After updating its approach to data collection and sharing, Sadler’s Wells noticed a surge in email sign-ups for its visiting companies. Sebastian Cheswright Cater and Matt Kirby tell the story.

Photo of audience
Photo: 

Belinda Lawley

Sadler’s Wells is committed to developing audiences for dance at a local and national level. Data sharing plays an important part of that work. As both a venue and a touring producer, we have received requests from our touring company partners for data, as well as made requests for data from the venues we tour to.

It proves that arts audiences want to hear from the companies whose work they’re seeing and are open to building relationships with touring companies

The 2016 Arts Council England (ACE) funding regulations set the sector a challenge to find a solution to data sharing. Through working in partnership with the Barbican, the Southbank Centre and Purple Seven, we collectively devised a practical response that satisfies ACE’s needs.

Data protection

As an industry, we are all still in the early stages of developing best practice, but we have worked closely with our associate artists and companies, and National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), to support them as they develop their own data protection systems and policies.

Before we began, we had two primary concerns about data protection regulations:

  • Obtaining clear and actionable consent from ticket bookers for their data to be responsibly shared.
  • Ensuring that any subsequent data transfer was tracked and secure, and clearly showed the demarcation point between ourselves and the company we are sharing data with, so that it’s clear where our legal responsibilities end and the touring company’s begins.

NPOs also raised concerns about the need for detailed audience insight reporting to assist them with their audience development strategies. Purple Seven’s VS: Touring solution provides detailed insight, and once this new data-sharing process is bedded in with our touring partners, we’ll be exploring further options in consultation with the sector.

Putting the customer first

Our starting point for this initiative has always been the customer, and what they want. We have never been concerned about ‘owning’ the customer, as we know that while arts attenders may attend our venue frequently they also choose to visit other venues as part of their cultural mix.

We have always seen our role as custodians of the customer’s data. First, in following data protection legislation and protecting their data, and second, in striving to give our customers a good balance of communications targeted to their interests.

When we launched this initiative, we talked with our associate artists and companies to find ways in which we could collaborate to integrate our communications to support their needs. This included adding a link to their website’s newsletter sign-up page on our post-show emails, and tweeting this link as well.

We are hopeful that our approach of putting the customer first (in line with data protection principles), and making it clear we will treat their data as we have explained to them, will foster a greater level of trust between the audience and ourselves.

Building relationships

In December 2015 in keeping with industry best practice, we changed our opt-in question for data sharing from a generic ‘third party’ to a more accurate and descriptive ‘company whose work you’re seeing on stage’. This resulted in an explosive increase in sign-ups from practically zero to around 25%. At the same time, our sign-ups have remained at around the same level.

For visiting companies, this results in around 15 to 18% opt-ins, compared to around 60% opt-ins for Sadler’s Wells, but we anticipate this increasing over time.

Graph showing opt-in rates

What does this tell us? It proves that arts audiences want to hear from the companies whose work they’re seeing and are open to building relationships with touring companies on a personal level. It is therefore important that the industry adopts a way to share sensitive data like this in a secure way and maintain its reputation as trustworthy custodians of customer details.

Safe solutions

To comply with the relevant data protection regulations we recommend reading the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidelines Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

It is worth considering a facility such as Purple Seven’s Data Sharing. Without a solution in place, it’s easy to send data insecurely – sending it unencrypted by email or using removable media like a memory stick. If there was a data breach, it’s hard to demonstrate which party is at fault. That could mean both venue and touring company receiving a hefty fine from the ICO.

Successful collaboration

It has been a positive experience collaborating with others on this initiative, and what could have been a frustrating process felt instead like something constructive. There is definitely more work to be done in relation to reporting, but this is something we can explore in the months and years to come, once all our partners have the correct systems and processes in place.

Sebastian Cheswright Cater is Director of Marketing and Sales, and Matt Kirby is Head of IT, both at Sadler’s Wells.
www.sadlerswells.com

If you wish to see the documentation Sebastian and Matt use, email data.protection@sadlerswells.com.

Photo of Sebastian Cheswright Cater
Photo of Matt Kirby