoretical thinking time–a luxury not available to the people doing the “real work” in the trenches.


Posted October 14, 2015



Oct07

This post is part of a series of collaborations with Doug Borwick and is cross-posted to his Engaging Matters blog on Arts Journal.

Photo by Pam Corey (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

There are two schools of thought when it comes to eating a cinnamon roll.

There are those who eat the cinnamon by unrolling it, eating along the edge, slowly making their way to the gooey, sugary middle.

Then there are those want to get to the middle as soon as they can. Flaky crust is all well and good, but the cache of frosting and sticky cinnamon goodness is too good to resist.

Neither approach is right or wrong, but they are different.


Posted October 7, 2015



Oct06

This is the fourth video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing.

By “them,” we mean your patrons. When we consider how arts organizations lose patrons, it’s not the long-time, committed patrons that are most likely to leave. Your most at-risk patrons are those new audience members and visitors that you worked so hard to attract in the first place. TRG’s Director of Consulting Jim DeGood explains how to measure your risk:

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #4: New audience churn rate

Churn. Attrition. Turnover. Call it what you will; the fact is, you’re losing new patrons. With few exceptions, arts organization over-prospect for new audiences and under-retain them. In this video, Jim DeGood of TRG Arts explains why retention matters, how to measure your risk, and a simple 4-step process for retention that you can implement at your own organization.


Posted October 6, 2015



Sep29

This is the third video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #3: Data capture rate

If we want to cultivate an arts patron, we’ve got to know their history with our organization first. That starts by collecting their contact information. In this video, David Seals of TRG Arts explains why capturing contact information can mean serious revenue gain—or lost opportunity. He’ll also review what contact information you should collect and tips for collecting it at the point of sale.


Posted September 29, 2015



Sep22

This is the second video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing.

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #2: Active patron participation

Active patrons are the patrons an arts organization serves today. But will they still be there tomorrow? It depends on how YOU cultivate them.

In this video, Jill Robinson of TRG Arts discusses how and why to measure active patron participation at performing arts organizations and museums. She also explains the concept of an “upgrade”—the next step for every patron to grow their loyalty.


Posted September 22, 2015



Sep17

This post is part of a series by TRG and Piper Foundation Fellow Vincent VanVleet where he’ll report on his discoveries as he travels the country to research the impact of patron loyalty. Read more of his posts here.

Image by opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I've now visited with executive, marketing, and development leaders from over 11 different organizations in eight cities. I have learned many amazing and remarkable things my colleagues are implementing across North America, but my attention keeps returning to one thing. Every organization has the same structure: unanimously in our institutions, marketing and sales are one team.

Here's the dilemma:  Marketing is actually a resource for the entire organization, not just for generating ticket sales.


Posted September 17, 2015



Sep15

This is the first video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #1: Patron-generated revenue

Forget earned and contributed revenue. Thinking about revenue generated by patrons vs. other sources may help your arts organization far more. In this video, Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts explains why categorizing revenue only as earned or contributed can create siloes within organizations and how to calculate the amount and percentage of patron-generated revenue.


Posted September 15, 2015



Jun18

Humana Festival audienceMany organizations track data on pricing, audience retention, and audience response to different types of artistic programming. But what happens when an organization looks at these categories together, holistically? That’s what Actors Theatre of Louisville did. What they found led them to begin to manage demand, cultivate audiences, and approach the strategic planning process in a completely new ways.

This is a story about how data can re-focus an organization around audiences, and how Actors Theatre of Louisville is acting on that data. Managing Director Jennifer Bielstein and ‎Jim DeGood of TRG Arts gave this presentation at the 2015 Theatre Communications Group, detailing how Actors Theatre of Louisville has translated data findings into a plan, how leadership is re-aligning around data and audience loyalty, and some initial results from their efforts.


Posted June 18, 2015



Jun17

This is the first in a series of posts by TRG and Piper Foundation Fellow Vincent VanVleet where he’ll report on his discoveries as he travels the country to research the impact of artistic programming on patron loyalty.

Image by Tnarik Innael (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you had three months off from your job to research anything about the arts management field, what topic would you choose? It’s a fun question to think about, and I am fortunate enough to have this opportunity.   

I am privileged to have been chosen as a Virginia G. Piper Fellow just a few short months ago and subsequently as a concurrent fellow with TRG Arts, with a focus on researching the link between artistic programming and patron loyalty.  The Virginia G. Piper Trust “acknowledges the never-ceasing demands of nonprofit leadership and offers opportunities to retool, refresh, and renew to senior leaders who have been in their roles for 10 or more years.” The fellowship allows non-profit executives, who spend much of their career invested in training staff, time away on sabbatical to invest in their own learning and development, in the hopes that they can bring that knowledge back to the organizations they lead.  TRG has been similarly dedicated for years to training leaders of non-profit arts organizations with emphasis on advancing the field, and has started a fellowship program to spotlight the research I’ll be doing. 

I have been in non-profit management for 17 years, having left the production side of the business because I wanted to be part of something much larger than myself.  It has been a humbling and exciting experience to work with such talented artists and administrators alike.  After a long tenure as general manager of Phoenix Theatre, I was thrust into my post as managing director in 2011 at the height of the economic crisis. I had to find a path forward for our organization.  Like many, we were swimming in a sea of red ink while at the height of a multi-million dollar capital campaign to build a new theatre. The project had started before the recession hit, but was too far along to back out without setting the organization back two decades.  I knew cutting our way to financial success was never going to work.  Previous leadership had already tried that approach and, as we figured out, you can only cut so far.  My gut instinct told me to “lean in” during the “bad” years, so I evaluated our situation and what needed to happen to swim upstream of the crisis and get ahead. 


Posted June 17, 2015



Jun05

19% increase in average subscription revenue


The Situation:

The cast of DTC’s production of
Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Photo by Karen Almond.

Dallas Theater Center (DTC) hired TRG for capacity building consulting in November of 2013. DTC faced challenges with pricing, in particular reinforcing loyalty through pricing. Founded in 1959, DTC became a resident company of the new state-of-the-art AT&T Performing Arts Center in 2009. The new venue’s flexible mainstage, the Potter Rose Performing Studio at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, enables DTC to configure seating differently for each production, from 1 to 573 seats. DTC also produces in a traditional 99 seat “black box” space at the Wyly and at its original home, the 491 seat Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only freestanding theater designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright.


Posted June 5, 2015



May08

"Loyalty takes time." That was the key point that Jill Robinson, President & CEO of TRG Arts, put forth in a discussion of young donors at the 2015 Opera America Conference in Washington, DC. The panel's premise was that, with opera audiences growing older, companies must focus their attention on new generations of support. While development departments may have mastered the appeal to traditionalists and baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials are looking for something else. Attendees at this standing-room only session learned what the data says about these patrons, what matters to next gen donors, and how opera companies can engage them. 


