new audiences
Oct04

At TRG Arts, we talk a lot about patron loyalty – and for good reason. Data tells us that the more loyal a patron is to our organization, the more revenue they provide and the less it costs to keep them.

Over the last year, I’ve watched Performing Arts Fort Worth (PAFW), the organization that owns and operates Bass Hall and presents Fort Worth’s Broadway series, grow subscription revenue by $1.2 million—a 53% increase. Part of the revenue increase was because they added a show, but they also grew their subscriber base by 1,289 subscribers, a 26% increase.

Impressive results, but the truly cool story is the retention effort that happened afterwards.

Patron loyalty was viewed by many in the organization as marketing’s responsibility. Other people understood it was important, but weren’t actively involved. We wanted – we needed – to tap into the experience of front-of-house and box office staff to actively support patron loyalty efforts. The patron experience starts long before the performance begins. It starts at the time a patron buys a ticket, and continues through travel to the venue, parking their car, getting to their seat, seeing the show, enjoying intermission, and as they leave and travel home. (And, then it extends beyond the venue again when the organization follows up.)


Posted October 4, 2016







Aug23


Photo: Chris Devers via flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Cue the Dies Irae—it’s August. This time of year brings single ticket on-sale day for many performing arts organizations, also known as the day of reckoning. Do the titles that your organization programmed actually resonate with your community? Your single ticket sales will tell you loud and clear.

It’s extremely difficult to program a “perfect” season. Lots of factors play into artistic programming decisions. We have identified nine for our upcoming online workshop on data-driven artistic planning:

  • Artistic or program availability
  • Time of year (holiday, renewal season, etc)
  • Artistic director’s/curator’s vision
  • Requests from donors/board
  • Artistic needs for the ensemble
  • Audience opinion
  • Commercial appeal/demand
  • Community engagement potential
  • Appeal to specific demographic segment
  • And, of course, mission

Posted August 23, 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







Jun27

Record-breaking Nutcracker: $1.3 million increase in two years, breaking $8 million for the first time

 

Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

“What’s the big deal about a ballet company having a successful Nutcracker?” you may be asking yourself. “We all know that holiday programming practically sells itself.”

It’s true that holiday programming attracts a large audience and has huge revenue potential. It also means that the stakes are high. Holiday events often make or break an organization’s revenue budget. In many cases, holiday programming can account for over 50% of annual earned income so even a one percent achievement over goalor an equally “small” misscan add up to big dollars.


Posted June 27, 2016







Jun08

In the National Center for Arts Research’s Edition 3 report on the health of the U.S. arts and cultural sector, we include insights on trends as well as updates on seven performance indices key to assessing organizational health, all related to earned revenue, marketing and participation. If we look across two of these indices – Response to Marketing and People per Offering – together they tell a story about supply, demand, and the tension between marketing and engagement. 

Response to Marketing

Overall, marketing expenses per attendee trended upward over time but the rate of increase fell just shy of the rate of inflation.  This means that the average organization spent nearly the same on marketing to attract each attendee in 2013 as in 2010 in inflation-adjusted figures. A closer examination, however, reveals different realities for different arts and cultural sectors.


Posted June 8, 2016







May11

This post is part of the Customer, Client, Collaborator Series in conjunction with Doug Borwick and ArtsEngaged on developing relationships with both new communities and existing stakeholders through artistic programming, marketing and fundraising, community engagement and public policy. (Cross-post can be found at Engaging Matters.) 

As a chief marketing officer, consultant and now managing director, I’ve participated in my fair share of marketing committee meetings. One of the most hotly debated topics is whether to focus resources on developing new audiences or on increasing loyalty to bolster return on investment and per capita revenue. Two camps usually square off – the artistic team and trustees vs. the professional marketing staff.

Can you guess which sides of the argument they typically represent?

Nothing is sexier to most artistic directors and trustees than developing new audiences. On the other hand, marketing directors with limited resources are constantly trying to find ways to do more with less, which means developing ways to increase returns, and naturally, some shy away from audience development because it requires significant upfront capital, both monetary and personnel, with limited short-term gains.


Posted May 11, 2016







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







Nov11

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 J B Foster

Can’t wait to see where I’m going with this, can you?

As I understand it, fracking is a technique to get at hydrocarbon reserves that have been untapped by traditional extraction methods. My concern in this post is not with any environmental hazards of fracking but with the potential to get more out of something by using new methods. The old approaches left a lot of oil (etc.) in the ground, apparently.

Over the last few years I’ve come to understand that traditional, self-focused arts marketing efforts are only successful in reaching those who know they want to be reached. (“Getting the word out” is only effective in reaching those waiting to hear it.) My principal woodshed tutor has been Trevor O’Donnell (Marketing the Arts to Death), but he is not alone. What I have learned is that more consumer-centered marketing can reach people who are not waiting for the word. There are more out there who might buy tickets if it were demonstrated to them that doing so might be uplifting, enjoyable, even–dare we say it?–entertaining.


