Audience Engagement: Research & Resources

Today’s artists and presenters work harder than ever to build and maintain audiences for their performances, but shifting demographics, limited funding, and new media technologies present long-term challenges for the field. There is no single, one-size-fits-all solution, but a growing body of research—on what’s changed, what works, and what doesn’t—is available to help arts organizations utilize their resources effectively and efficiently.

Below, find videos, articles, and research reports on the evolving preferences and demographics of today’s audiences, as well as case studies and first-hand accounts of proven audience engagement strategies.


Third Coast Percussion performs a new work by Glenn Kotche.

San Francisco Performances’ Creative PIVOT | By Claire Sykes

A new series from the established Bay Area presenter uses data-driven insights to attract and keep an elusive target audience.

Community Music Works band

Blurring Boundaries | By Thomas Cabaniss

The worlds of arts education and community cultural development are moving closer together, providing both challenges and opportunities for growth.

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Understanding Your Audience | By Marla Teyolia and Dr. Zannie Voss

Many arts organizations and ensembles have more information about their audiences than they realize, but they don’t use that data to their advantage. By using data—and collecting more—your organization may be able to make more informed decisions, plan for the future, and check its overall health.

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Finding—and Keeping—Your Audience | By Ellen Goldensohn

“What information do you lack that—if you had it—would help you make a breakthrough in audience-building?” The Wallace Foundation first asked that question of arts-organization leaders in 2006. What followed was a multi-year initiative that has yielded a trove of illuminating insights into what draws people to participate in the arts—and what keeps them coming.

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The Audience Whisperers | By Thomas Cabaniss

We all want to grow the audience for our art form, but few of us know how to design programs that satisfy us yet are relevant and appealing to the non-aficionado. Why not take a page or two from the teaching artist’s book? TAs are expert in listening to people who’ve never given chamber music a thought, much less come to a concert.



The Road to Results

The Road to Results: Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences | By Bob Harlow

Based on case studies of 10 arts organizations that undertook audience-building projects as part of the Wallace Excellence Awards initiative, this guide pinpoints nine practices that successful efforts had in common—from identifying a target group that made sense for the organization to determining what barriers needed to be removed for that target to join the audience.

Taking Out the Guesswork

Taking Out the Guesswork: A Guide to Using Research to Build Arts Audiences | By Bob Harlow

Cultivating new audiences and strengthening bonds with current attendees is a top priority for most arts organizations. Yet even though audience research can help achieve those goals, many arts organizations shy away from it, often citing lack of money, time or skills to carry out the endeavor.

A Decade of Arts Engagement

A Decade of Arts Engagement: Findings From the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts | The National Endowment for the Arts

This report synthesizes findings across several modes of arts participation (attending the visual and performing arts, reading literature, creating/performing art, using digital media to consume art, and learning within the arts) to show how many American adults--and from which backgrounds--have engaged in art throughout the decade of 2002 to 2012. Based on the NEA's Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), conducted in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.

When Going Gets Tough

When Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance | The National Endowment for the Arts

This report examines demographic and socio-economic characteristics of adults who attended visual and performing arts activities in 2012, but unlike prior NEA research it offers in-depth perspectives on attitudes, motivations, and barriers concerning arts attendance. Based on a NEA module to the 2012 General Social Survey (GSS).

Wallace Foundation  CMA’s Audience Engagement resources are presented with support from the Wallace Foundation. Visit the Wallace Foundation’s Knowledge Center for information on Building Audiences for the Arts.


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