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.

Webinar: Building Audiences: Unpacking the Many Resources from The Wallace Foundation, a live webinar highlighting the many resources offered by The Wallace Foundation. Watch the webinar here.

Learn how to best use resources from The Wallace Foundation's Building Audiences for Sustainability program, which is developing insights into how arts groups in multiple genres can achieve and sustain audience gains.

This webinar is aimed at orienting performing arts professionals to the many studies, articles, webinars, and other resources from The Wallace Foundation. With information that can be accessed for free, participants in the webinar will learn which resources may be best suited for discussion in their own organizations and will gain insight into the important work that other organizations have done, and the lessons they've learned on building audiences
Featured speakers in this webinar include:

  • Krista Bradley, Director of Programs and Resources, Association of Performing Arts Professionals
  • John-Morgan Bush, Director of Learning and Leadership Programs, League of American Orchestras
  • Nichole L. Knight, Director of Operations, Chamber Music America
  • Bob Sandla, Symphony Magazine, Editor in Chief, League of American Orchestras
  • Johanna Tschebull, Communications Specialist, Dance USA

Watch the webinar here.

World Music/CRASHarts Tests New Format and Name To Draw New Audiences

How does an arts presenter increase name recognition and attract younger audiences? An article and video from The Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative show how the Boston-based World Music/CRASHarts built loyalty and name recognition among younger audiences by creating a new annual festival, rebranding, and using creative marketing techniques to encourage repeat attendance during its regular season.




Read The Wallace Foundation article here.

Watch the video here.

Think Opera’s Not for You? Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Says Think Again

How can performing arts groups use market research to develop programs that appeal to new audiences? A just-released study and video from The Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative show how the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis used market research to understand and reach new audiences—with lessons that orchestras can apply. The report and video track how the opera company deployed intel from market research to close the perception gap to reach younger, more diverse audiences and to refine activities designed to build audiences for the long term.




Read The Wallace Foundation article here. 

Watch the video here.

Read The Audience Journey—three new blog posts incorporating data from 
The Wallace Foundation

Three new blog posts by noted arts writer Judith H. Dobrzynski outline The Audience Journey, a conceptualization of the decision-making process of potential audience members. The posts, written for American for the Arts' Optimizing Your Arts Marketing Practice blog salon, incorporate data from The Wallace Foundation's Building Audiences for Sustainability program. The posts suggest ways organizations might engage people who are less inclined to attend or visit; cover how to combat the practical barriers of attending; and discuss how to create a rewarding experience that makes people want to return.

Find the first blog post here. (Two additional links at bottom of the blog post)

wallace_blogPhoto courtesy of The Wallace Foundation


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, our new webinar, and the video via 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.


Connecting with New Audiences: A Wallace-Supported Webinar

Featuring Seattle Symphony Orchestra's Charlie Wade, senior vice president for marketing and business operations, this on-demand webinar consolidates learning that took place at the League’s 2018 National Conference. Learn how the Seattle Symphony conducted focus groups, discovered the preferences of new and seasoned symphony visitors, and experimented with programming—all while maintaining core artistic principles. No matter the size of your orchestra, the discussion points highlighted here are a great starting point for conversations with your orchestra’s team around marketing initiatives, market research, and audience building.

Watch the webinar 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.