Magazine

Growing sustainable arts audiences in Wales

Ann Kellaway, Evaluation and Research Manager, Arts Council Wales said:

“The insight generated from this initiative will help grow arts audiences in Wales. It has enabled the arts venues we fund to make our investment in their business more sustainable.” 

What is Audience Insight Wales?

Audience Insight Wales is an Arts Council of Wales project, delivered by Clearview, to help arts organisations understand and develop their audiences by collecting, analysing and interpreting data. Audience insight wales logo

Audience Insight is: 

  • User-led;
  • Flexible;
  • Transparent;
  • Intuitive; and
  • Live. 

Late in 2014, following a competitive tender process, Clearview were selected by the Arts Council of Wales to deliver the Audience Insight Service using a combination of state-of-the-art technology and arts consultancy services. The aim was to empower arts organisations to better understand the people who do, and who don’t, attend the arts in Wales, and use that understanding to grow and broaden audiences.

How does the technology work?

The Clearview Audience Insight technology combines live ticketing sales data from ticketing systems at arts venues across Wales, with external “big data” sets from a wide range of public domain and commercial data suppliers to provide a rich customer-centric data repository. 

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Audience Insight Wales revealed a decline in dance audiences at the Torch Theatre.  The venue team decided to embark upon Year of Dance to raise the profile of the art form. They used Audience Insight to profile their existing and potential audiences for dance, segment their customers and deliver a targeted marketing campaign which resulted in an 826% increase in audiences for dance.


 

Venue data is aggregated and anonymised to provide an accurate and up-to-date view of arts audiences across Wales, enabling benchmarking amongst venue peer groups, and sharing of best audience development practice. The system provides a range of reports, but venues can also engage with the data themselves to generate further insights.  Clearview’s Audience Insight system is uniquely transparent. All reports, whether standard or user-generated, allow users to click through to see the individual customer records behind them.

Flexible, intuitive and up-to-date

The Audience Insight technology has the flexibility to deliver relevant insight for a diverse market: from the smallest rural venue or touring company, to the flagship Wales Millennium Centre.  Rather than insisting that every participant records and categorises their ticketing information in the same way, the software is able to accommodate the many different ways of doing things.

Participants get live, on-screen results rather than point-in-time information, and instant access to the data behind it. This means that any data quality issues are instantly visible, can be corrected at source, and results in confidence in the information and knowledge ultimately being delivered.

There is no need for complex technical and data analysis skills as the user interface has been built with the casual, non-technical, user in mind.

The project approach puts participants in the driving seat. With Clearview’s support, customers have designed the service and the standard reports to fit their needs and business processes to give them the knowledge that they want, in an easily digestible relevant format. This, coupled with arts consultancy expertise where required, has resulted in positive outcomes for both individual venues and arts across the country. 

Self-serve analytics

Whilst a set of standard outputs are provided to venues to provide insight from both their own data, and the aggregated data, a significant development for venues has been supporting them to engage with the data themselves, and to generate their own visualisations, reports, dashboards and actionable insights.  

Service and support

The project is delivered using a partnership approach; combining the provision of technology with the expertise of audience development specialists. This approach provides guidance to venues on not only how to use the tools, but also what the outputs are telling them. This combination of hands on access to venue and benchmark information, combined with the consultancy and support, has provided a catalyst for arts audience growth in Wales.

In the first year, emphasis was placed on providing an annual summary report illustrating what the data was telling them about their own audiences. Venues commenting on their report have said,

“This doc. is too interesting… I’m sat reading it with a cuppa instead of doing the things that need doing today!”

“I'm going to make a very strong coffee and put my anorak on and read your report!”

“The report is highly informative and you have given some great tips that I will put into practice”

The strong user-focus, and flexible business model, has meant that the Arts Council of Wales can take advantage of other opportunities to support participants. MA students from the University of Warwick’s Centre for Cultural Policy Studies supported by Clearview consultants have worked with participating venues to develop tailored business strategies in response to the challenges identified in their Audience Insight Wales annual report.

Summary

Two years into the project, 22 venues are live and further venues are scheduled to join the service in the coming weeks. The Clearview project team and the Arts Council of Wales, have worked tirelessly to bring together arts venues, ticketing system providers, and policy makers to collaborate on the seamless delivery of outcomes.

The new service is timely.  Public funding for the arts is under threat. Audience Insight Wales is giving users the evidence they need to justify the support they get and so protect their very existence.

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In the words of Ann Kellaway, Evaluation and Research Manager, Arts Council Wales,

“The insight generated from this initiative will help grow arts audiences in Wales. It has enabled the arts venues we fund to make our investment in their business more sustainable.”

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