TRG Arts recently released some data showing that not all segments of performing arts have recovered from pandemic shutdowns at the same rate. Comparing four factors from 2019 to 2022: Tickets, Ticket Revenue, Gifts, and Gift Revenue, they report that Performing Arts Centers have fared best in these categories. Ballet had done as well in terms of tickets and gifts, but had seen ticket revenue and donor revenue increase. Theater fared worse with classical music doing slight better and showing signs of improvement. The data is drawn from US, Canada and UK arts organizations.
TRG credits performing arts centers’ relative flexibility with their ability to start recovery in attendance and revenue earlier than other areas. Overall, they say the lessons to draw from this data is the importance of maintaining relationships with audiences and having aggressive retention practices.
Maintaining relationships with customers and donors, keeping their connections with the arts engaged and active—appears to be a key factor in driving organizational recovery from the pandemic. There were many creative ways this happened during the 2020-2022 period, from digital distribution to small ensemble performances to Zoom donor and ticket buyer gatherings to use of outdoor venues until going inside was permitted or felt safer.
Plan aggressively for customer retention. As your organization re-builds, do NOT think short-term, but instead make every dollar spent on acquisition go further by investing in customer relationship building and retention. We don’t have time or money to waste now…every campaign must include follow-up, invitations for our customers to join us again, and more.
Add to this reality the fact that by 2040 community demographics will be wildly more diverse than today. The result? Arts organizations will need to become expert at asking and listening, rather than assuming and telling. The art of the conversation with our customers—we’re going to need to get much better at it.