Audience Growth ResourcesIn This Section
Updated October 2023
Pandemic audience trends vary widely across the U.S. Some orchestras have experienced little to no decline in ticket sales between the 2019 and 2023 seasons, many are seeing a 25% drop in ticket sales, and some as much as 40%. Those seeing less decline are more likely to be based in states where in-person performance was not interrupted by the pandemic.
Despite the differences between individual orchestras, what is clear is that audience preferences and priorities have profoundly changed. As a result, the orchestra field will need to think differently: meeting audiences where they are today – with new approaches to presentation, programming, marketing, and customer experience – will be critical. We hope the resources below and on the audience diversification resources page will inform the work ahead.
- Read the latest orchestra patron data trends (ticket sales and revenue, and donation units and revenue) from the League’s partnership with the TRG Arts & Culture Benchmark.
- Benchmark your orchestra’s audience data: sign up to participate at no cost in the TRG Arts’ Arts & Culture Benchmark, offered in partnership with the League.
- At a national level, intentions to attend an orchestra performance are just slightly higher for 2023 than they were for 2022, as competition from travel, vacations, and movies is set to increase, read more from IMPACTS Experience.
- The orchestra field continues to lose older audience members faster than it is gaining younger, new audience members: read more about the long-term trajectories framing current activity in this blog post from IMPACTS Experience.
- Compare your orchestra’s 2022 ticket sales and revenues with those of your peers, and discover how marketing actions are translating into results with this report created in partnership with the Advisory Board for the Arts.
Audiences Attitudes Toward Attendance
- Hear more about “couch competition” from Capacity Interactive, and about the long-term trend towards staying home in the evening and at weekends from IMPACTS Experience.
- Read about current barriers to attending an arts or culture event, associated with travel costs and scheduling conflicts, via IMPACTS Experience.
- Despite the initiatives that some orchestras have put in place, many remained focused on engaging the same kind of people. Read more from IMPACTS Experience on audience shrinkage in the context of population change on a national level, and explore our Audience Diversification Resources.
- Of the 78% of audience members ready to return to live performance, as of November 2022 60% had not yet seen a program they wanted to attend. Hear more about audience attitudes to returning – and not returning – from Alan Brown (WolfBrown) in the December 2022 Executive Briefing that draws on data collected in partnership with the League.
Practical Strategies for Retention and Growth
- Read how the Fort Collins Symphony, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, and the Flagstaff Symphony have each built many small changes into significant success in audience growth and retention.
- Learn from two recent research studies from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Morris Hargreaves McIntyre showing how specific tactics ranging from dress code to concert length can make the orchestra experience more attractive to potential new audience members.
- Read how engaging current audiences in your mission is a far better strategy for optimizing subscription renewals and donations than offering transactional perks (from IMPACTS Experience).
- Listen to Colleen Dillenschneider and Priya Iyer discuss the critical importance of mission-based digital programming and social media endorsement as an audience driver.
- Digital has potential: for insights into the skyrocketing of online views of classical music content during the pandemic, listen to this podcast from Capacity Interactive.
- For more practical strategies, read Capacity Interactive’s guides to ticket pricing for unpredictable times, engaging with ticket buyers through social media, and making the most of Google analytics.
- For more on social media behavior among arts and culture audiences, read IMPACTS Experience’s blog posts, which answer the question, “Which social media channel is the most important for cultural organizations?”
- Visit CultureHive for a wealth of free resources focused on audience growth, from marketing beyond your core audience to telling your story in 6 seconds.
- With tourism back to pre-pandemic levels, read guidance for getting on visitors’ agenda before they leave home, again from IMPACTS Experience.
- Dive deep into the importance of redefining audience beyond patrons, to include the wider communities we serve. Watch the League webinars The New Ecosystem for Community Commitments, and Understanding Audience Motivations in a Time of Ongoing Uncertainty.
- Read The Art of Relevance by League 2020 Conference keynote speaker Nina Simon.