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An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with The Audience Agency

Four Audience Agency consultants offer tips and advice on using Audience Finder, the free national audience data and development tool, in your everyday work.

Photo of audience with 3D glasses on

Pulling annual, monthly or quarterly reports from your box office is, of course, important and can provide some powerful insights at key moments. But analysing box office data on a daily basis can also prove incredibly helpful.

Carol Jones - Head of Consultancy, Wales

Busy arts organisations need tools that make their life easier, that take box office data and turn it into actionable insight. The Audience Development Planner in Audience Finder does just that with key sections on goal setting, situational analysis, strategy development and action planning. Essential box office data is automatically dropped into the plan as graphs and maps, and there’s further help with a series of hints and tips that lead you through the process.

It’s now easier than ever for arts and cultural organisations to collect and find out meaningful things about audiences

Sarah Robertson, Head of Marketing at Bristol’s Colston Hall uses the tool for her individual campaigns as well as annual audience development plan: “…it provides us with useful audience data without having to invest in an expensive segmentation system. The segments are easy to understand and are logical – they make sense internally and we now use them throughout our planning and marketing to identify existing and potential audiences and target our marketing appropriately.

“Being able to describe and compare audiences in a coherent way with other venues and organisations is also refreshing and means that collaborative working is made easier. Being part of Audience Finder was a no-brainer for us and we are definitely seeing the benefits in our day-to-day work.”

Penny Mills – Director of Consultancy, London

Are your audiences representative? Representative of what? It’s important to define what ‘representative’ means for your organisation. You have to be clear about what you are representing, just being representative of your ‘catchment’ is not always a measure of success and depends upon many other factors. You could look at whether your audiences are representative:

  • of a particular show or art form – of your audiences as a whole?
  • compared to last year’s audience or previous years?
  • compared to audiences locally, as a whole or for similar art form or sector?
  • compared to the local population?

The comparators in Audience Finder can tell you the answers using the dashboard. If you find your audiences are over or under represented, what should you do next?

Firstly, check to what extent they are over- or under-represented and ensure you have looked at the numbers as well as the percentage. Check against organisational objectives and recent activities. Had you done something new or different or are your current strategies working well? Keep monitoring metrics of interest over time.

Remember Audience Finder is a start to prompt questions, so more investigation might be inevitable. Use the free tools such as the national statistics and Audience Spectrum population mapping. Ask audiences and think about what it might take to shift the level of representativeness realistically, or is it about not letting levels drop?

Audience Finder can help you find the answers. Do you have a hunch that audiences come from a particular segment or area? Prove it with data, don’t let activity continue based on guess work. Don’t forget, though, to also celebrate shifts when they are 5% or more, consistently over time – it’s important to be in the audience development game for the long-term.

Oliver Mantell – Director of Consultancy, Manchester

If you’re working on a campaign for a particular genre, take a look at how it compares to other genres by switching between them. This lets you see how things like the Audience Spectrum profile, group size, lead-time and spend differ.

Do audiences for dance book a bit later than for drama? Should you delay sending direct mail out until nearer the time? Do you need to incentivise earlier booking? Are group bookers a larger slice of the audience for music events than spoken word? Do they have a different profile? Using the mapping tool can then show you other areas where these segments live, or use the profile info to find out more about them.

While you’re doing these comparisons, make a note of things that surprised you – whether it’s the ways in which they were different, or the ways they weren’t. You may then want to check if that’s true for your cluster or regional comparators (suggesting it’s something interesting about the art form overall) or unique to you (interesting about your particular audiences).

At that point, it could also be helpful to delve into the specifics of your data within your own box office system, to see if there are particular events or patterns that seem to be driving the surprising result. But at least you’ll know what you’re looking for.

And remember to chat to your colleagues about what you’ve found. Perhaps box office or front of house will have an explanation based on their experiences.

Katie Flaherty – Consultancy Manager

It’s now easier than ever for arts and cultural organisations to collect and find out meaningful things about audiences. For many organisations, like Quad and Broadway, this data is proving vital in helping them make better decisions and drive performance on a daily basis.

“Before Audience Finder our data was often hidden behind box offices only to be revealed once a year when it was collated and analysed. Now, through live box office data analysis, we can view anonymised audience data 24/7 for 365 days a year,” said Adam Buss, CEO of Quad.

How do you embed data insight throughout your organisation? Broadway, in Nottingham, has set up bi-weekly meetings where their team dives into the data. These meetings bring together senior members from marketing and programming, as well as the wider front of house team. Together they look at performance data, for example booking behaviours, pricing and ratings, as well as artform crossover data, which inform their film and education programming.

In this way, the data is driving regular strategic decisions, which everyone has played a part in, including, most crucially, the audience.


This article, part of the Making the Most of the Box Office feature, is sponsored by The Audience Agency.

Photo of Carol Jones
Photo of Penny Mills
Photo of Oliver Mantell
Photo of Katie Flaherty