Arts Council England (ACE) are supporting arts organisations better to aggregate, analyse and utilise data about audiences. One of the ways they are doing this is through a partnership with The Audience Agency. They have been subsidised by ACE for the creation of the Audience Finder platform. This is a free national audience data and development tool, enabling cultural organisations to understand, compare and apply audience insight. For those of you who remember paying a lot of money for the already out of date regional and national profile reporting – this gives you up to the minute regional and national data, for free.
Their partnership with the Audience Agency has also produced this free resource which includes all you need to know about data sharing for ACE funded arts organisations. In line with EU and UK data protection laws, ACE has confirmed that NPOs should ask audiences to opt-in to data sharing with other NPOs, rather than requiring them to proactively opt-out: that cleared up the major legal and operational concerns. Venues and touring companies are now asking how data sharing can be done practically.
Here’s five tips on how to make it work for you:
1. How can venues enable the opt-in for data sharing?
The important part is how you set-up your contact preferences. Depending on the number of partner companies you work with, you will want to either:
- Set up a single contact preference giving general permission to pass customer information to partner companies.
- Set up individual contact preferences for each of the partner companies you work with (ACE’s preferred method).
In the UK, the ICO’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations state that indirect consent may be enough to opt customers in for marketing emails, depending on whether the customer could anticipate their data being passed on. A single statement of consent to pass a customer’s data on to all presenting companies they booked for, should be enough to meet these criteria.
I’m happy to have my contact details passed on to the producers of events that I book tickets for so that they can contact me directly.
You should only ask customers for their preferences once per partner company, and allow them to change their preferences at any time.
2. Working with partner companies
Giving touring companies email addresses of customers who have opted-in to hearing from them is a great start, but there are many other opportunities to be seized from data sharing. Some of these require the customer’s permission. For others, where you’re sharing only aggregated anonymous data, there’s no need to seek permission.
3. Think about who the audience expects to have the relationship with
Some audience members will relate more with the venue, while others will feel a closer connection with the touring company. The challenge is to work out the preference in each case and avoid the pitfall of double-sending emails to the same person.
Repeat attenders to a touring company’s productions likely enjoy a direct relationship with the company, and could even become donors or supporters down the line. It could also be worth exploring first time attenders – with some communication afterwards from the touring company to see whether a direct relationship may be desirable.
However, in the case where the audience member is simply regular attender of the venue, without a known affiliation to the touring company, it makes sense for the relationship to remain between the audience member and the venue.
4. Share standard audience insights, not just customer details
Venues should be providing good, standardised information about the touring company’s previous audiences, and their database in general. For example:
- A crossover report, showing where the audience of a show by a touring company may have overlapped with an audience of other productions at that venue. This has value when targeting potential customers for future productions and informing future programming decisions.
- A reattendance report, specifically showing reattendance for a touring company’s past productions.
- In the case of promoters that you have a regular relationship with, event comparison reports showing sales for the current production alongside sales for previous ones.
If your system supports it, it’s good practice to schedule these reports to go out to touring companies automatically and on a regular basis.
5. Spend time in front of the data together to work out how to use it
Armed with some insightful reports, your knowledge of your audience, and the touring company’s knowledge of their productions, both teams should ideally find time to work together in front of the venue’s database.
Part of this process should be to decide which customers the venue will continue to ‘own’, and those the touring company is in a better position to maintain the relationship with directly. The communications approach taken with customers by both parties should depend on their previous booking behaviour, across the venue’s entire booking history.
Venues and touring companies can benefit massively from working more closely together under ACE’s new rules. Venues bring intimate knowledge of their audience base to the table, while touring companies have a deep understanding of their productions and how to communicate with customers.
This benefits both parties: enabling touring companies to improve their marketing will ultimately come back to venues as well, growing the arts audience pie for everyone.