TEA Break (Wednesday 9 February)

Wednesday 9 February, 2.30-315pm
Online, free.

Our monthly TEA Breaks are the best way to catch up on our recent findings and emerging knowledge.

TEA ( Talking Evidence and Audiences) Breaks offer a regular introduction to The Audience Agency’s latest research, projects and sector knowledge - grab a cuppa and listen in. Through these short monthly briefings, our team share current insights for the cultural sector.

Each session will be based on a key topic, determined by the interesting analysis and research taking place at the time from across our team. This is an easy way to stay in the loop with the latest audience data findings and discuss your thoughts with like-minded people from across the sector.

Find out more and book your free place


This session will be focussed on audiences for contemporary artforms. Below are a few related links and additional resources which you may find insightful.

Recording of the session

You can view the recording of this session over on YouTube: TEA Break | Audiences for contemporary artforms - YouTube

Slides from the session:

Download the slides here: TEA Breaks 9 Feb - Audiences of contemporary Artforms.pdf (376.6 KB)

Resources from The Audience Agency

Other resources

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Got a question ahead of the session? Reply below and the facilitators will be able to address them in the session.

Hope everyone enjoyed the session (do please fill out the feedback form!).

A couple of things to expand on:

‘Contemporary’ - as we touched on - is a complex word (the SPARC work linked to is really good on this question). It can mean new/now, but also a style/type of work. Some of what we saw in the data may reflect the latter, as much as the former definition.

The role of London - is, as so often, key (!). Greater supply and a different profile of population can give greater audiences (and at higher ticket yields) than elsewhere. But - as I hope Elise and I showed, and Catherine drew out - there is appetite among at least a substantial proportion of Commuterland Culturebuff for contemporary work: which is particularly useful outside London. That may result in different attitudes/opportunities however (as always: more research needed!).

One keyword I’m not sure we mentioned was ‘omnivores’ - that’s a big part of what we were seeing with the ‘high classical / high contemporary’ group. This part of the contemporary audience is particularly likely to have high levels of ‘cultural capital’ (e.g. knowledge and experience) is well catered for in terms of supply of cultural activities.

We mentioned contemporary dance briefly, but it’s worth noting that dance audiences are, in various ways, distinctive cf. those of other art forms for a range of interesting reasons / in a range of interesting ways (but that’s perhaps one for another day…).

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Oliver, Elise, Emma and Katherine,
Thank you all very much for a great TEA break today. I really enjoyed the sharp focus and heaps of interesting data. It reminded me very much of the venue/company marketing networks that ACGB used to run, sharing Peter Verwey’s data and then coming up with audience development campaigns. I have downloaded the Handbook and will definitely be making time for next month’s TEA break, as well as recommending. A great idea, smashing structure. And yes, I will fill in the feedback form!


Thanks all for attending today! I’ve added some notes which were taken during the session, please feel free to comment and add further throughs of your own just like @SarahB above!

There were questions around how contemporary artforms are coded as such, and where to place artforms that aren’t an official option (such as Contemporary Opera), or if there’s a mixed bill.
In the context of box office ticketing data, we have a series of defined artforms which organisations are able to use when categorising their productions – more information about this may be found on our Knowledge Base here.

Other topics that were covered in the comments/discussion included barriers to engagement in contemporary artforms, the value of focusing on the whole audience experience vs. labels like classical/contemporary (as Ollie mentions above) and different patterns of attendance in depending on the artform in question one is looking at.

There was also a really interesting discussion around challenging perceived ideas that contemporary programmes would have less of an appeal to core audiences, which seemed to resonate with a lot of people.

@emma_mcd also raised a really interesting question at the end about relationships between the other ‘taste’ categories in the CPM data - like unusual / different - current/topical, perhaps one for another session!


I’m really glad you enjoyed it, Sarah - the comparison to the legendary Peter Verwey made my day… :0)

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@SarahB - by the by - if you have a link to that programme of work with WAC you discussed, I’m sure people would find it interesting to read more…

Well, funnily enough, @OliverMantell I had referenced it the week before during a conversation and gone online to hunt for it… CultureHive had two documents which refer to the work (and date back to the beginning of this century). One is called Audience Development Handout (by Heather Maitland), the other is the AMA conference report from 2000 but cannot find the source document. I’m going to see if I have it on one of my hard drives. I can send the docs to you by email if you’d like.

That would be great, thank you (although if there’s an online link, do share it here so that others can access it too!).

I looked for online links but there were only PDFs, so will email for sharing with the group.