Detailed guidance on data collection has been published by Arts Council England, as NPOs prepare for data sharing agreements to become a requirement of funding.

Photo of a box office

England’s venue-based National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) could reasonably charge visiting touring companies for data collection, analysis and marketing services, according to new guidelines published by Arts Council England (ACE) and The Audience Agency.

The detailed guidance on how NPOs should go about sharing data with one another has been published following ACE’s announcement last spring that NPOs must enter into mutually agreed data sharing agreements with other relevant funded organisations by April 2016.

ACE’s new funding agreements require NPOs that collect ticketing data – normally the venues – to “introduce a specific ‘opt in’ option” at the point of a transaction so that customers’ contact details can be shared with the companies or promoters whose shows they are booking.

The guidance acknowledges that costs can be incurred by venues in the course of collecting data and preparing it for sharing. While ACE says, “ideally, costs will be reflected in the contractual arrangement or split,” it does outline a rate card of maximum charges, “for guidance in negotiation”. These include up to £200 for the changes to sales scripts, call-holding messages, signage and online notifications that are needed to collect the data in the first place, and up to £50 for selecting, checking and outputting data.

The new online guide has been designed to allow venues and companies to give feedback and ask questions about each section of the guidance. Anne Torreggiani, Chief Executive of The Audience Agency, told AP that the ‘Reasonable costs and charges’ section is the one she is keenest for people to respond to.

With regard to negotiations between venues and visiting companies she said: “if you’re asking quite a lot, you’ve got to acknowledge that someone has got to resource it… but it’s not for us to say what the right charges are.” She emphasised that the guidance covers a huge range of partnerships between very different companies, and that the question of whether charges should be applied depends on the situation.

The website has been created to explain guidance issued last spring in more detail, and to allow the sector to respond to it.

It gives suggested scripts that venues can use to collect permissions to share data during transactions and suggested wording for online notifications. It states that visiting companies – with whom data could be shared – should ideally be identified to customers by name. Asking for permission using blanket terms such as ‘selected third parties’ is not specific enough to constitute valid consent, it says.

As a minimum, ACE is expecting its NPO venues to offer the following to co-producing and presenting companies:

  • Basic reporting on ticket sales
  • Permission to view data through Audience Finder
  • Permission to run an audience survey or access to relevant survey results
  • Details of the event’s reach by postcode
  • Contact details of individuals who have opted to receive marketing communications.

Venues should also offer to send one mailing – either direct mail of e-mail – to attenders of touring companies’ performances but, the guidance states, the touring companies “should be willing to cover any costs” incurred by this.

Artistic Director of touring theatre company Pilot, Marcus Romer, welcomed the move towards a more shared approach to customer data. “It’s all moving in the right direction,” he said. Whilst he believes a certain amount of time should be given to producing or presenting partners as standard, charges are fair for anything over that, he told AP. “But they can be factored into the negotiation at the start and form part of the marketing contra,” he added.

A photo of Frances Richens