All posts by merryncarter

Audience Development

Really looking forward to spending most of the week of May 8, 2017 in Perth as one of the Keynote Speakers for CircuitWest’s WA Showcase. They’ve asked me to present my 3-part workshop series, The Audience Development Challenge. First developed in 2010 for the Australian Performing Arts Centres Association (APACA) national conference in Melbourne, these workshops have now been carefully and thoughtfully overhauled,  refreshed and distilled to the essentials for success, using what I’ve learned from the amazing experiences I’ve had through 2015 and 2016 working with regional presenters on program planning, audience research and marketing throughout Australia. I’d love to share these experiences with you, and help you take the first step to growing your audiences with ‘the audience development challenge’. Are you ready? Call me on 0414 766 173 or email merryn[at]

Is live-to-digital affecting audiences?

“From Live to Digital – Understanding the impact of digital development in theatre on audiences, production and distribution” by AEA Consulting for Arts Council England, UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre.

This report from the UK addresses the question of how Event Cinema, and other forms of live-to-digital transmission in the performing arts, is affecting audiences, producers, venues and tour managers in the UK.

The answers are perhaps surprising: data reveal minimal impact on attendance, and overall stable levels of touring, although some organisations are experiencing challenges. Audiences do not believe Live-to-Digital is a substitute for live theatre; they believe it is a significant and distinct experience.

Read the full report here: Live to Digital research report


Less emails, more responses? How do I do that?

Another great case study from the folks at MarketingSherpa, this one shows how consolidating your database, and segmenting and tailoring emails works much more effectively than blasting everyone with the same message. OK it’s not about an arts organisation, but since when did that stop the smart arts marketer learning from a case study? Here it is:


how do customers want to hear from you?

There are so many ways to communicate with your customers these days, but in determining your marketing channels, it’s important to know how your customers want to hear from you. This latest U.S. research (January 2015) from MarketingSherpa concludes that one form of communication is clearly preferred over others. Is it Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Pinterest? SMS? Phone? Snail mail? Email?  Do you think arts audiences also feel this way? comms-preferences-by-age-marketingsherpa

The importance of shared goals and KPIs for Arts Centres

Interesting article here from US consultant Duncan Webb, drawn to my attention by Bronwyn Edinger while she was at APACA, about the potential for disagreement between local Councils and Performing Arts Centre boards and managements. Totally backs up my theory that here in Australia, more local government owned and/or funded arts centres need tailored Business Plans that spell out their agreed purpose, goals and KPIs. Here’s an excerpt to get you interested in reading the whole thing:

“..the big problem between city owners and the private operators of cultural facilities is generally around the different language and tools they use to define success. Cities — and we mean elected officials — care about things like economic development, effective management, positive media coverage and happy taxpayers. Building operators and their boards tend to be more concerned with booking great acts, ticket sales, expense controls and fundraising events. So our job often ends up being about getting the owner and operator to agree on what it is they want from the building — what is their common definition of success and how can it be measured moving forward. And inevitably this brings us back to mission. What is the purpose of the building and the value it delivers to the community? How should it operate to achieve that purpose?”

read the whole article here: measuring-success-in-performing-arts-facilities


Marketing the Arts to Death?

“If you want to sell something to somebody, you have to tell them how it will satisfy their desires. It’s one of the oldest truths known to humankind. But in the arts, we don’t really know who our new audiences are, we refuse to learn what they want, and without knowing what they want, we can’t tell them how our products will satisfy their desires. So instead we blather on endlessly about how wonderful we are – or how wonderful people should think we are – and hope that young, culturally diverse people will somehow magically find us as appealing as traditional audiences once did.”

So Trevor O’Donnell diagnoses the problem with arts marketing (at least in the US) today. While his accusations of lazy, ego-driven marketing might be exaggerated, there is much to ponder here. I certainly agree that much arts marketing is still too ‘arts-centred’ and uses too much ‘arts-speak’, instead of being customer-centred and using customer language.

Read his full blog post here. He’s so passionate about this subject he’s written a book about it, titled Marketing the Arts to Death. It’s certainly worth thinking about the language we use, and how we evaluate the quality of our marketing, to ensure our first objective is to establish meaningful communication with our potential audiences, about the types of experience they can expect to have with us.

Real-time email case study: Canadian Opera

Great case study from the Marketing Sherpa team here, on the Canadian Opera’s real-time email campaigns. Sending the right message to the right person at the right time is the key to success for many email programs. The Canadian Opera Company, the largest opera company in Canada, sought to implement real-time email messaging to subscribers and send promotional emails during performance intermissions to encourage additional ticket purchases.

See how the team created and implemented perfectly timed sends and coordinating phone follow-ups to achieve a 50% sales conversion rate from follow-up calls stemming from emails. Full article and a sample of one of their email texts here: canadian-opera-real-time-email-case-study and the sample email: canadian-opera-email-example


We need to go deeper than demographics

Still struggling with demographics, wondering why it’s not really helping you identify potential new audiences, or how best to create offers to existing segments? Here’s an article on the National Arts Marketing Project website from the US, which explains why just using demographics is problematic.

Author Sara Leonard says “People enter into relationships with other people and with organizations because they share interests and values. The principle applies within the arts, too. Our arts organizations need to have clear and consistent organizational identities that are expressed in our missions, programming, and marketing, and we need to know how the organization’s personality intersects with those of our audience members. In order to do that, we need to understand their interests, values, likes, and dislikes so that we can most effectively relate to them. To use the lingo, we’re talking here about psychographics.”

See more at:

Why advance purchase increases enjoyment

Here is something arts marketers need to know: a new paper in the journal Psychological Science suggests that we derive more pleasure from anticipating experiences than material objects. So it follows that buying tickets in advance of the event provides more enjoyment than buying the ticket closer to the event. Is this a piece of knowledge arts marketers can use to their advantage? Certainly. By encouraging (providing incentives for) people to purchase in advance, we are increasing their enjoyment of the experience. Could this be one of the reasons why offering subscriptions or package purchases is actually a good idea, and that customers who do buy in advance are some of our most enthusiastic advocates? Read the abstract of this article below; if you’d like more detail, the full text is available for download at the Psychological Science link above.

ABSTRACT of Article:

Experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having). Although most research comparing these two types of purchases has focused on their downstream hedonic consequences, the present research investigated hedonic differences that occur before consumption. We argue that waiting for experiences tends to be more positive than waiting for possessions. Four studies demonstrate that people derive more happiness from the anticipation of experiential purchases and that waiting for an experience tends to be more pleasurable and exciting than waiting to receive a material good. We found these effects in studies using questionnaires involving a variety of actual planned purchases, in a large-scale experience-sampling study, and in an archival analysis of news stories about people waiting in line to make a purchase. Consumers derive value from anticipation, and that value tends to be greater for experiential than for material purchases.

Psychological Science, August 2014

Essential listening for orchestra staff: Alan Brown on Creative Capacity and Engagement

US arts researcher Alan Brown takes stock of the most significant trends re-shaping demand for the arts, and the groundswell of creativity and experimentation leading the orchestra field in the US into the future. Drawing on a body of research on orchestra audiences and arts participation, this closing keynote of the recent League of American Symphony Orchestras Conference identifies the key challenges to engaging the next generation of orchestras and embedding orchestras in the creative life of their communities.

One quote which stood out for me: “community engagement starts with season programming”. Watch it now and spread the word to all you know in the Australian orchestral community: