“We’re succeeding if our audience looks like Chicago,” says Terell Johnson of the Chicago Philharmonic. With this overall goal in mind, it is important to track ongoing engagement, not just transactions: even without a ticket sale, curiosity can be inferred from segmented email click-through analytics and social media follows.

Metrics also need to allow for the long-term nature of the work, by demonstrating incremental progress. As Donna Walker-Kuhne says, in-depth audience diversification efforts need at least three years of operation before their impact can be fully assessed.

“Relationships have meaning and value,” says Katie Bonner Russo at the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. “Understanding change in this work does not come from doing a head count of people of color with concert tickets.” At the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Karisa Antonio believes they are “building a foundation where we will have data in time. Relationship-based work is time consuming.”

Demographic analysis of post-concert satisfaction ratings data is also important, although segmentation by demographic group is challenging. Both the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Oregon Symphony request demographic information in post-concert surveys for every concert. Response rates are low, but Detroit’s Senior Director of Marketing & Audience Development Charles Buchanan says that they cross-check demographic results against their buyer list, which has been coded for demographic information through a data append, and find that their survey results are indeed representative.

Many people who are not comfortable filling out a form may share ideas in a conversation. Partner organizations can deliver information by asking their members and sharing the results. And at the San Diego Symphony, Roberto Castro notes that “complaint emails have gone down dramatically. The feedback is difficult to measure quantitatively, but we see [the impact] more if our hall staff and volunteers are happy and come back. They make the guests feel the same way.”

Transaction data remains important, nonetheless. Ticket sales success may be greater at some concerts than others. Organizations will get more value out of measuring ticket buyer diversity for the season as a whole (rather than for a single performance), accepting that audience demographics will fluctuate in response to scheduling, programming, marketing, and other factors. A surrogate marker that many colleagues cite is youth: in general, young demographics skew more diverse with regard to race and ethnicity. Single-ticket purchases can also be indicative, especially for concerts marketed through communications targeted to specific groups — presumably, the targeting has been effective. Zip codes on ticket orders can also indicate audience demographics.


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