Orchestral audiences ‘more loyal’ than other artforms

RPO and Julian Lloyd Webber at Cadogan HallWe’ve just issued a press release  letting people know what we’ve found out following a research project with 12 orchestral organisations in London. These are Barbican Centre, BBC Proms, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Cadogan Hall, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Southbank Centre.

Among the findings:

  • over the six years, 36% of the households represented went to an orchestral performance more than once, compared to just over 21% of households attending all ticketed artforms in an average year (shown in the ‘Snapshot London Benchmark’);
  • income from the events totalled £35 million, of which some 70% was generated by people who attended more than once – demonstrating the significant value of repeat attenders to the orchestral marketplace;
  • people tend to travel further for orchestral concerts (54.2% came from within 10 miles of the venue compared to 59.1% for Snapshot London Benchmark, while 17.5% came from over 50 miles away compared to 13.8% for Snapshot Benchmark);
  • orchestral audiences are also more likely to book in advance. In each of the time spans of 2-7, 8-14, 15-28 and 29-60 days ahead, orchestral audiences showed a greater tendency to book earlier than the Snapshot London Benchmark. Just 8% of households booked on the day for orchestral concerts compared to 15.7% of households for all artforms in the Benchmark.OAE's Night Shift at the Queen Elizabeth Hall - photo Joe Plommer (all rights reserved)

So there’s potential for the orchestras to improve their long-term position by converting more first- and second-time audience members into frequent attenders – and that’s what the group is moving on to.

You can take a look at the full press release on our website here.

Fortune favours the networked!

At this time of uncertainty it’s really easy to stay heads down at your desk, ploughing through all the to do items on your list.  My job here at Audiences London is all about engagement and often that is easiest to make happen by meeting up and listening to people face to face.  So in the engagement team we’re big fans of networking events, and we’re doing whatever we can at the moment to make sure these stay as regular features.  Why do we think it’s important?

  1. It’s knowledge building – each person you talk to will have some information that you don’t
  2. New work comes from it – people bring with them ideas, partnerships and opportunities
  3. It’s inspiring –  hearing what other people do and why will re-energise you too
  4. You can build trust more quickly in person –  and personal introductions from people you’ve met have far greater credibility than cold calling or emailing

To give you a flavour here’s  a pic of our most recent event aboard the boat the Golden Jubilee on the Thames.

Over 100 people interested in the arts and older audiences joined us for a beautiful afternoon of performance, networking and fun in an event we hosted in partnership with our friends at the wonderful Entelechy Arts and Capital Age Festival.

To find out about future networking opportunities with us sign up for free to our Community Engagement Network and we’ll keep you posted by email…  or if you’re interested in partnering with us to host an event please contact me anytime at helen@audienceslondon.org

While we’re thinking about networking I just want to credit the lovely team at Create KX who sadly closed their organisation last month and who have held some of my favourite networking events in London.  A big thank you to them all, we’ve loved working, socialising and collaborating with them and look forward to carrying our connections on with them at the various organisations they’re heading to where we know they’ll continue to do a fantastic job.

From left to right: the lovely Fiona  Smith, Catherine Packard, Gill Henderson, Susanna Roland, Sian James and Siobhan Henderson.

Audience focus will help get us through the hard times ahead

To NESTA last week – (what amazing offices) for an event co-organised with Clore Leadership Programme at which Clore fellows presented 3 minute precis’ of provocation papers on ‘Leadership in Times of Uncertainty’ .  Excellent event; there were some sharp brains in the room and stimulating discussions. A clear thread running through the presentations was that audience/customer focus  will be one of the ways to survive the tough times ahead. Delighted that the panel picked up on this too with John Holden commenting that  ‘doing good with and for your audiences’  was a clear theme, and John Tusa remarking that ‘putting audiences first will be part of the solution’. You can read the papers for yourself here .

Pass it on…

Interested in the power of word of mouth marketing? Well then read on…

Here at Audiences London I’ve been developing new work about Arts Ambassadors recently.

So now you can check out our free resource online, watch me get interviewed about the 3 success factors for ambassadors by our friend Mel Larson or join me for my next seminar next Thursday.    Be sure to check out Mel’s great arts ambassador resource too.  If you’ve got questions about ambassadors or examples to share let me know.

Local authorities and culture

ACE and the MLA organised a day last week for local authorities who are working to increase engagement in the arts (and museums and libraries).

