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THEATRE AUDIENCES – 2013 REPORT

Written by Marliese Andexer 28 / 09 / 2014

Purple Seven, one of the art sector’s leading data analytics companies, recently released the findings of a 30 month study which revealed the arts audience is a lot smaller than we imagined and the market is far more dependent on recurring customers. We look at the truth about theatre audiences in 2013.

box office embossed on a glass door

The report, named ‘Theatreland – But Not As We Know It’, has brought in and combined the audience account data from 232 venues – representing approximately half of the key arts venues in the country which cover an estimated 70% of all UK ticket sales. Combining the data from these venues instead of looking at each as a single, autonomous entity allows a far more accurate representation of an audience’s movements and spending as customer accounts are de-duplicated.

It transpires that the arts audience sales in the 30 months leading up to June 2013 did not equate to 12.87m unique accounts, which was widely accepted as the correct figure, but instead totalled in at 7.84m – a difference of 39%.

To further add to the confusion to the duplication and distorted figures, certain accounts may purchase tickets for a wide variety of consumers. Group purchasing facilitators, be they online agents such as Ticketmaster or Hotel Concierges purchasing tickets for their clientele, represent only 0.6% of the market but are worth £228m, 15.7% of its wealth.

The research also brought to light that 23.5% of the entire market value is supported by a measly 2.5% of the customer base.

This small but important segment is made of a group known as ‘the super-regulars’ who visit the theatre more than ten times a year. This shows that, although the arts don’t reach as many new customers as was once thought, there is a huge opportunity for growth.

The figures suggest that if existing customers are successfully encouraged to visit just 10% more the world of theatre could earn an extra £200m.

With these findings in mind, engaging with current audiences is more important than ever.

In parallel to reaching out to a new generation of theatre goers, remembering one’s loyal base is vital. Forgetting the minority that provide almost a quarter of fiscal earnings whilst chasing after the irregular and lesser spenders, 39% of whom don’t actually exist, could lead to a huge drop in participation and attendance.

Purple Seven’s report also shows how an open community within the arts sector will aid development for everyone. With this new data we can view and analyse a much clearer portrait of how audiences are engaging with the culture sector, providing us with a more astute representation of those elusive and slippery ticket buyers.

The report finishes with that famed Aesop quote, “united we stand, divided we fall”. A mantra that has been recited by the great and good for centuries and one which we humble arts marketers should consider working by.

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