Posted November 11, 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







Sep10


The biggest takeaway from this webinar? Don't panic.
Photo: Tom Page (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Is that discount you're offering helping or hurting your organization? In this webinar, Anita Hansen of TRG Arts and Laura Beussman of Blackbaud discussed when, why, and how to discount effectively. A good discounting and package pricing strategy can drive patron behavior and help you maximize revenue for your organization. 

Watch the recording to learn how to offer discounts without devaluing your product, how to use pricing to develop patron loyalty, and how to empower your teams to recognize the right time for the right offers.

Click through to access the recording.


Posted September 10, 2015







Aug20

 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO, TRG Arts

The world is changing. Whether your theatre operates in the U.K., U.S., Australia, or on the moon, the last decade has demanded that we transform the way we do business.

Public policy, economic and demographic changes are causing the entire sector to recognize the importance of our relationships with patrons and how we manage them.

Today, your patrons can be doing more. They can be cultivated to support your organization in ways that they currently aren’t. As you contemplate your organization’s future sustainability and how patrons can be a part of it, consider making their loyalty a priority.


Posted August 20, 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


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







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







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







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







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







Feb06

patron loyalty heart
Image via tagxedo
It's February, the month when our hearts naturally turn to romance. Here at TRG, we’re also thinking about romancing arts patrons. We call it “cultivating loyalty,” and it’s a lot like beginning a romantic relationship. It starts with a first “date,” or the first time a patron buys a ticket. What happens next determines whether the date will lead to a long-term, committed relationship or a one-night stand.

Let us suggest a Valentine theme for your important patron activities this month. As you’re planning subscription renewal, fiscal yearend giving, or admissions for summer festivals and during peak visitation season, think: “Be Mine” rather than simply “Buy Now.” Of course you need to focus on revenue. But, to get there, remember each of these efforts is about building relationships with your patrons. Like a romance, patron relationships evolve step-by-step, over time to become lasting and lifelong. With love—and loyalty— in the air, we’ve put together 3 ways to attract and keep the patrons of your dreams, those who will stick with you.


Posted February 6, 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







Nov14

"Large data sets and big revenue goals can be overwhelming," Amelia Northrup-Simpson said at the 2013 National Arts Marketing Project Conference. "We can simplify those by stepping back and viewing marketing efforts through the 'patron lens'. That means thinking about each patron’s right next step with your organization and talking to your audience like you know them to get them to take that next step."

David Dombrosky of InstantEncore and Amanda Edelman of Academy of Vocal Arts joined Northrup-Simpson to present a session entitled "The Patron Lens: Engaging Audiences with Data-driven Targeted Messaging." In the session, the three presenters discussed topics including putting patron data in context and why to segment communications. The presenters also covered three different ways to segment: by generation, by loyalty level, and by technology usage.


Posted November 14, 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







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







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







Jun20

Two decades of arts consumer study has led the consulting firm TRG Arts to conclude that 2013 is the year choral organizations must frame their marketing efforts around The Patron. Knowing who buys your tickets and subscribe and contributes, when and how much is the best way to inform how you package, price, and promote your programs.  The best part: it’s a matter of focus. Every organization can use the information and skills they have to market better.  In this three-hour workshop presented at the 2013 Chorus America conference, Joanne Steller and Amelia Northrup-Simpson shared best marketing practices that are patron-based, time-proven and updated for the digital age. You’ll learn strategic ideas on building lasting loyalty and revenue that can sustain your organization.

Posted June 20, 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







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







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







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







Oct06

Graphic: Mike Licht via Flickr
Having written about social media and its application in arts marketing for the last few years, I’ve become aware of a disconnect. I’ve written about specific social media tools and tactics, but I realize that I haven’t addressed how it fits in with overall marketing strategy, and within the media mix.

Think about the campaigns that have delivered the most revenue. For many organizations, subscription or membership campaigns are the lifeblood of their revenue each year (a good example of this came from TRG Arts client Arena Stage recently).

Posted October 6, 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







Apr26

To hear some of my fellow Boomers talk, getting young adults engaged in arts and culture is an urgent problem that requires a big solution. 

We beg to differ. 

Consumer research and our own studies on generational differences in patron behavior point to huge opportunities, not problems. What we are finding are some eye-opening considerations that reiterate an age-old best practice. Assume nothing

Without the facts about who is in your audience or among your donors, it’s easy to guess wrong – especially when it comes to developing young patrons. As an age cohort, the under-30 population we’re calling Gen Y is replacing the Boomers as the largest generation in American consumer history. The spending habits of this young adult group are causing many industries to sit up and take notice.  

Posted April 26, 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







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







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







Apr30

My last blog generated several interesting responses, which I do appreciate. I looked for and found common threads in them, and prepared this follow-up blog. Special thanks to Thomas Cott and those who took the time to comment and for continuing the discussion.

The point of my original message was about the advantages of facts over opinions and the desirability of eliminating guesswork. The flashpoint , however, centered on a preliminary finding from an incomplete data project -- that only 1% of San Francisco’s half-priced ticket buyers had previous ticket buying history with their theatre of choice.

Posted April 30, 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







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