Posted May 8, 2015



May05

Photo by opensource.com (CC BY 2.0)

At the beginning of this year, the NEA came out with a report on why people attend the arts. This study struck a chord with me, because it momentarily put aside the question of whether arts attendance is growing or shrinking and instead focuses on why people actually come to the arts in the first place. The study found that 83% of arts participants value “being devoted and loyal.” This aligns with TRG’s own research, which suggests that it’s no longer enough to know whether you're hitting attendance goals. The question has evolved from "Are audiences growing?" to "Are audiences growing more loyal?"

The NEA report suggests some ways to overcome barriers to arts participation, among them community engagement. Decision makers and funders in our field seem to be thinking more in recent years about what makes an arts community healthy, and how to measure engagement across communities.

We recently did a study with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance which studied how audiences interact with different arts organizations across a community. (Full study here.) Spanning 7 years and studying nearly 1 million arts audience households from 17 arts and cultural institutions, this study looked in-depth at loyalty within organizations and engagement across the community.


Posted May 5, 2015



May05


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in
One Thousand Pieces by
 Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo.
Photo by Todd Rosenberg.
Categorizing arts patrons simply as ticket buyers, subscribers, or donors can hide the total value of the investments they make with an arts organization. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago tracked patterns of patron investment holistically, across those categories. What they found led them to cultivate audiences in a completely new ways.

Chief Marketing and Development Officer Bill Melamed of Hubbard Street and ‎Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts presented this session at the 2015 Do Good Data Conference, detailing how audiences are engaging differently with Hubbard Street nearly two years later. This is a story about the important role data plays in centering an organization around patron loyalty, and how Hubbard Street acted on that data. 

Posted May 5, 2015



Mar30


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

TRG's President & CEO Jill Robinson presented during TCG's Audience (R)Evolution in Kansas City on why research indicates that subscriptions still sustain arts organizations.

Watch it here. (Fourth video on the page.)

Audience (R)Evolution is a multi-year program designed by Theatre Communications Group and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to study, promote and support successful audience engagement and community development models across the country. This initiative, now moving into its second round of activity, encompasses four phases: research and assessment; convenings; grantmaking; and widespread dissemination of audience engagement models that work.


Posted March 30, 2015



Feb13

Why subscriptions still sustain the arts and ways to rescue your subscription program 



President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Thanks to everyone who attended this webinar. Click through to view slides and the recording.

Let’s face it; the subscription has been uncool for years. While disruptive technologies and changing arts consumer behavior have transformed the way arts managers see their business model, the subscription has declined and stagnated. “Subscriptions are dead” is now conventional wisdom in our industry. 

But, if subscriptions were truly dead, wouldn’t they have just disappeared by now? Inconveniently, subscriptions incentivize loyalty and provide sustainable revenue that's difficult to find elsewhere in any audience-centered business model. Many organizations that have tried to innovate in this area have found themselves in a state of subscription emergency. 


Posted February 13, 2015



Feb13

 Evolution of patron loyalty“Art cannot meaningfully exist without an audience. Loyal audiences build sustainable organizations.” That was one of the main takeaways in a blog post Jill wrote last month about the somewhat puzzling fact that subscriptions still exist in the arts. Jill contended that subscriptions still sustain the arts because they encourage patrons to attend and invest more, deepening audience loyalty.

Loyalty and its role in strengthening arts organizations is an idea we talk about often at TRG. Why? Sustainable organizations require sustained engagement and investment from patrons. That engagement and investment begins with the audiences who already—right now—support your art. Unless your organization is just launching, you already have a variety of patrons who lie somewhere on the spectrum of audience development.


Posted February 13, 2015



Jan14


An illustration of Seattle Repertory Theatre's "One Patron"
strategy, where SRT streamlined patron messaging and built
long term relationships across all points of interaction.

The Art of the Upgrade

For cultural institutions, the box office is not just the place where ticket orders are passively taken. It plays an active role in growing revenue by developing loyalty. Every time a patron logs in, calls, or visits to buy a ticket, the opportunity exists for them to upgrade and deepen their relationship with the organization. With the right training, the box office can become experts on how to cultivate patron relationships and keep audiences coming back for more. 

TRG President & CEO Jill Robinson presented this session at the 2015 InTix conference in Denver with Jeremy Scott of Seattle Repertory Theatre and Molly Riddle Wink of Denver Art Museum. In this session, they discussed:
- How making loyalty a priority can grow revenues
- How to build a loyalty strategy for every group within your existing audience
- How organizations can train box office staff to take on loyalty responsibilities


Posted January 14, 2015



Nov20

Tuesday, November 18 at 2 EDT/11 PDT

Edit: Thanks to everyone who attended this chat! Click through to read the transcript.


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Let’s talk turkey! Does your audience development strategy promote loyalty? The best loyalty programs go beyond just offering subscriptions or memberships. They consider each patron’s right next step to further their relationship to the organization.

Learn how industry colleagues are developing loyalty at their organizations and get re-inspired about your own loyalty strategy. In this hour-long Twitter chat with President & CEO Jill Robinson (@jrobinsontrg) and moderator Amelia Northrup-Simpson (@TRGArts), we'll discuss topics like subscriptions and memberships, the loyalty business model, and how to cultivate patrons from newcomer to advocate. Bring your own favorite audience development ideas and burning questions to share!


Posted November 20, 2014



Nov04

Two months ago, I watched this TED talk by Dan Pallotta and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong

The back story is this: Pallotta's AIDS and breast cancer walks raised $581 million dollars for those causes quickly, in large part because he used a sizable portion (40%) of their income to advertise for and invest in the event to make it an amazing experience for participants. Because of the percentage of the income he spent on these administrative costs, he was virtually crucified in the media. At the same time, investing in those things is what allowed him to raise so much money for those causes in the first place. In his TED talk and two books (here and here) on nonprofit administration, Pallotta questions the way we think about administration and overhead costs for nonprofits.

Pallotta’s experience was with health and human services organizations, but it parallels and exposes the way we in the arts think about spending and income. The attitudes we have about mission vs. administrative expenses are pervasive… among donors, nonprofit industry teachers and experts—even among the artists themselves.

And, Pallotta argues, those attitudes can undermine the causes these organizations stand for.


Posted November 4, 2014



Oct24


Senior Consultant
Anita Hansen
Today's database, ticketing, and CRM systems can tell administrators nearly everything they could possibly want to know about patrons. More data isn't necessarily helpful, though. Studying everything can distract administrators from the metrics on which they need to focus to grow audiences and revenue. 


In this 90-minute intensive presented at the 2014 Arts Reach National Arts Marketing, Development & Ticketing Conference, Anita Hansen explained how organizations can stop studying every metric and focus on the most critical indicators of growth and sustainability. You’ll learn how to find TRG's five most actionable Thrive Metrics in your own data, what they say about your organization’s health, and how to act on the data to engage and cultivate patrons.


Posted October 24, 2014



Oct21

Membership for love or moneyVisitors become members for two reasons—because they love the organization and because they are driven by the value of the transaction.

Research of arts consumer behavior shows that those with a true passion for your museum’s mission can be cultivated beyond membership to long-term, high-value patronage. Visitors who view membership as a transaction may be harder to attract and retain, but some could deepen their relationship with the right visitor development strategy.

