Where Is Your Audience Now?

With festivals and events now attempting to spring back from COVID-19 disruptions, we’ve heard from many organisers that they’re not getting the same number of pre-ticket sales or audience numbers they once had. We’d like to share with you some resources that explain why this is happening and what organisers can do to help attract those audiences back once again. 

Creative Victoria is part of a global study to track audience sentiment in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The COVID-19 Outlook Monitor research is being conducted in stages to understand how audiences feel about engaging with, and returning to, creative events and venues. The study also explores the measures that will make people feel more comfortable about returning. 

This data can be used by artists and creative organisations to support their audience engagement activities and plans for returning to business and recovery. 

Key findings from the October 2022 Audience Outlook Monitor:

  • Financial reasons are now the top barrier to attendance, surpassing the risk of virus transmission for the first time since the pandemic began. This suggests that price sensitivity may increase as financial barriers are now affecting 40% of audiences, up from 24% in August 2022.
  • Audiences are feeling positive about attending events. 3 in 4 (75%) attended a cultural event in the fortnight before data collection consistent with findings in August 2022.
  • Attendance frequency is yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. Overall, 44% of performing arts attendees are attending less often than they used to, signalling that recovery will take time. However, there is cause for optimism with 51% signalling that their attendance will increase over the next year.
  • Spending levels are not increasing – the proportion (63%) spending over $50 on arts and culture in the past fortnight has remained consistent with levels seen in March and August 2022.
  • Last minute ticket buying persists with data revealing that most audience members book events in the next seven days (26%) and next 2-3 weeks (43%).
  • Audiences generally agree that they are keen to attend things that they attended in the past (84%) however, a sizeable proportion (58%) of audiences agree that they would like to try things they have not experienced before. The appeal of trying new things is particularly strong in those under 35 years of age (74%).
  • 11% of all audiences have said that an option for digital participation would be “helpful for attending cultural events”. This highlights the need to consider digital access as an important part of the planning mix.

Key COVIDSafe measures will continue to play an important role in consolidating confidence. Victorian arts audiences are in favour of vaccination requirements, and nearly two-thirds are encouraged by mask-wearing despite masks no longer being mandatory in cultural and entertainment venues. 

Audiences settle in ahead of Stardust + The Mission at Arts Narrogin, WA. Image supplied.

What to do as an organiser… 

These reports indicate that providing key COVIDSafe measures should be a priority for any in-person event and will help provide audiences with reassurance, so we would like to provide you with some practical tips on how to promote this. 

  1. Find out where your audience is coming from and who are they: Are they local? From Melbourne?  Young? First Nations people? Speak to the artist(s) you are presenting as they often have a clear idea of target audiences for their work that you may be able to tap into! 
  1. Using that information, compile a list of places to promote your event e.g., online, social media, flyers etc. 
  1. In the material to promote your event, include your COVIDSafe measures – reassure people that you have their safety in mind and have a clear cancellation policy. 
  1. Offer discounts or incentives for early bird tickets to encourage pre-sale to your event. 
  1. Promote the above early and often and in more than one place. 
  1. Take advantage of What’s on/Event pages on your local council’s website, contact them to help promote. 
  1. Contact any groups, organisations or people in your networks to help you promote, including us!   
  1. When you contact outside sources to ask for help with promotion, include a brief paragraph about the event, include the key dates, times and costs (or free), and provide a single link and image they can use. Also include any social media tags. Then they have everything they need to put it out into the world without any extra back and forth. Make it as easy as possible for people to share. Try not to use PDFs/Doc attachments for this purpose – a quick email with these details usually does the trick!

And remember – while research shows that audience members largely want to see the kind of content they saw before the pandemic, there is a trend for work which can uplift people and capture the excitement and energy of pre-pandemic performances, so think about ways you can deliver this through your programming decisions and marketing campaigns.  

Tip: You can access evidence-backed tips and tactics from Patternmakers, the company that creates the Audience Outlook Monitor used by Creative Victoria. 

Coupled with the promotion of your clear COVIDSafe measures, this holistic approach will give you the best chance at re-engaging your existing audience base while attracting new people to your event!