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Map of London Showing Boroughs With Highest Theatre Engagement

Londoners have some of the most diverse theatregoing habits in the UK, and new research shows surprising and sizeable differences in attendance across London. As David Brownlee wrote in The Stage last month, despite London receiving a large amount of arts funding, some areas of outer London receive less than the most deprived areas in the regions.

This raises important questions about how arts engagement varies across the capital, whether the lack of funding makes an impact at grassroots, and whether, as Brownlee puts it, all London streets are “paved with cultural gold”.

Read my full article in The Stage here.


Recently I was asked to speak at the Royal Academy on behalf of Purple Seven to celebrate the launch of Bureau — a new agency which connects Brands with arts organisations — about how easily big data can be used to make a big impact at arts organisations. Below is an extract of what I said.

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Good evening.

Purple Seven uses data to help cultural institutions understand their audience, build loyalty and find new customers. Led by the founders of dunnhumby, Clive Humby and Edwina Dunn.

When Clive and Edwina left dunnhumby, it touched 250 million consumers around the world with top consumer retailers. We believe that many of the same methods which made Tesco the number one UK supermarket can solve some of the problems which are facing the arts sector. …


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With the New Year comes the opportunity to make some predictions about how the theatre landscape will change.

But first, let’s look back on my previous prediction – made here in January 2013 – that we would see the rise of Dynamic Ticketing into theatre.

Dynamic Pricing

It’s fair to say that Dynamic Ticketing is now here to stay, with most of the larger West End shows modifying prices and allocations day-by-day. However, I would argue that this is advanced inventory management, as it requires a high degree of manual intervention, and is based upon years of industry experience, rather than hard data. I haven’t seen much evidence of regional theatres using this innovation to increase ticket sales or develop new audiences, and anticipate that a ticketing system like Spektrix will soon be offering it. For Dynamic Pricing to work effectively in a way which doesn’t jeopardise sales but does increase revenue and drive new audiences, it must be data driven and not based on hunches.


In November I carried out some research about Disability in Theatre for Purple Seven, which has been published in The Guardian. Click here to read the full piece in The Guardian or scroll down to see the infographic.

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Ever wondered how to sell out your fringe show?
How to build an army of supporters who will promote your play for free?
How to guarantee to break even before opening night?

Here’s ten tips tip make your fringe show a hit.

1. Make a splash

Learning from the Michael Grandage Company, we kept our entire project secret until the venue, posters and trailer were ready to go. Rather than leak out details, this created a big splash and reached nearly 3000 people in 24 hours.
Cost: £0

2. Crowdfunding

Our Crowdfunding campaign had two purposes; to raise money for the production, and also to create a grassroots army of advocates who would promote the show. We crunched the data on other campaigns to work out which rewards to offer and empowered our backers with marketing assets so that they could promote the show amongst their networks. We raised £1300 towards the show and brought 60 advocates on board. …


Fundraising, Kickstarter, and Data-Crunching

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Is it possible to raise investment for a theatre production through online donations? Over 500 UK productions have turned to Kickstarter to do just that, including American Psycho The Musical with Matt Smith and Infidel by David Baddiel.

Kickstarter encourages individuals to make small donations to a project online, offering a selection of ‘rewards’ depending on the size of the donation. Projects must nominate a ‘target goal’ — if they don’t achieve the target then they don’t receive any of the money. In total, £1.6 million has been raised for 533 UK theatre projects through Kickstarter from online donations — an average of £3000 per project. The secret to creating a good campaign is knowing what goal to choose, and which rewards to offer. My studies have shown that the most popular donation amount is £10, followed by £25 and £50.


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Our most loyal fans often stand to queue for return tickets in the cold for up to three hours, only to be told at 7.30pm that there are no tickets available. Anyone willing to put that much commitment into buying a ticket is a great ambassador for your show. These are the people who will bring their friends back to see the show and promote it on social media — we need to provide a better Return Queue system to this group of loyal fans.

The Problem

Customers queue outside the box office until the show begins for return tickets. They are often standing outside in the rain, and have no guarantee of whether or not tickets will be available. They each spend 2–3 hours waiting and have no opportunity to go for dinner, get a drink or go anywhere whilst they wait. …


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Broadway investors are overwhelmingly white (94%), Christian (43%) men (65%) in their 50s (31%). That’s the latest finding from Ken Davenport’s survey and confirms that the demographic of investors currently active on Broadway is small pool.

The results show that people engaged with New York theatre are unrepresentative of the population and raise concerns that ethnic and religious minorities aren’t involved with Broadway. Whilst the majority of ticket-bookers are female, only 35% of Broadway investors are female and over half of investors (57%) have no children.

With swinging government cuts to the arts in the UK, it is worrying to see that private investment is only coming from a small portion of society. The findings also show that individuals give less than 1% of their net worth to theatre and have a net worth of $1 — $2.5 million. There is an opportunity for theatre to take advantage of crowdfunding in the style of Kickstarter. Last year’s Godspell on Broadway made use of this and in the UK Jamie Hendry is currently raising investment from members of the public. …


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People don’t watch Lion King because they’re interested in animal kings — the show is about the puppets.

When people talk about our shows, they don’t explain the plot (“Joey was a horse that got sent into the war…”), instead they explain what it was like (“It had amazing puppet horses and was so believable..”).

Our shows are funnier, better written, have better music, and are more exciting than our plot outlines suggest — and we should market them on that instead. Marketing copy should give a feel of a production rather than just relay plot.

I’m sure you’ve read advertising copy for hundreds of theatre shows. The formula is something…


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There’s been a lot of concern over the advertising of ticket prices and booking fees since recent adjudications against ATG Tickets, The Old Vic and others by the Advertising Standards Agency. STAR (Secure Tickets from Authorised Retailers) held a meeting today to clarify legislation and requirements for venues, theatre companies and ticket agents. Tom Wright from STAR was joined by James Craig and Bridie Creely from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). Below are some of my key takeaways from the meeting:

Booking Fees:

  • The first instance that a ticket price is quoted, it must either include booking fees or quote them. For example: “Tickets from £27” is acceptable, and so is “Tickets from £25 (plus £2 booking fee)“. …

About

Joe Shellard

Theatre Production, Marketing and Ticketing.

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