In a recent Guardian Arts Professionals livechat on arts data was a comment from Bridget Floyer who works at Oily Cart. There wasn’t a chance for anyone to respond at the time but I think it’d be a shame if the topic she raised were to go unaddressed.
As I’m sure is a familiar story for many touring companies, one of our issues is connecting directly with our audiences. Despite the 2005 Audiences UK (was it?) report, we’re still finding almost all venues aren’t set up to share data easily – it depends on the goodwill of the marketing departments to do what they can. The way that they handle collecting data means that we’re classified as a third party, so the audience members aren’t given the option to distinguish between giving data to us, the company whose show they’ve come to see, and any other organisation. I’m sure theatres are very careful as to who they DO share data with but as an audience member I can see why many would choose to say no. For example at one venue recently out of a week’s worth of audiences we only had the opportunity to get in contact with one person afterwards. Most venues are willing in theory to pass on an invitation to audiences to join our mailing list but in practice this quite often doesn’t end up happening – it’s great when it does!
I totally understand why theatres find it difficult to do anything about this on a one off basis for us – box offices have so much information to give and receive and our shows tend to be less straightforward for booking anyway – but it’s frustrating.
What’s the answer?
I know this is a very common problem. For my own part, I’m currently working with a dance organisation that presents work in other organisations’ venues and in non-traditional (occasionally public) spaces. We’re currently working on tactics they can use to capture more audience data.
Has anyone else come up against this problem? If so I’d be interested in hearing more about the situation and what solutions people have come up with (whether they’ve worked or not).