TRG blog: Fear Competition? Lose Opportunity!
comments powered by Disqus

TRG Blog: Analysis from TRG Arts

Fear Competition? Lose Opportunity!

Rick Lester | February 13, 2012 2:36 PM
In 2012, TRG bloggers are taking a fresh look at data and trends that inform risks worth taking, best practices worth hanging onto, and assumptions worth challenging – each in time for action to be taken.
Competition for patron’s dollars is a subject that’s back in the industry dialog again, sometimes with negative overtones. Can we really still think that sharing a marketplace with other successful arts and entertainment organizations is a bad thing? Even with foundations willing to invest in collaborations? I find that disturbing, especially in view of the opportunities being mined daily by members of community collaborations nationwide.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about the power of technology and data collaboration at an INTIX conference session. You can view the presentation here:

I was reflecting in this discussion on the 18 data-sharing networks (also known as consortia, co-ops) that TRG manages. Each network brings together disparate groups of patron records from all different kinds of organizations and their different ticketing and fundraising software systems. The network allows each and every member to see their own and all patron connections across an entire community—to discover all the other ways a member’s patrons engage in the arts.

What we’ve learned in the aggregate is that collaborative data provides knowledge – to find more patrons, to build more effectively targeted campaigns, to reduce risk and most importantly, to test assumptions of all kinds. The findings are sometimes stunning, and always inform new thinking, like these examples.

More opera, more loyal. Philadelphia boasts seven opera companies, more than most U.S. cities. Now, you’d assume that if a patron living Philadelphia likes opera, they’d attend performances at multiple companies. But you’d be wrong. 94% of operagoers in Philadelphia only went to one company. And in that group, half attended only one opera company “once” and then never returned. Ever. And, not just that company. They never attended an opera again!

However, for the 6% that attended performances at multiple opera companies, only 15% failed to return – a number consistent with annual relocation numbers from USPS. Multi-buyers are more loyal – even when the “multi-activity” is not within the same company.

The data proved that it was in the enlightened self-interest of every opera company in Philadelphia to publicize the work of every other opera company. That’s what Philadelphia opera companies did, and reaped the benefits of new and loyal patronage. More on this study, done in partnership with Opera America and Shugoll Research.

Guess what else your patrons buy? With Opera America we investigated crossover between opera organizations. We do a similar study—in a “road atlas” type of chart—for our communities showing the cross-over from organization to organization.

Typically when arts marketers request a trade list, they have to guess as to which organizations in town have crossover with their own organization. In some cases they guess right; mostly they guess wrong. With accurate cross-over data, managers can use facts to drive list selections. They can stop guessing about who their audience is or isn’t.

Mining Data for Advocacy Gems. Conventional wisdom holds that arts organizations serve a very small percentage of the general population of their communities. In my day as an arts manager, the assumptive market penetration rate was 3 or 4%. TRG’s data says otherwise—typically a quarter to half of all households in any community have attended at least one arts event during the preceding five years.

Not only does that give each organization a larger prospect pool, it also has far-reaching implications for advocacy efforts. For example, in 2010, Pennsylvania had several key political races and ballot initiative that would negatively affect arts organizations. TRG mined the databases in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and found highly active voter households who were also arts patrons. Arts advocates in the state were not only able to notify the arts voters of issues and races that could affect the arts, but they also demonstrated to elected officials the preponderance of voter/arts patrons in their districts through maps and reports.

Patron behavior within a marketplace can be summed up in one sentence: The more patrons buy, the more they buy. That’s not competition at work. It’s collaboration in action.

Afraid to trade your lists or join your community’s data-sharing group? Tell us why in comments.


Related Articles
Arts Patrons are Frequent Voters!
Philadelphia Opera Market Patron Research and Study
The Arts Community Greenhouse

Be notified of future content like this with eNews.

Sign up for TRG's eNews and you'll be notified when more content like this is posted, as well as getting our latest research, blog posts, and webinar announcements delivered straight to your inbox. Simply fill out the form below:

* indicates required


Case Study: Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma

Annual operating budget up 32% in 5 seasons

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma 
 Photo: Joseph Mills

After a poor year for earned revenue in 2012, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (LTO) had rebounded and was experiencing a growth spurt. In 2013, Director of Marketing Danyel Siler had turned her attention to single tickets.

Her hard work had paid off, but season tickets were still a challenge. “Season tickets were steadily declining,” she said. “The season ticket campaign had been done the same way for years, maybe even decades. And we blamed the fall on the trend that subs were declining everywhere. Our executive director, artistic director, and I all knew something needed to change, but we didn’t know what.”

Read More>>


Jill Robinson
Adam Scurto
Amelia Northrup-
J.L.Nave Vincent VanVleet Keri Mesropov

Upcoming Events

Executive Summits:


March 14-15, 2019 - TRG Arts Executive Summit; York, England

May 9-10, 2019 - TRG Arts Executive Summit; Colorado Springs, CO


Global Headquarters
90 S. Cascade Avenue
Suite 510
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
US: 719.686.0165
UK: 020 7438 2040
Facebook Facebook
Connect with us!
Terms of Use Privacy Policy
© 2017 TRG Arts. All rights reserved.
Admin Login