But how can membership officers put the right strategies in place to attract members and keep them loyal? Learn more in this presentation, which was given at the 2014 American Museum Membership Conference by Molly Wink of Denver Art Museum and Jill Robinson of TRG Arts.


Posted October 21, 2014



Oct10


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

I want to point your attention to the most important patrons in your audience. They’re not necessarily the ones who have given or attended the most over their lifetime. They’re your “right now” patrons—the audiences that are participating and engaging with you for your most current event and could do any number of things in the future.

These currently active patrons allow your organization to operate right now. They’re the ones that your mission serves today.

But don’t assume that they’ll be there tomorrow. Research indicates that first-time attendees—a large portion of many organizations’ patrons—tend to come once and then never return.

That’s why measuring your active patrons matters so much. An “active” patron has a little more longevity than a “right now” patron; they’ve had some transaction in the last two seasons or years. When cultivating a loyal audience, recency rules. The patrons who have attended in the last two years are much more likely to continue attending—if you cultivate them right.


Posted October 10, 2014



Aug21


Image by Bart Everson via flickr
under CC BY 2.0

Earlier this summer, TRG convened a two-day meeting of chief arts executives here in Colorado Springs. In our session we discussed the importance of alignment between artistic leadership, executive leadership, and the board if an organization is to develop sustainable revenues from patrons.

Before the organization makes a strategic plan or begins implementing it, leadership must be on the same page about the current realities their organization faces. There are many factors that can affect the organization’s ease in sustaining itself, including:

  • Art form: Realities in presenting chamber music are different than those in commercial Broadway.
  • Market: Birmingham, AL is a different community than San Francisco or Vail, CO.
  • Current operational practices: Are they the practices required in 2014?
  • Current patron behavior: How loyal are patrons today?  How do they respond to programming initiatives, and WHO responds?
  • Programming and venues: The “what” and the “where” that may pique audience interest—or deter them.

One participant in our session looked at the list and asked a provocative question. “Where’s mission?”

Her question sparked my interest. What exactly is the role of mission when it comes to an organization’s sustainability?


Posted August 21, 2014



Jul15

Data drives increased audience engagement and loyalty



Hubbard Street Dancers Jessica Tong, left, and Jesse Bechard
in One Thousand Pieces by Resident Choreographer
Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg. 

At the end of its Landmark 35th Anniversary season, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was at a high point. Ticket sales and fundraising were stronger than ever, and buzz in the Chicago community and in the dance world was growing.

While Hubbard Street had developed a significant and enthusiastic ticketing and donor base, the marketing and development team wanted a greater depth of knowledge about the company’s most engaged patrons. Bill Melamed, Chief Marketing and Development Officer, and Stacey Recht, Associate Director of Marketing, began asking: How well do we really know our patrons? How do our patrons interact across the organization? What are the trends and entry points? How can we best cultivate them toward long-term loyalty?

Hubbard Street wanted to cultivate this audience more holistically, beyond basic categories like ticket buyer, subscriber, or donor. They became curious about each patron’s total investment across those categories, and engaged TRG to help analyze the data and recommend steps toward increasing loyalty. 



Posted July 15, 2014



Jul08

Data-driven hard work worksLast month, I wrote about the overwhelming amount of data produced by the sophisticated database systems now common in the arts industry. My commentary on the “analysis paralysis” that can result caught the attention of many of our readers. We’re glad, because 20 years of consulting work has taught us this: data-driven hard work works.

Data-driven hard work works

It is hard work to develop a loyal, sustainable audience base. There are few shortcuts. However, a focus on the right audience data can guide your efforts. That’s why I urged you in my last post to “stop studying everything.” Then you can minimize distractions and direct your time, energy, and hard work on efforts that will help you achieve your audience goals.


Posted July 8, 2014



Jun19

Love the ones you're with--opportunity lies with existing patronsWhat happens when data analysis shows that some things you’re doing really well are also impeding future success? If you’re the Guthrie Theater looking at TRG’s loyalty and root cause analysis, you galvanize your whole team around keeping patrons and growing their ongoing support. In this workshop, TRG’s President & CEO Jill Robinson shared the metrics and patron behavior findings that alerted Guthrie and informed change. Trish Kirk, Guthrie’s Director of Marketing & Audience Development, described choices, actions, and new practices Guthrie has undertaken. Learn from Guthrie's experience how putting patron loyalty first can help sustain your theater. 

Posted June 19, 2014



Jun05


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Every organization has critical and very accessible database information that provides indicators of growth and sustainability. Jill Robinson, President and CEO of TRG Arts, presented TRG's most actionable Thrive Metrics at ArtsPride New Jersey's Thrive Conference at Princeton University. This presentation will tell you how to find these data points and what the research says about using data to stimulate engagement and nurture relationships with patrons. 

Want more information about the most important metrics you can study? Read Jill's recent blog post, Data that Matters: 3 Metrics to Grow Audience Relationships.


Posted June 5, 2014



Jun04

Stop studying everythingWith the arts and cultural annual conference season in full swing, we’re thrilled to see the priority that integrated patron loyalty now has in field dialogue. Prioritizing patronage can have a real impact—on year-over-year revenues, the volume of people attending and visiting arts and cultural organizations, organizational relevance, and more.

Developing patron loyalty specifically means thinking about each patron’s right next step with an organization, getting them to increase their activity with and value to the organization over time. For example, if I attend my first concert (or play or exhibit) at your organization, my right next step is attending another event in the coming months.

Many organizations regularly have thousands of patrons come through their doors. That’s a lot of right next steps! Luckily the database, ticketing, and CRM systems on the market today can capture in-depth data on patrons like never before.


Posted June 4, 2014



May31


President & CEO
Jill Robinson
President & CEO Jill Robinson presented this intensive session on patron loyalty on May 31, 2014 at the Canadian Arts Marketing, Development & Ticketing Conference in Toronto. Two decades of arts consumer research is clear: patron relationships have the plot lines of a love story. Take, for instance that first contact with a person that has never before walked into your organization’s life. It could be the beginning of long, loyal engagement or a one night stand, depending on how you behave on this first date. In this 90-minute workshop, Jill showed how to build happily-ever-after relationships that can build patron loyalty and revenue. Hear case studies on today’s best loyalty practices and learn techniques that are timely for you to apply in your own organization now. 

Posted May 31, 2014



May22

This article is cross-posted on the Arts Management and Technology Lab blog.

Photo by Fabio Sola Penna under CC BY 2.0 license.

As summer approaches, many museums and festivals are preparing for their busiest season of the year. Peak visitation and big events often mean an influx of new visitors or ticket buyers. We’re reminded at TRG how critical cultivating those newcomers is.

In the performing arts, TRG research found that about 4 out of 5 newcomers come once and are often never seen again. They follow this pattern of attrition often, we find, because organizations don’t consistently invite them back.

For museums, that attrition rate may be even higher. Museums routinely don’t collect patrons’ contact information—the only way they will be able to directly invite those patrons back. Sometimes admission is free and visitors come and go without having to check in. Even when admission is paid, ticketing staff may not perceive that they have time to ask, especially if there’s a line at the counter.

