“The largest set of aggregated data on cultural engagement anywhere in the world” is being made available for academic researchers.

A reel of tickets
The Audience Agency holds ticketing data back to 2011

A huge dataset on cultural engagement, described as “the largest…anywhere in the world”, is being opened up to researchers by The Audience Agency (TAA).

The agency, which receives funding from Arts Council England (ACE) to gather national data on arts audiences, is inviting proposals for papers using this resource. These will be published in a special issue of the academic journal Cultural Trends next year.

Historic data

Every month, TAA publishes anonymised, aggregated data on ticket sales to an online portal, from organisations participating in its audience development tool Audience Finder.

There are now more than 600 organisations participating in Audience Finder, including “performing arts venues, touring companies, museums, galleries, festivals, outdoor arts and many other kinds of cultural organisations”.

Their ticketing data has been gathered over the past seven years and dates back to 2011/12, although data from these early years is less comprehensive and accessible than more recently gathered information.

As well as extending access to this public resource, TAA will also grant researchers access to data from more than 400,000 audience surveys carried by Audience Finder participants, dating back to 2013/14. These include questions on areas including demographics, previous visits, quality of experience and motivation.

To be part of Audience Finder, organisations must contribute either ticketing or survey data, or both. Most of ACE’s National Portfolio Organisations are required to participate.

In total, the data describes the behaviours of more than 10 million UK households, and the agency admits: “so far, we have only scratched the surface in terms of the potential application”.

Participation

The research papers that emerge from the analysis of the data will be published in a double issue of Cultural Trends in May 2019, aiming to “stimulate new critical debate on the potential of emerging audience research methods and approaches to provide fresh insights into questions of experiential enrichment and cultural value”.

The list of topics that papers should broadly address include “critical applications of innovative or emerging audience research methods and methodologies” and “artist-based approaches to audience engagement”. The deadline for first drafts is 14 December.

TAA is providing a number of bursaries of up to £500 to cover travel to TAA’s offices in London and Manchester.

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