A panel discussion at the close included some of the leading thinkers (and doers) involved in local authority cultural provision.

Philip Mind from the LGA reminded us that people define themselves by their experiences and suggested local councils could be better at aligning themselves with the experiences they provide for local people.

In Martyn Allison from IDeA’s experience –  1/3 of local authorities have culture (relatively) well positioned within their service and LSP.  The factors that distinguish these are:

  1. Effective leadership
  2. Appropriate partnerships
  3. Activities relevant to partners (“not just doing what you’ve always done…”)
  4. Obtaining and disseminating evidence of impacts

I think he’s right – and I would extend the definition of partners to include  residents.

Tricia Kilsby from the Audit Commission’s view was that the most secure culture teams were those that were connected and responsive to their communities.

All very stimulating, as was Helen Ball, Head of Culture from Barnsley, who as well as putting it into practice  had the best accent of the day …

Need to Know – Graham Leicester and Ulster Bank

Our fellow audience development agencies and other colleagues got together last week for a couple of days in Durham to take part in ‘Need to Know – Audience Development in the UK – from understanding to engagement’. Long title. Good debates.

I particularly enjoyed Graham Leicester’s philospical discussion of ‘making money and making meaning’. I’m not going to fully do it justice here, and it’s not published yet, but keep an eye on International Futures Forum. Graham proposed that we continue to measure the value of arts through proxy rather than real measures – and are still bound by an economic model of value. He suggests that we should consider ‘experience’ as a currency in an ‘economy of meaning’, in the same way that, say, votes are the currency in the economy of a democracy. The value of culture is therefore in providing experiences which are the currency in this ‘economy of meaning’….

He also spoke about the work of Watershed in Bristol which is playing out some of these ideas in practice.

Equally interesting and totally practical was Julie Murray from Ulster Bank who spoke very engagingly about how they use information about their customers to develop their business. From benchmarking to mystery shopping and propensity modelling to reactive analysis – she shared lots of examples of  using customer insight that were very transferable to arts organisations. If the slides get published I’ll follow with a link.

Musings on the AmbITion Roadshow/Art of Digital Symposium

twitter2A full two days incarcerated within the lovely Sadler’s Wells, and all I’ve got to show for it is a rather annoying new addiction to Twitter! But only annoying to those around me – I’m loving it… and yes I know I’m a bit late to this party.

On a more serious note, it was all very interesting although I had hoped there would be a bit more about audiences, which is only to be expected working for Audiences London. I’d like the input from the experts to move on from ‘there’s all this stuff you can use to communicate in different ways, and it’s all free, so use it’ (albeit with a bit of a caviat that they’re only tools – mode, not medium) to… ‘who is it we’re engaging with, and what kind of engagement does that result in, through using digital media’. It is clear at one end that it’s working for participative activities and at the other end results have been recorded in terms of global profile. However, there’s a whole world of ‘engagement’ between those two.

Some random quotes and thoughts were… ‘websites should be based around pull and shared content’ (Hannah Rudman). Hide and Seek’s Alex Fleetwood was living example of how you have to trade relinquishing control for greater visibility.  A strong theme emerging was that if you collaborate, consult or even just open the door to others it can help to develop and improve what you do. Rohan of Missions Models Money mentioned that you’re just helping people do what they already do – which begs the question, are we really reaching new or different audiences, or just deepening the engagement of existing audiences through all this digital activity.

Ekow Eshun of the ICA kicked off the Art of Digital Symposium with words of wisdom along the lines of…  the arts have a responsibility to respond to the world around us, so you can’t claim to be a  contemporary space and remain relevant if this does not include engagement with digital opportunities. He also made a very valid defence of his motivations for integrating ‘digital’ responsibilities across the organisation, rather than having a hived off separate department. Although he didn’t get a chance to answer a question about whether he’d consulted his audiences about the ICA and its digital engagement.

And Ed Baxter of Resonance FM – who I I think I want to adopt said… ‘If you learn something share it, if you make a mistake point it out’. Which seems to me very wise and should be at the heart of any thriving community.

My remaining questions are … who is the twitterer ‘sealtree’, and would I really want to go to a ‘geek camp’… And please tell us what you’d like to know about how your audiences engage with digital media, or share examples of what’s worked, and what’s not…