Collecting first-time ticket buyers’ contact information isn’t a touchy-feely customer service type of initiative. It can mean serious revenue gains—or losses.


Posted May 22, 2014



Apr02

Photo by Martin Deutsch via flickr
Earlier this month I participated in “Where Next BC: Adapting to Changes in the Arts,” a convening at Simon Frasier University in Vancouver, British Columbia. This change-focused convening was hosted by a dozen funders and supporters of the arts and cultural sector in BC, including the Department of Canadian Heritage, and Canada Council for the Arts.
 

I found the convening to be both revealing and encouraging in that the discussions were designed to be framed by, as the program read, “humility and honest self-assessment.” 

Change requires honest self-assessment in a frame of personal and professional humility. Whether it’s “innovative,” “adaptive,” or just plain good, old-fashioned CHANGE—it is hard to do well. In most arts organizations, change is even harder to accept, especially when generations of standard ways of operating are challenged.


Posted April 2, 2014



Mar20

To develop donors and cultivate patron love that lasts, you have to start with a visitor’s first paid admission. In this webinar, learn from two decades of arts patron research what it takes to make donors—and keep them. 

With each ticket sale or donation transaction, you gain important information that can help you develop lasting relationships with your patrons. The patron loyalty experts at TRG Arts, a consulting firm, say the process of meeting patrons is like a love story. 

This one-hour webinar with TRG's VP of Strategic Communications Joanne Steller will cover transactions that are turning points in your patron relationships and specific cultivation tactics that will help your donors fall in love with your organization. 

Grab your marketing, ticket office, and development colleagues to watch this informative webinar – because you all have a role to play in building donor relationships.

Posted March 20, 2014



Nov20

When the going got tough at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Director of External Affairs Katie Jackman and her team got going on a program for retaining first-time single ticket buyers – and stuck with it in the face of budget cuts, staff furloughs, and their own occasional doubts. Acting on TRG counsel Jackman and the SRT team launched their effort with getting new buyers to come again during their first season – achieving “second date” with first-time patrons. When that led to triple the retention rate among new single ticket buyers, SRT kept going. They rolled out a disciplined, purposeful cultivation effort over the next three seasons, a program TRG lauds as a model for the industry. (Read case study here.)  

Click through to watch the video or browse the slides from the webinar.


Posted November 20, 2013



Nov05

Glass half empty or half full?
Photo via flickr

Our live chat last week with the Foundation Center (see transcript) raised an alarming question: In this time of year when patrons are thinking about us, are we thinking about our relationships with them? 

The holidays are just around the corner. Huge numbers of patrons will be seeking tickets for holiday programming and making decisions about yearend giving.

In an ideal world, arts staff teams would already be implementing strategy to forge bonds with the people they’ll interact with during the holiday peak period. One can wish, but there’s too much evidence to suggest that most marketing, development and box office teams aren’t even talking to one another. Everyone’s busy. There’s no time. Two dozen deadlines are looming. The number of reasons for not focusing here is paralyzing.

That’s why the questions we answered in real time during last week’s chat were so provocative. They reiterated the busy state of arts management today and spotlighted a looming loss: 

You’re about to miss what might be your best patron cultivation opportunity all year. 


Posted November 5, 2013



Oct27

"Monetizing Audience Engagement, A Love Story" was presented at the 2013 Arts Reach National Arts Marketing, Development, and Ticketing Conference in San Francisco, CA, where TRG Arts’ veteran patron loyalty consultant Keri Mesropov and Director of Network Programs David Seals compared standard ways of relationship-building to the happily-ever-after best practices that are sustaining smart arts organizations. 

Session Description:

Isn’t it funny that we use the term “engagement” to describe audience interaction with our organizations? The word can mean ‘get together”—a meeting or visit. It can also mean commitment as in promise to marry. As that range of definition implies, and two decades of arts consumer research shows, engagement has the plot lines of a love story. 


Posted October 27, 2013



Oct01

Tripled retention among specially

cultivated group of new ticket buyers

NOTE: We recently held a webinar based on this case study. "Launching Loyalty from a ‘Second Date’ with Patrons," featuring Seattle Repertory Theatre's Katie Jackman and her team, hosted by TRG's veteran consultant Joanne Steller. Click here to watch>>

When recession hit during the 2008–09 season, sales at Seattle Repertory Theatre (SRT) were already in a state of decline. Revenue losses had prompted across-the-board budget cuts by 30% for the following season. Enter Katie Jackman, who had just been hired and now is SRT’s Director of External Relations. She and new colleagues Jeremy Scott, Patron Development Manager, and Ashley Coates, Marketing Manager, rallied around the challenges ahead.


“We had declining sales in all categories. At the same time, there weren’t specific strategies around what to do, especially when patrons came in for the first time.”


Posted October 1, 2013



Sep18

TRG direct marketing tools find new prospects, 

track response for blockbuster mail campaign


The situation:

Becoming Van Gogh at Denver Art MuseumIn October 2012, Denver Art Museum (DAM) opened Becoming Van Gogh for a limited run in Denver only. The exhibit brought together for the first time various works by Van Gogh and those artists who influenced him. With such a unique exhibit and popular subject matter, the staff of DAM knew that the exhibit would be a smash hit.

Molly Wink, Director of Membership & Amenities, was especially interested in leveraging the would-be success of this exhibit and the consequent influx of new patrons into lasting patron relationships, especially via her direct mail campaign.


Posted September 18, 2013



Sep06

TRG Arts has been busy teaching this summer on the road and on the web. We’ve rounded up our most recent insights from last month below, in case you missed anything:

The Art of the Upgrade

President Jill Robinson gave a webinar hosted by Blackbaud last week about increasing patrons’ investment in and loyalty to arts organizations through upgrading.

“The best way to increase loyalty is to ask the patron to take the right next step with you. That’s what we call upgrading,” Jill said. “That right next step is different for each patron. And the right next step is informed by information in your database.”

The most recent version of this webinar is now available here.

Slides from the presentation:
 

Posted September 6, 2013



Aug28

New subscriptions up 27%


Hartford Stage has long enjoyed a sterling reputation as one of the country’s leading resident theatres. However, after 2008–09, one of the best seasons on record, revenue plunged and continued to trend downward in subsequent seasons.

A major portion of the revenue decline came from the loss of subscribers and subscriber revenue. In 2002, Hartford Stage introduced EZ Tix, a flexible voucher subscription. As EZ Tix became the focus of acquisition efforts, sales for the full 6-play subscription fell steadily. 


Posted August 28, 2013



Aug22

Which prospects are you contacting?

 

“Don’t ever increase your marketing budget because you want to be more aggressive. Increase it because the numbers tell you there’s more opportunity there.” 

TRG’s Will Lester prescribed this strategy and other valuable prospecting tactics in this webinar on direct marketing strategy for arts organizations. 

Click through to read the most important points made in the webinar, view a recording of the webinar and more.


