Building Audiences for the Arts: Research from The Wallace Foundation

The Wallace Foundation supports audience-building efforts by arts organizations and commissions research to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why.

Among Wallace’s initiatives is its six-year, $52 million Building Audiences for Sustainability program, which is developing insights into how arts groups in multiple genres can achieve and sustain audience gains. Learn more about Wallace’s Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative. 

Here’s a look at studies, articles, webinars, and more resources from The Wallace Foundation—with information that any orchestra can use to build audiences.


Celebrating community at the Fleisher Arts Memorial
(photo by Gustavo Garcia, Colibri Workshop, from The Wallace Foundation’s blog).

Research and Self-Reflection Help Strengthen Community Ties
(Post by Bob Harlow from The Wallace Foundation's blog)

Find great ideas applicable to orchestras in this blog post by market-research expert Bob Harlow about how the Fleisher Art Memorial connected with newly-arrived young immigrants in its South Philadelphia neighborhood.

View the Wallace Foundation's blog post here.

Understanding Audiences, Building Connections: How the Seattle Symphony Uses Market Research

Downtown Seattle is changing rapidly, with new residents, new buildings, and new affluence. To connect with the newcomers, the Seattle Symphony launched a wide-ranging audience-research program, with support from the Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability Initiative. An in-depth article in the new issue of Symphony magazine and a documentary video reveal how the Seattle Symphony experimented with innovative concert formats, focus groups, and audience surveys to yield fresh insights and rising ticket sales.

Check out the Symphony article and the video at the links below. Then, use the Discussion Guide from the League to spark your thinking about market research and adaptation—and to spur group conversations about what might work at your own orchestra.


The Seattle Symphony, Market Research, and NUCCs. NUCCs?

The population of downtown Seattle is changing at twice the rate of the city’s overall population, and the Seattle Symphony was eager to understand these previously untapped audiences. To pinpoint the “new urban cultural consumers”—NUCCs—moving into a newly energized, burgeoning downtown, the Seattle Symphony launched an ambitious market-research program. How did they do it?

Read the Symphony article here.


Can the City's Boom Mean New Audiences for the Seattle Symphony?

In line with the community’s spirit of innovation, Seattle Symphony is using audience research to help target and woo recent transplants.

Watch the video and read the Wallace Foundation article here.



Discussion Guide: Can the City’s Boom Mean New Audiences for The Seattle Symphony?

This guide, created by the League of American Orchestras, explores preliminary insights from the Seattle Symphony’s audience-research efforts as part of the Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability Initiative. Use it to better understand lessons from the Seattle Symphony’s research project—and how to adapt and apply them to your own orchestra, no matter its budget size.

Read and download the Discussion Guide here.

Read and download the black-and-white (for easier printing) Discussion Guide here.

#Hashtag Orchestra

How can orchestras attract—and keep—millennial audiences? Experimentation abounds.

Download the Symphony article here.

Building Millennial Audiences: Barriers and Opportunities

Arts organizations could help attract millennials by clarifying pricing and better explaining the value of the arts, suggests this Wallace-commissioned synthesis of market research.

Download the presentation here.

Taking Out the Guesswork: A Guide to Using Research to Build Arts Audiences

Market research expert Bob Harlow shows how arts organizations can use qualitative and quantitative research to attract and retain new audiences.

Watch the webinar.

View the PowerPoint presentation here.

Download the guide here.

The Road to Results ; Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences

The Road to Results: Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences

This report identifies and examines nine practices of arts organizations that successfully expanded their audiences.

Watch the webinar here.

 Additional Wallace Case Studies

Converting Family into Fans: a Case Study     Opening New Doors: A Case Study        
Converting Family into Fans:
How the Contemporary
Jewish Museum Expanded
its Reach
    Opening New Doors: Hands-On Participation Brings a New Audience to The Clay Studio     Getting Past “It’s Not For People Like Us”: Pacific Northwest Ballet Builds a Following with Teens and Young Adults     Extending Reach with Technology: Seattle Opera’s Multipronged Experiment to Deepen Relationships and Reach New Audiences
        Cultivating the Next Generation of Art Lovers    
Someone Who Speaks Their Language: How a Nontraditional Partner Brought New Audiences to Minnesota Opera     More Than Just a Party: How the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boosted Participation by Young Adults     Cultivating the Next Generation of Art Lovers: How Boston Lyric Opera Sought to Create Greater Opportunities for Families to Attend Opera     Building Deeper Relationships: How Steppenwolf Theatre Company Is Turning Single-Ticket Buyers Into Repeat Visitors
Attracting an Elusive Audience                  
Attracting an Elusive Audience: How the San Francisco Girls Chorus Is Breaking Down Stereotypes and Generating Interest Among Classical Music Patrons                  



Learn more about The Wallace Foundation’s research on audience development for the arts.

These resources are made possible by The Wallace Foundation. The League is pleased to be working in partnership with the Foundation to help share ideas and practical solutions to problems in building audiences for the arts.