The ArtsBoston Audience Lab seeks to build audience diversity in the Greater Boston arts and culture sector through disruptive innovations in marketing practices, using collaborative and data-informed experimentation.
With support from the Barr Foundation, The ArtsBoston Audience Lab builds on findings and learnings from the 2016 Audience Diversification Pilot Project (part of the Barr-Klarman Arts Capacity Building Initiative) which brought together 7 performing arts organizations to address the lack of racial/ethnic diversity within their audiences.
Boston’s cultural sector, especially audiences of Eurocentric institutions in theatre, dance, music, and visual arts are not representative of the demographics of the city. With little exception, the people who buy tickets to performances are whiter, older, and wealthier than the average Bostonian. According to the ArtsBoston Audience Initiative, a database of 1.3 million arts-going households, 89% of arts buyers are white, 74% are older than 45, and 67% make more than $70,000 a year.
As Boston’s population is majority people of color, and the region is more racially/ethnically diverse than audiences, ArtsBoston has identified an overlooked and critical area of audience development/engagement: Audience Diversification. With the continuing shift in racial/ethnic demographics across the country, ArtsBoston and local arts and culture organizations realize that they are contributing to issues of racial division in Greater Boston by serving audiences that are not reflective of the region’s population.
ArtsBoston also recognizes that marketing budgets and systems are set up to reward immediate return on investment (ROI). When an arts organization looks to spend its limited marketing dollars to engage audiences, they immediately look to broadening (getting more of the same) and deepening (building a stronger relationship with existing audiences), as they provide the greatest immediate ROI. This practice is inherently biased and exclusionary.
The ArtsBoston Audience Lab seeks to disrupt this practice by building a community of knowledge and practice around marketing and audience development to engage and retain more racially/ethnically diverse audiences.
Using collaborative, data-informed experimentation, the ArtsBoston Audience Lab brings together 10 greater Boston performing arts organizations who recognize the glaring gap in the racial/ethnic diversity of their audiences and have made a strong commitment to addressing issues surrounding diversification in their audiences and organization.
The ArtsBoston Audience Lab is on a mission toward sector-wide change for the greater Boston arts and culture community and recognizes that Audience Diversification cannot be done in a vacuum. Meaningful change takes time, and collaboration among arts and culture organizations is necessary to achieve the change the sector needs. Participants of the ArtsBoston Audience Lab worked with the Technical Development Corporation (TDC), Boston-based non-profit management consultants, to identify a Logic Model with a series of outcomes over the next 5+ years that ultimately will see a change in the way organizations invest and achieve success in engaging and retaining more racially/ethnically diverse audiences.
Sector-wide investment in engaging and retaining more audiences of color.
Commitment in utilizing data for better audience diversification strategies and tactics.
Increase interest, participation, and trust of audiences of color.
Organizational commitment to audience diversification and cultural competency in principle and practice.
Arts audiences are more racially and ethnically diverse.
Audiences of color feel more welcome, comfortable, represented, and invested.
Continued commitment to collaborative data-informed experimentation.