Posted August 22, 2013



Aug15

This presentation was given by Anita Hansen of TRG Arts and Charlie Wade, consultant and former director of marketing, Atlanta Symphony at the 2013 Association of California Symphony Orchestras Conference.

Description: 

Talk about a changing universe! What does the future hold if subscriptions are truly a thing of the past? Current thinking postulates that a long-term decline in audience commitment is inevitable. A meteoric shower of “one-time” promotions and discounts – crowdsourcing, Goldstar, Fill-A-Seat, Living Social – has captivated the general public and given us options for filling our venues. But is this solution sustainable? Let’s assess the situation and determine if belief in accepted prevailing societal trends will lead to an ever-downward spiral to obscurity. Identify the “hidden” and unique performance assets you already possess to cultivate patron loyalty and grow participation. Perhaps there’s a way to re-create a winning game with new awareness of how to play.


Posted August 15, 2013



Jun27

Photo via flickr.
Photo via flickr.
What in the heck do the words "audience engagement” mean?  

I recently attended the Theatre Communication Group (TCG) Annual Conference in Dallas, where a major focus of discussion was that very topic. For three days, I listened to panelists, questioned participants, and considered the discussions. I met many bright managers who passionately explained how they are trying to bridge the perceived gap separating potential audiences from their theater companies. I regret to report that no one could offer a concrete definition of the term “audience engagement”.  

It seems to me that two separate meanings and means of measuring success are intertwined in the use of the term:

    • One meaning addresses an organizational need to sell more tickets, as measured by sales volume and earned revenues.  

    • The other is code for addressing organizational or community dissatisfaction with the composition of the audience already in attendance.  Everyone knows we live in a multicultural world. If our audiences are measured as “highly educated, wealthy older white people,” organizational relevance becomes difficult to manage on any level. 

Posted June 27, 2013



Jun24

Photo by Todd Huffman via flickr.
Photo by Todd Huffman via flickr.
Stop me if you’ve heard this plot point before in a romantic comedy: Boy meets girl. Sparks fly. Boy and girl have a meaningful, energizing interaction. But, neither can work up the courage to ask for the other’s phone number.

In a rom-com, the writers would find a cute, funny way for the two to bump into one another again. But we all know in real life, that rarely happens. Each goes their separate way thinking the other isn’t interested.

At TRG we often compare arts organizations’ patron relationships to dating. We counsel clients to “Love the ones you’re with” to remind them to prioritize subscribers, members and donors.  We exclaim “Don’t ask them to marry you on the first date!” to illustrate why marketers should offer another performance instead of a subscription to a first-time attendee. 

Posted June 24, 2013



Jun04

65% one-year increase in new subscription revenue

Exterior of the Loretto-Hilton Center, The Rep’s primary performing venue.
Exterior of the Loretto-Hilton Center,
The Rep’s primary performing venue.

Repertory Theatre of St. Louis had experienced ups and downs in subscription sales. By 2012, overall subscriptions had been decreasing by 3-8% almost every year since 2008, despite a strong renewal rate.

The underlying problem seemed to be attracting new subscribers. Initial analysis by TRG Arts suggested that, long term, The Rep needed to grow the number of prospects for subscription in their database. TRG also discovered that The Rep likely hadn’t been spending enough on subscription acquisitions. Spending on marketing new subscriptions acquisitions had remained flat, despite the declines in subscription acquisitions.


Posted June 4, 2013



May31

The Wall Street Journal didn't tell the whole story


Photo by Daimon Eklund via flickr.
Photo by Daimon Eklund via flickr.
Terry Teachout, the drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, suggested a few weeks ago a correlation between regional theater’s “play-it-safe” programming strategies and the collapse of the American theater subscription.

 He wrote: “(T)here seems little doubt that the [subscription] model itself is going bust.” Citing Theatre Facts 2011, Theatre Communications Group’s (TCG) annual study of industry financial and business trends, he noted, “nationwide revenues from subscribers plunged 18% between 2007 and 2011.”

That’s just one number, but it’s not the whole story.


Posted May 31, 2013



May28

Is your organization’s pricing strategy focused only on the cost of admission? Developed in just one department?  This 90-minute workshop, presented at the Arts Reach Canada Conference in May 2013, was designed to show leadership teams how much more there is to consider and to gain. High-impact pricing generates positive perception, improved patron loyalty, and greater revenue for every admission or seat sold.  


Posted May 28, 2013



May23

This session, presented at the 2013 AAM conference in Baltimore, explored an established enterprise model—loyalty through customer relationship management—and reimagine it for our museums. Designed to provoke thought-leadership for museum CEOs, COOs, department heads, as well as across functional areas, this presentation will spotlight practical steps for increasing museum loyalty and reaping the results. Presenters included: Jill Robinson, Suzette Sherman, and Heather Calvin, Associate Vice President, Visitor Services and Membership at Boston's Museum of Science.

Posted May 23, 2013



May20

$1.5 million two-year admission growth


EMP Museum EMP Museum (formerly known as Experience Music Project) mounts exhibitions related to music, pop culture and science fiction. In 2011, EMP planned two exciting new exhibits: Avatar: The Exhibition and Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. EMP leadership saw the exhibits as a way to build a more sustainable business model, funded by the community and less reliant on gifts from a few generous donors. 

Posted May 20, 2013



May08

Patron relationships matter more in 2013 because the arts landscape is  “more like shifting sand than fertile soil,” said Jill Robinson,  President, at the TRG Arts May 7 webinar, Plant Loyalty Now.   The higher the portion of patron-centric revenue is, “the more organizations need to focus on, invest in, and partner with patrons to sustain income. The webinar offered strategic tactics around starting campaigns early, building on blockbusters, and patron upgrades at every level engagement.

Did you miss the webinar? Click through and see the slides, or watch the recording.


Posted May 8, 2013



Apr28

71% New Subscription Net Revenue Increase

Chicago Symphony Orchestra saw a 71% new subscription net revenue increase


Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) had a strong subscription program overall. “The CSO has a very loyal subscriber base—once we bring them into the fold, they stay with us,” Kate Hagen, Marketing Manager, Patron Retention, said. Hagen and her colleagues had created a comprehensive program which had successfully retained both long-term subscribers and those in their first few years at rates well above industry averages.

For example, the CSO created the Surprise and Delight program for first year subscribers, which involved surprising them at their seats with a personal “thank you” from a staff member and a small gift like a CD or drink coupon. In 2011–12, 65% of first time subscribers renewed. (TRG finds that this group typically renews at just 50%.)

Posted April 28, 2013



Mar22

Doubled Subscription Revenue


Music Director David Alan Miller conducts the ASO. Gary David Gold Photography.
Music Director David Alan Miller conducts the ASO.
Photo by Gary David Gold Photography.

By 2010, the Albany Symphony Orchestra (ASO) had experienced a steady decline in subscribers over seven years. During the 2009–10 and 2010–11 seasons, ASO had implemented an idea popular in the orchestra field of growing new subscriptions by offering them at half price. Units increased significantly. However, per-ticket revenue declined and renewal rates were poor. 


