Audience Diversification ResourcesIn This Section
Updated October 2023
Engaging a wide range of audiences from local communities is critical to the future relevance, artistic vibrancy, and financial sustainability of orchestras across the U.S. We hope the resources below and on the audience growth resources page will inform the work ahead.
- Research shows that, when programming is designed with and for BIPOC communities, audience diversity increases, and that the process underpinning this work is at least as important as the resulting performance. Specifically, the programming effort must go deeper than the selection of artists and repertoire: while racial/ethnic diversity among the artists and repertoire your orchestra presents is important in many other ways, the research shows that it does not directly advance audience diversity. Read more in the Study of Audience Attitudes towards Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity produced by WolfBrown in partnership with the League.
- Read this DataArts report and listen to Capacity Interactive’s podcast for highlights on how subscription decline can be used to prompt new audience diversification efforts.
- Read about your peer orchestras’ efforts in programming music that is engaged with our times and meaningful to multiple audiences and communities with the League’s Catalyst Guide Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Artistic Planning and watch the accompanying webinar.
- Read research from SMU DataArts about how specific marketing and advertising investments (PDF) can enhance audience diversification efforts.
- Your city’s communities are your audiences: read about the Detroit Symphony’s integrated approach to audience diversification, community engagement and programming in the League’s Catalyst Snapshot Pursuing EDI Through Community Engagement.
- At this moment of change in audience behaviors and preferences, there is an opportunity to engage the many Americans who listen to classical music online but do not yet attend orchestral performances. Learn from the Handel and Haydn Society’s research to identify and leverage latent market potential by downloading the League’s Catalyst Snapshot Using Plans and Metrics to Advance EDI, or watching the related Conference 2022 session.
- Similarly, 2023 research explored how public radio can create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for classical music lovers of color. Read the report “Taking Another Listen: Audience Research With People of Color To Help Make Classical Music Radio More Welcoming,” issued by Slover Linett in partnership with the League.
- Almost 50% of Americans believe that symphony orchestras are “NOT welcoming to people like me.” While orchestras have been making efforts to become more welcoming, they are seeing limited progress when compared to other cultural organizations (via IMPACTS Experience).
- 43% of Black Americans – and 27% of the total U.S. population – see systemic racism in orchestras. For the details, and to hear about the importance to BIPOC Americans of local venues that focus on arts and culture reflective of their own cultural identities,watch the League’s January 2022 webinar Understanding Audience Motivations in a Time of Ongoing Uncertainty with Slover Linett and LaPlaca Cohen.
- Even some current audience members feel unwelcome at orchestra concerts, and those who do so are twice as likely to be BIPOC than White. The most often reported sources of discomfort are other audience members and front-of-house staff: read more in the Study of Audience Attitudes towards Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity produced by WolfBrown in partnership with the League.
- What priorities do U.S. orchestras have for their diversification work? Which social media and communications tactics are most helpful in reaching new audiences? Download the Advisory Board for the Arts’ November 2022 Audience Diversification Strategies Benchmarking Report, produced in partnership with the League.
- For insights specific to younger audiences, watch the League webinar Post-Pandemic Engagement: How to Reach Out to NextGen in the Digital Age with a focus on data-driven content presentation, digital communication, and online community.
- Learn how and why people of all racial and ethnic groups connect to arts, culture, and creativity, by reading studies Centering the Picture: The role of race & ethnicity in cultural engagement, and Black Perspectives on Creativity, Trust, Welcome and Wellbeing: a Qualitative Study from Slover Linett. Also watch the League webinar Engaging the Latinx Community.
- Read the League’s report Promising Practices: Actions Orchestras Can Take Towards Equity to learn about the organizational foundations needed for any audience diversification efforts to succeed.
- Pre-order the next big read, coming out June 2023: Champions for the Arts: Lessons and Successful Strategies for Engaging Diverse Audiences by League Midwinter Managers’ Meeting panelist Donna Walker-Kuhne.