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New Audiences

How to get them and keep them

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#1 Latecomer

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 12:53 PM

Sitting on the coach back from seeing The River I was musing on this one...Peggs and I were at this and the next man in the queue for seats went to the theatre a lot and had done for ages. So...very unscientific...I suspect that most of the audience is made up of theatre obsessives likes us, not new people! I don't mind (in fact I think it is quite good that the real obsessives are getting to see this!) but it set me to musing...

Then I got to thinking....I have personally introduced 8 people to the Donmar who have never been before and 10 people to The National who had never gone before (they should have me on commission) Out of these people only a few go to London again for theatre and it's usually when I either organise something or recommend something  "you must go and see X" "ok, if you say so, I'll book" . They all love it when they do go and resolve to go more often so what puts them off?

Planning ahead...people have a huge fear that if they book ahead they suddenly won't be able to make the date. I reckon the National does so well as they have a fantastic ticket policy. If you know you will be able to return the tickets (for a small charge) then there is no risk attached. And it also means that you can often grab tickets at the last minute, even to sold out performances, as someone is nearly always cancelling in the last 2 days.

Knowing what's on....it's hard enough to remember when Downton is on, let alone work out what play is on where. And with some theatres they don't really tell you enough about the play...eg the Royal Court. One sentence is all you get! I don't expect them to give the plot away but perhaps it would be helpful to give a few more clues? Sort of "If you like Monty Python this would be right up your street" . I often end up going to look up the play to get an idea on Wiki, or googling the play writer to see if it's my sort of thing but people can't be bothered to! Spoon feed us! Tell us why we will like the actors. Give us pictures of the cast. Remind us they have been in stuff we have seen. In short sort it! It is essentially what us real fans do anyway "You know this play looks good because it has Michelle Terry in it and it has a great author and just look who the director is" It is actually why celebrity casting works so well...then they hardly need to make the effort!

Price. Perhaps if they do clever stuff like Grandage or Young Vic early booking or 3 for 2. Give us a chance to go to the theatre for less than £30 a ticket and you open it up loads.

I am still not entirely sure that people would go more....but changing returns policy and getting someone ordinary to read the website blurb would be helpful! Oh and get the poster to look good too! I'm sure that's one of the reasons that Our Country's Good sold out at Oxford Playhouse!

http://www.outofjoin...ntrys-good.html

#2 Rooster Byron

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 01:02 PM

Some really good points there. I think there is still a 'fear' amongst people who don't attend the theatre regularly who might see it as expensive, exclusive, something you only do on a special occasion and get dressed up for. I treat the theatre like the cinema, visit at least once a week, more often when I can. Normally go straight from work in whatever t-shirt and jeans I've chucked on that day. I'll book in advance for certain things, then wait for reviews of others and book a week or two ahead. All of this is possible because I live in London. When living elsewhere I'd try make a visit a month, drive up, see a show return. It's a commitment both in time and money but it becomes a habit and therefore you do it.

If theatres can make you visiting a habit then you're more likely to do it more often. Grandage doing a deal on booking tickets for all the shows and great prices is an excellent example of this.

#3 Kathryn2

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 05:45 PM

Face it, if you're not living or working in an area near good theatres, then getting out to see something is simply a huge investment of time, money and energy. Especially if you have kids who will likely need a babysitter. You have to really want to do it.

There's a reason why regular theatregoers skew older -- the kids have grown up, there's more disposable time and money. The exceptions are generally either students or childless.

If you live or work around central london then you're going to have more ability to visit the theatre regularly, because you're in town anyway, and getting to a theatre is no more hassle than getting to the cinema.

#4 fringefan

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 05:59 AM

I wonder whether it's possible to attract new audience members who are anything but the young?  Kathryn2 makes many valid points but theatregoing isn't just an investment of time/money/energy for me but a positive lifestyle choice for me - it's as important as that.  I am not someone whose children have grown up; rather, I have chosen to remain child-free so as to be able to continue to pursue interests I developed as a teenager and young adult, one of which is theatre.  It's also why I would never move far from London:  there is simply nowhere else in the UK where I would enjoy access to the number and range of plays, shows, etc, that I do in the south-east.  Yes, I do have more time for this now that I'm a pensioner, but I have less money and still have to factor in fares which usually cost more than theatre tickets.

Hence I think it's a matter of priorities.  I too have had the experience of luring to the theatre people who never go or only do so infrequently.  It's takes a lot of work and though they say they enjoy it and should do it more often, they never actually go on to do so - so maybe it just isn't that important to them?

I think theatres are already doing the right thing where young people are concerned:  any regular knows that school parties still attend theatres, which was how I acquired my own interest in theatre as a child.  As soon as I was old enough (late teens) to make my own arrangements and to go alone or with a friend, I did so, but why others don't also do likewise, I don't know.

So is it even possible to attract new, adult audience members?  I'd like to think so but the obstacles Kathryn2 mentions must seem almost insurmountable; plus you obviously take a huge risk with a rare trip to the theatre, whereas if you go more often, you can write off the odd poor or mediocre experience.