Posted March 22, 2013



Feb26

Photo by Eamon Curry via flickr
Lack of time, money and proper staff get in the way of arts and cultural organizations achieving their top priority goals, TRG Arts found in its recent survey of the consulting firm’s eNews recipients, Twitter followers, and blog readers. By the numbers:

•    Too many activities, too little time (53%) – Priorities conflict and as one respondent aptly put it, “I can’t do anything right when I’m doing everything at the same time.”
•    Financial constraints (44%) of insufficient funding and not enough revenue are age-old issues that recent economic factors appear to have exacerbated.  Organizations of all sizes and genres say they cannot afford what they need.

Posted February 26, 2013



Feb13

Word cloud created from an open-ended
TRG survey question on the greatest challenge
practitioners face. Created via tagxedo.
Title: Make Time to Make Money
Date: Wednesday, February 27
Time: 2-3 p.m. EST/11 a.m.-noon PST
Cost: Free--register here.

A recent TRG survey suggests that if you’re stressed out by competing critical priorities and dealing with too many challenges to achieve them, you are not alone. The survey shows a snapshot of arts practitioners pulled in many directions – too many to focus on and still meet big objectives around patronage and revenue.

In this one-hour TRG.Rx webinar, TRG’s CEO Rick Lester and President Jill Robinson prescribe must-do actions to get your organization on track to succeed in 2013.

Posted February 13, 2013



Jan22

Photo via flickr
Follow the conversation in the blogosphere, on social media or the year-end collection of intellectual thought on the arts, and you’ll find variations on several themes: Values – economic, artistic, experiential.  The relative merit of technique and technology.  Disappearing public and corporate support. Can innovation remodel the industry model? 

In today’s important dialog, the patron is missing in action. 

Posted January 22, 2013



Jan21

Photo via flickr
This article is cross-posted on artsmarketing.org.
Declarations of 2012 as the year of Big Data bring to 2013 a renewed—and well-deserved--focus on analytics and making data-driven decisions. Your organization’s database is the key to the hearts, minds, and wallets of your most fervent supporters—your patrons.  Patrons, in other words, are your biggest asset.

Of all the numbers you can pull from your database, which matter most? Two decades of arts consumer study is clear. The metrics surrounding loyalty—keeping patrons coming back and increasing their investment—are the ones that really count when it comes to building a sustainable audience (and revenue) base.

Whether your organization is large or small, performing or visual, subscription or member-oriented, here’s four resolutions to make regarding your data in the year ahead:

Posted January 21, 2013



Dec27

26% jump in subscription revenue after TRG Workshop


Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts saw a 26% increase in subscription revenueThe Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts wanted to increase subscription revenue by improving retention rates among upgraded and lapsed subscribers. In addition, the Center had made changes to the scale-of-hall and pricing, and the biggest package was now an 8-show package instead of a 7-show package. Staff was concerned that patrons would not renew at a rate as high as previous years. The Center also wanted to communicate the changes and sell more through a well-planned campaign

 


Posted December 27, 2012



Oct02

If so many arts leaders believe that marketing and development departments working together will generate better patronage results, why are so few organizations actually doing it? 

To be sure, there are ample tactical examples of successful cross-departmental collaboration on campaigns. And, a few industry leaders are engaging in organization-wide patron development – Arts Club Theatre Company and 5th Avenue Theatre are two we admire.

But integrated patron management is far from being a mainstream practice. Perhaps it’s because true marketing-development collaboration requires change and new ways of doing things that most organizations find impossibly difficult – especially on top of everything else that’s necessary to keep the art on our stages and in our exhibit halls.

Posted October 2, 2012



Oct01

This week, the TRG team is contributing to the Arts Marketing Blog Salon on Americans for the Arts' ARTSblog. This article by Amelia was originally posted as part of the salon, which previews the National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference in November.

Photo by David Wellbeloved
For decades, the arts industry has chased new audiences, especially younger audiences. Today, that chase is directed at the largest population under 30 years old in human history.  It’s little wonder that Gen Y (born 1981 – 2001) is a hot topic for arts marketers.
 
As a data-informed member of Gen Y, here’s a take on my generation of arts consumers.

We curate our lives.

For as long as we’ve been consumers, we have always had access to Google and Amazon. Search is our way of finding out anything and everything we want to know. We are the generation of the long-tail. This means we have had access to more variety of art, music, performances, and consumer products than any other generation in history.

Posted October 1, 2012



Jul12

Photo: Mario via Flickr
This article is cross-posted on the #artsmgtchat blog. Strategic Communications Specialist Amelia Northrup will guest-host #artsmgtchat on Twitter on July 20, 2012 at 2-3 p.m. EDT.
Audience development. Usually when you hear this arts industry buzzword, it’s all about finding new audiences—everyone wants to develop a larger audience, right? However, audience development is not only about finding new audiences, but also retaining and deepening the commitment of the patrons you already have. Out of the two, the second will nearly always give you a larger return on your investment.

That’s the goal of patron loyalty programs—retaining and deepening the commitment of existing audience members.

Posted July 12, 2012



May21

56,000 new prospects found for new venue


The Smith Center opened in Las Vegas in 2011. In its first season, the new venue planned a Broadway Series of touring productions, and a presenting series of touring musical and dance attractions.

Since the organization was just opening, they needed to find new patrons—lots of new patrons. They engaged TRG Arts to help find patrons based on behavioral and demographic characteristics, modeled after patrons who attended similar organizations across the country.


Posted May 21, 2012



May09


Photo: Wooden tops,
Tate Modern by Howard Lake
What are you passionate about? How could we tell?

Those questions kicked off a TRG webinar April 18th that addressed the issue of patron loyalty -- how we as arts managers can drive revenue from audiences’ love of the arts. Sean Kelly, VP of Marketing and Communications at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre led the webinar with Laura Willumsen, TRG’s Senior Consultant and told the story of how patron passion for The 5th is driving the company’s loyalty program.

Clearly, it’s difficult to see an individual’s passion for the arts when you are looking at patrons only through the lens of individual campaigns. Most arts managers see their season as a string of performances with seats to fill, or days of an exhibition with a visitor goal to hit, or an annual fund effort to bring in donations. “Audience engagement” and “donor cultivation”, when viewed as campaigns, are just a large number of indeterminable and unending tasks.

Posted May 9, 2012



May08

Picture yourself as a master gardener in the arts and entertainment flower mart. Imagine a place where you can go to do what you do so well – even better.

Our friends at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council this week provided a five-minute realization of this imagery. It comes in a delightful, insightful video by David Seals and Monica Meinert of the Council’s Loud and Clear Productions.

Posted May 8, 2012



Apr09

Line to get in to Hirshhorn After Hours.
Photo by Joe Loong via Flickr.
Recently I came across an excellent article entitled “Death by Curation” on how museums have developed an over-reliance on programming special exhibits, as opposed to trusting their permanent collections to make revenue goals. Author Colleen Dilenschneider makes the point that blockbusters can increase annual revenue expectations to often unreasonable levels. The blockbuster-addicted museum then sinks more money into further special exhibits that may not be as successful as the first blockbuster, or even break even.

