The Demographics of the Broadway Your Audience

Today’s guest blog post is written by Jason Silverman, Client Cultivation Specialist, PatronManager. 

Every year, The Broadway League publishes a report summarizing the previous season’s grosses and the makeup of the Broadway audience. From this analysis, producers and theatre organizations gain a better understanding of who their audience is to determine what is working and what needs to be improved. While these statistics are specifically pulled from the Broadway market, there are some universal trends you can use to help guide the decisions you make at your own organization. Here are my major takeaways from this year’s report: 

Theatregoers reported personal recommendation as the most influential factor when it came to selecting a show to see.

In the era of streaming, there are so many choices when it comes to arts and entertainment. So how do you make the decision to spend your money on a live show in lieu of staying at home (for free) and watching unlimited shows and movies on Netflix? Perhaps when you see a friend or family member post a rave review about a show they just saw, or they send you a text about a show they know you would love. More often than not, you trust their recommendation. They’ve done the hard work of finding a show, assessing it, and found that it was worth their time and money. A personal recommendation is like having a private concierge tell you about the greatest thing in town. So how can you use those personal recommendations to your benefit as an organization?

  • Create a rewards system and give patrons their own individual discount code to share with friends and family (you see this all the time with ridesharing and meal subscription companies such as Uber and Blue Apron). Their friends/family will get a discount on the current show, and the patron who gave out the code will get a credit towards their next ticket purchase.
  • Consider implementing other limited time deals, such as buy one ticket, bring a friend for $10.
  • Within the first few weeks of a production, record people’s reactions (with their consent) as they exit the theatre and ask how they would describe it to a friend. Edit this together into a short and friendly video to share on your social media platforms.

Approximately half of respondents said they purchased their tickets online.

The online ticket buying experience is fast becoming the new normal. 72% of the people surveyed in PatronManager’s own Arts Patron Survey in 2017 said they most often buy their tickets to arts events online. Why is that? Convenience. You don’t need to get up and go to the physical box office anymore; you can purchase your ticket anywhere at any time. So with this information, how can you make your patrons’ online ticketing experience as user-friendly as possible?

  • Use a patron’s previous purchase history to identify which seats or section they like to sit in and let them know what availability there is on your schedule to provide similar seats.
  • Put a big “Buy Tickets” button on your homepage that re-directs correctly to your checkout page so when someone comes to your website, they don’t have to dig around to actually purchase a ticket. (And on this note, make sure your website is mobile responsive!)
  • On your social media platforms, update your bios with links to the next upcoming performance and alert your followers when tickets go on sale! The easier a ticket link is to find, the more likely a patron is to click it.

Playgoers tended to be more frequent theatregoers than musical attendees. The play attendee saw nine shows in the past year; the musical attendee, four.

This statistic was actually quite surprising to me. Musicals may drive the grosses of the theatre economy, but it appears that plays are the spine. With this knowledge, you could assume that a frequent playgoer on Broadway is most likely a frequent playgoer Off-Broadway or in regional theatres. But let’s widen the scope here. Every market is slightly different, so rather than suggesting how you make up your season, I pose this question to you: What do your patrons think of your season selections? How can you tell if your subscriber base leans more towards plays or musicals? When was the last time you surveyed your audience?

If you haven’t done so recently, now is an excellent time to start. Consider sending out follow up emails after a patron comes to see a specific show. Or if that seems like too large of a task with a lot of shows going on at once, send out a single email survey about the entire season once it concludes. Or perhaps take some time to make phone calls to your subscriber base or donors to discuss their thoughts. The simple act of asking a patron’s opinion can go a long way.

Audiences don’t just run into the theatre and randomly sit down; they have already made a lot of decisions about your organization before they walk in the door. If they feel respected by your organization in terms of how well you know them, then they will reward you with their continued patronage down the road.

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