#5 Kathryn2

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 09:38 AM

View Postfringefan, on 04 November 2012 - 05:59 AM, said:

So is it even possible to attract new, adult audience members?  I'd like to think so but the obstacles Kathryn2 mentions must seem almost insurmountable; plus you obviously take a huge risk with a rare trip to the theatre, whereas if you go more often, you can write off the odd poor or mediocre experience.

Of course it is. You merely have to make adults really want to go to the theatre. That's why the following have worked: star casting, jukebox musicals, casting shows on the telly, people like you and me persuading people to come along with us.

What that means is that you don't tend to get new audiences at your run-of-the-mill play without star power, or at fringe venues.

#6 peggs

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 11:24 AM

It is a very poor excuse but what took me time to get into theatre was fear of the unknown. I started going in my mid twenties but only after finally overcoming the worry about getting lost, not understanding the theatre rules (was it like going to church, did you have to dress up and yes i do now know it's no to both) and even plucking up the courage to ring up to book - i was and still probably am that nervous person. I can remember plays i read about and would have loved to see but was too nervous to do so. Eventually star casting overcame my fears and gave me a way in and whiilst i can remember some entirely pointless tube trips whilst i worked out where places were as it became more habitual it became less threatening and with internet booking I didn't even need to speak to people (i'm not really that anti social just not good on phones). At that point I was young enough to benefit from some cheaper tickets as places like the Old Vic and got £10 at the National so was able to afford to see things and it wasn't a disaster financially if they weren't superb. By the time they no longer were an option i was hooked and every production introduces you to another actor or director or playwrite etc that you want to see.

I appreciate that now with the new Donmar scheme etc there are cheaper tickets for the 'new audience' although i suspect without the knowledge of what i could see it would have taken someone pretty special to have got me to summon up courage to phone. and yes it is something of a lifestyle choice although perhaps an unconscious one, i certainly chose to spend money on theatre rather than holidays or nicer car etc but do only have myself to think about (and am in denial about how much money in programmes is under the bed).

#7 xanderl

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 12:20 PM

Some good points here. Worth pointing out that the Royal Court also does a multi-buy discount if you book in advance so it usually works out that you can see all three main house shows in a season from the best stalls seats for £20 each. They are also very flexible about swapping tickets for another date or refunding (except I think for slow-selling shows). When swapping tickets they also maintain the advance purchase discount, which is nice!

The Barbican and the RSC also have good returns policies - as long as the tickets are back 24 hours before the show you get credit vouchers minus a £2 fee.
"witty ... both made me laugh but also gave me pause" - Mark Shenton, The Stage

#8 fringefan

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 02:06 PM

I'm actually not that keen on star casting and tend to think twice about plays which are being marketed mainly on the supposed strength of the names, especially if they are wholly or largely known for tv work.  What attracts me is subject matter, writer, director or venue, particularly if any or all of the last three have a good track record for the sort of thing I like, e.g. as far as venues are concerned, the Bush, Hampstead, Royal Court, etc.  But then, theatres aren't trying to appeal to me - they already have my business and as far as I'm concerned, need to focus more on remaining affordable.

Marketing to existing customers could be so much better, too - how simple would it be NOT to e-mail people about a production if your database shows they have already booked tickets?  Not exactly showing that you value patrons!

#9 Kathryn2

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 05:59 PM

View Postfringefan, on 04 November 2012 - 02:06 PM, said:


Marketing to existing customers could be so much better, too - how simple would it be NOT to e-mail people about a production if your database shows they have already booked tickets?  Not exactly showing that you value patrons!

That sort of thing is actually suprisingly difficult to manage, as the booking system is invariably different from the marketing database, and they're never compatible with each other, you either need to have a feed from one to the other, or a third system dealing with taking the info from the booking system and applying it to the info in the marketing database. Or, you know, a human being comparing the list of people who have booked with the email addresses for each email run.

Trust me, it's far more difficult, time consuming and expensive than you think to do that kind of stuff!

#10 igb

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 07:14 AM

At risk of sounding like a politician, I think it's all very complicated and there are no easy answers.

I think the price issue is something of a red herring.  There are plenty of entertainment modes that charge more, and yet have no problem getting an audience that is substantially younger than the typical theatre demographic.   You can see a similar effect in the debates about why audiences for classical music are ageing and not being replaced: if people will pay twenty quid to see Bat for Lashes on a wet Thursday night in Digbeth, pondering whether five pound tickets will get them into the Symphony Hall for Beethoven is somewhat missing the point.  

This is a common discussion in our household, where we go to a lot of both theatre and music, the music in turn pretty eclectic.  My elder daughter reckons that one problem is that for both theatre and classical music most young people who are interested are doing it, rather than watching it.   I think that although there are obviously exceptions, one of the main ways you get twenty-somethings to go to events is for their parents to take them in their teens, and therefore the loss to theatre and classical music of the generation currently in their forties and fifties means that there's a massive drop in family groups inculcating their children.   For classical music the problem is that people who went to popular music in their twenties are still doing so in their forties and fifties and take their children to that instead.




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