Over two decades, we’ve seen this pattern play out in performing arts organizations, as well as museums and other membership-based attractions. Of course, the blockbusters themselves are usually not the problem. The way that an arts organization handles a blockbuster can be.

Posted April 9, 2012



Apr01

Matching Fund Campaign Success


Louisiana Philharmonic fundraising appealLouisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), like many organizations on the Gulf coast, faced an uncertain future after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. By May 2011, TRG had helped the orchestra re-establish a home base, grow patronage in outlying parishes, and reconstruct a database that was no longer reliable in post-Katrina New Orleans (see part one). By revamping their marketing practices, LPO’s subscriber base now exceeded pre-Katrina levels. The next priority was turning the new customers into donors.

Potential for growth.

Successful marketing campaigns had grown the prospect pool substantially; from 2006-07 to 2009-10 there had been a 28% increase in subscriber records and 99% increase in single ticket buying households. The Orchestra now had a large pool of prospects to solicit for donations. 

Posted April 1, 2012



Mar18

When done right and well, pricing strategies earn revenue and also create and retain lifelong, loyal patrons. This 3-hour intensive at the Spring 2012 ArtsReach Conference in New York City was led by TRG Arts CEO Rick Lester and his consulting firm colleagues who have helped hundreds of organizations earn millions from demand and pricing strategies TRG pioneered. The intensive was designed for marketing, development and ticketing colleagues to attend together and with other teams. Learn how your role in the process of pricing and demand management can make a positive difference in the way loyal patrons are found, cultivated, and developed over time. Identify the set of facts that tell your organization what’s in demand, and what’s not. Challenge your assumptions about price increases, discount policy, comp distribution, and dynamic pricing. Take home ideas that will build revenues and grow loyal patrons.

Posted March 18, 2012



Mar18

2012 National Alliance for Musical Theatre Conference


This presentation was given at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s 2012 Conference in Seattle by Sean Kelly, Director of Marketing and Communications, 5th Avenue Theatre and Laura Willumsen, Senior Managing Consultant, TRG Arts. Learn how The 5th Avenue Theatre, in concert with TRG Arts, is building a wholly new model of patron engagement. Organizations from small to large can benefit from viewing their patrons through the lens of loyalty. Learn techniques to drive retention as well as increase engagement and revenue.

Posted March 18, 2012



Mar14

Today marks the beginning of Patron Loyalty Week at TRG Arts. We’re engaging in dialogue about developing longer, stronger patron relationships on the blog, at industry conferences, and on Twitter at #LoyaltyWeek.
TRG's Advocate Buyer Tryer model of patron loyalty
What, you may ask, is a Tryer?   In our firm’s decade of arts consumer research, Tryers are the most prevalent type of patron behavior.  They are households that have infrequent, one-time, or long-ago transactions with your organization. Right now your database–like those of most arts and entertainment organizationsis likely comprised of 90% Tryers.  And most of them are patrons you’ve allowed to lapse.  

Posted March 14, 2012



Mar12

In 2012, TRG bloggers are taking a fresh look at data and trends that inform risks worth taking, best practices worth hanging onto, and assumptions worth challenging – each in time for action to be taken.
The operative word in the title question is: think, as in assume.  The more TRG studies patron behavior, the more we realize how often and how much even the smartest managers make wrong assumptions about the patrons who are visiting their exhibits or sitting in the seats of their theatres, concert halls and arenas.

Take the question: Who in attendance at an arts event has been here before?  A 2011 TRG patron origination study told us: only about half. We say “only” because the prevailing conventional wisdom was that most patrons75% or moreare repeat ticket buyers, subscribers, or members.   In fact there are so many new patrons in America’s audiences that the study’s author, TRG Vice President Will Lester dubbed it, Every Night is Opening Night.  

Posted March 12, 2012



Feb13

In 2012, TRG bloggers are taking a fresh look at data and trends that inform risks worth taking, best practices worth hanging onto, and assumptions worth challenging – each in time for action to be taken.
Competition for patron’s dollars is a subject that’s back in the industry dialog again, sometimes with negative overtones. Can we really still think that sharing a marketplace with other successful arts and entertainment organizations is a bad thing? Even with foundations willing to invest in collaborations? I find that disturbing, especially in view of the opportunities being mined daily by members of community collaborations nationwide.

Posted February 13, 2012



Jan16

New Subscribers Fuel Sustaining Revenue


Theatre Calgary's 2010-2011 production of
The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Trudie Lee.
Theatre Calgary had seen growing earned revenue for several years, but in 2009-10 the Theatre experienced a sharp decline in both single tickets and subscription sales, due in part to the economic downturn that occurred in Calgary in early 2009. It became clear to the Company that, beyond outside economic factors, achieving sustainable levels of revenue required changing past practices.

Posted January 16, 2012



Jan07

Post-Katrina Comeback


Louisiana Philharmonic's ResultsLouisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), like many organizations in the Gulf coast, faced an uncertain future after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. By 2009, New Orleans had seen its population start to stabilize.  However, LPO’s patron base had not rebounded as quickly as the city it serves.  Attendance was 26% below pre-Katrina levels. The Orchestra still faced significant challenges:

Performance home destroyed.

Katrina wiped out LPO’s home, the Orpheum Theatre.  By 2009, LPO was still performing in various churches in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes, getting only a few dates in the restored Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts, located in Armstrong Park.

Posted January 7, 2012



Nov17

In this presentation from the 2011 NAMP Conference, Will Lester demonstrates why every night is opening night is for someone. Learn who's coming to your arts events--it's not necessary who you'd think. This was presented at the Lightning Rounds of Research.

Posted November 17, 2011



Nov16

 By virtue of the way technology has changed our world, people have come to expect an ever more personalized customer experience. Retailers like Amazon and Netflix use sophisticated technology to recommend more products, remembering buying history and order information, and tailoring the experience to each customer’s preferences. Customers now expect products and the customer service surrounding those products to fulfill their specific needs. 

What about the arts? In the arts, the experience is the product. The words we use to describe our product, our art, and the action of coming to the theatre or exhibit hall often include “experience”. It’s a critical part of our vernacular. Smart arts managers know that the arts experience starts from the time a patron picks up the phone or goes online to order a ticket and ends when he/she arrives home after the event. TRG’s decades of client experience and patron behavior research shows that patron loyalty is a process that grows with accumulated experiences with the organization.

Posted November 16, 2011



Oct07

One of the prompt questions for this blog salon was “What research is affecting your marketing and fundraising strategies?” TRG’s research on arts patrons by generation has really given me perspective on where the arts are today and what we need to plan for long-term. Right now—even amidst the recession, organizational bankruptcies and funding pullbacks, today may be the “good old days” for arts marketing.

There are four generations of arts buyers in the market right now. Each cohort is born roughly between these dates:
  • Traditionalists, born before 1945
  • Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X, born between 1964 and 1981
  • Generation Y, born between 1982 and 1995

Posted October 7, 2011



Oct04

theatre
Photo: Fernando de Sousa via Flickr
How well do you know your audiences…really? Before the curtain goes up you can undoubtedly pick out that valued donor or long-time subscriber in your audience. Or, at every exhibition opening, you probably know the faces and names of the most important and dedicated members attending. But who are all the rest of the people coming through your doors? Are the majority of people who have been to your organization before, or are they new? And are they new to the arts or just new to you?

