Building Audiences for Sustainability
What we did
Performing arts organizations in the U.S. have long been squeezed between rising production costs and declining audiences. The Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative funded 25 arts organizations to see whether innovative audience-building projects could help them escape this vise. Organizations experimented with new artworks, new venues, and new engagement activities. They studied the results of each effort and worked to improve it throughout the initiative. The ultimate goal: to see if audience gains could contribute to the organizations’ financial health.
What we learned
Research into the initiative, which was based on interviews with leaders and staff of the organizations participating in the initiative, found that many organizations did build audiences. But these audiences had little effect on their finances. Still, the initiative reaped important lessons. Millennials turned out to be far more diverse than many organizations had assumed. Data helped organizations better understand their audiences and improve their work. Many organizations are now rethinking business models and shifting focus from ticket sales to relationships with their communities.