The team at TRG Arts was curious about this too. What we found is that, in a given season, about 50% of the people coming to your arts events are people you have seen before. The other 50% are new to the organization, although maybe not to the arts. Subscribers, members and other regular attendees actually only comprise about 37% of the typical database. Another 14% are “reactivated” patrons—patrons who have some sort of buying history, but haven’t bought in the last two years.

Posted October 4, 2011



Aug16

TRG Arts recently hosted a webinar detailing the $3 million success story of Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre Company. The Q & A discussion was quite robust, and from it, I caught a glimpse of the wide range of responses and questions arts managers have on pricing and patron loyalty.

One of the most interesting questions was raised on the periphery by two different attendees: Why should subscribers get discounts and more importantly, why should we give discounts on the best seats in the house? Since we didn’t have time in the webinar to address this specific question, I sat down to get Rick’s perspective. This post features the highlights from our conversation.

Subscriptions prices should drive demand and reward loyalty.

Posted August 16, 2011



Apr12

Opening nights are fun. They also are hard work. Months of planning result in huge organizational resources being focused on the celebrations that mark the beginning of a new season or production. These are important rituals of organizational renewal. 

The latest research from TRG puts a patron-oriented spin on this subject. It’s telling us that opening night is happening all year long for big numbers of patrons in the audience. How so? Our just-completed internal pilot research on patron origination found: 

Half of the study group’s ticket buyers had a first-time ticket-buying experience – their own personal opening night – during the season.  

Posted April 12, 2011



Mar29

TRG data analysis continues to show ticket sales improvements through mid-term of the 2010-11 season. Through February, two-thirds of TRG’s 2010-11 study group are now experiencing increased sales compared to year-to-date results last season. This represents a small increase (from 60% to 67%) of organizations making sales gains this season. All of the organizations that reported sales gains in the fall continued to see increases at mid-season. 

Remaining companies in the study group were evenly split between those with sales declines and those whose results were mixed or flat year-to-date through February. 

Posted March 29, 2011



Mar15

This is a key question that I suspect managers of performing arts organizations across North America are not asking right now as they watch the results of their subscription renewal campaigns. 

They should be. 

According to TRG’s analysis, the closer renewal rates get to 100%, the less healthy the organization is likely to be. We’ve seen the proof in both direct marketing and patron behavior metrics. 

First, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) estimates that changes of address occur in about 15% of households every year. TRG’s national data set suggests that arts patrons change address even more frequently – about 18% each year; or 1½% every month. Databases of arts patrons trend a bit older than the general population and carry higher levels of health-related relocation as well as mortality rates. Any organization that is renewing more than about 85% of their current subscriber base is bumping up against the theoretical maximum for an addressable pool of patrons.  

Posted March 15, 2011



Feb14

As I was reviewing data for this post, two significant contributions to the national dialogue on arts and culture sparked a lot of online discussion. The publication of the National Arts Index by Americans for the Arts and comments made by NEA chairman Rocco Landesman raised compelling questions about the nature of supply of and demand for arts organizations, arts venues, and forms of expression. The consumer trends we see in transaction data offer additional perspective to consider on the demand side of this ongoing conversation, which is provocative and timely. We hope it will continue. 

When I was a new young marketing director, my boss at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra began my orientation with a number of helpful observations about the new job and the field I was about to enter. One key ‘fact’ really pulled me up short. The target market for a symphony orchestra, Managing Director Steve Monder stated, was very different than my prior experiences as a marketer in the theme park industry. Supporters of the typical symphony orchestra accounted for no more than 2% to 3% of the population in any community. To succeed as a new marketing director, I would have to quickly learn an entirely new skill set. I would have to efficiently find a very small target market.  

Posted February 14, 2011



Jan10

Blogger’s Note: It’s been a long time, several thousand travel miles, two conferences, a first draft of a new book, and two new grandchildren since my last blog entry. During that time, I’ve seen case and study results that I’ll share via this and future posts. Here’s to a happy, more prosperous, more communicative New Year.
Recently, a very smart entrepreneur in the commercial entertainment industry made a surprising observation. He admitted that he carefully follows the business and marketing practices of not-for-profit arts and culture organizations. Nonprofits, he said, tend to “work smarter -- they have to.” Strategies born of necessity frequently breed cutting-edge ideas that can be applied elsewhere. 

I would agree. In these tough times, the margin for error is so small and the stakes so high that survival for many nonprofit performing arts organizations depends upon the ability to do everything exactly right. 

So when client organizations began posting higher ticket sales in late 2010, we took notice. We also took a closer look to understand what was happening. What were the forces that appeared to drive sales up – or down? Were there organizational or market factors at work? If so, what lessons might we learn? 

Posted January 10, 2011



Jun15

A couple of weeks ago, TRG Arts unveiled the latest addition to our Data Lab arsenal of analytics tools.Designed to be a quick aid for arts administrators (both marketers and development officers), TRG’s new “Key Metrics” report provides a powerful summary of several data points that our consultants observe are good indicators of organizational health, namely new-to-file patronage, patronage loss (attrition), and multi-buying patronage. By leveraging our national data source in an automated analytical process, Key Metrics provides individual organizations with a low-cost snapshot of their situation alongside a baseline of national data from which to compare “what is normal” among arts organizations.

To provide the industry baseline, Data Lab selected 113 clients for what we called the “analysis group”. These are organizations from each major performing arts discipline: dance, orchestra, opera and theatre. They each have patron data that is extensive, deep in history, and unusually clean. Together, 113 organizations provided 5.3 million patron households for the study’s analysis group. To execute the analysis, we compiled all household transactions into a single aggregated database that was normalized for individual organization data collection, storage and segmentation quirks. We then looked for patterns of patron behavior that can be measured by purchases or donor transactions.

Posted June 15, 2010



Apr13

I was recently asked by Chad Bauman, the bright young communications director of Arena Stage (Washington, DC), to offer my thoughts about the most significant marketing challenge facing arts organizations in the new decade. He posted a portion of my thoughts on his blog (http://arts-marketing.blogspot.com/) last month. My complete remarks are posted below. 

Today may be the good old days for arts marketing.

Know that I’m not a fearful person. In fact, I’m typically quite optimistic about my future, the future of my family, my business and my country. So why do I hesitate when considering the year 2020 and the future of arts and cultural in America? My problem, I think, is found in the simple arithmetic of life. I fear that some very good organizations may be running against a tide of numbers that may ultimately prove overwhelming.
Three decades of selling tickets, raising money and balancing unbalance-able budgets frame this view. But it’s what we see in TRG’s cumulative data on arts and culture buyers that is alarming for arts managers everywhere.

Posted April 13, 2010



Sep21

A patron behavior study for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, published as part of the Engage 2020 Research Into Action Report in September 2009.

Posted September 21, 2009



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