Richard L. Schultz
Cultural Arts Manager
City of Carlsbad
Audience development is an ongoing priority to support an arts organization’s mission. Now, most arts organizations have redefined themselves by creating a virtual identity. Like all of us, they eagerly await the return of in-person arts events. So, how are local arts organizations maintaining audience relationships? Three Carlsbad organizations, the Museum of Making Music, New Village Arts and the Carlsbad Community Theater share lessons learned and strategies in the midst of the new reality for audience development.
Executive Director Carolyn Grant shares her insights.
How has MOMM’s relationship with its audience changed?
Our audience has moved from physical to virtual mostly via virtual [email protected] and [email protected] programs. “Live” audiences are small, but the ripple effect lives longer with most garnering hundreds or even thousands of views. We are finding new audiences because time and location are no longer boundaries.
How are you reaching donors and patrons?
We are very humbled by our dedicated core supporters who attend no matter what or how we present programming. Donor engagement has moved to one-on-one. It’s even harder to connect with our members as they typically were engaged by attending events or visiting the Museum. This is especially noticeable with the interactivity of families with young children. We have received compliments about how quickly our staff adapted which has helped our audience stay connected to music.
How has your long-term approach to audience development been modified?
It will likely include a hybrid model once we establish our new normal.
Managing Director Alex Goodman represents NVA’s perspective.
What have you learned about your audience?
Our digital audience has diverse interests. Showcasing our familiar faces performing has engaged our longtime patrons while unique offerings like dance classes or cooking demonstrations have attracted new visitors. We know our patrons still love and miss us as our fundraising efforts have been particularly fruitful these past six months. We have connected through Zoom, phone calls, mailings, personalized thank-you letters, socially distanced in-person meetings and every other way that we can come up with; e-newsletters and social media have continued to be strongest.
Does your audience have different expectations of NVA now?
Absolutely! Most are very sympathetic to our situation. I think most patrons have gained a new appreciation for the importance of non-profits in their communities.
What responses has NVA received from audience members?
NVA held its first-ever streaming Latinx Drag Show as part of our Hispanic Heritage Month Celebracion. During the event, we received several texts, Facebook messages and emails from patrons letting us know how much they enjoyed and appreciated the event. One patron wrote, “This was so great! The absolute essence of inclusion! Drag. Latinx. Virtual. Free. This made me so happy.”
Board President Jon Lash responds to the following questions:
How has your audience changed?
Our audience has changed so much. Our community loves to see their family and friends up on the stage. We have moved to recorded online and virtual performances, but there’s a disconnect without audience participation.
How have you stayed in touch with your audience?
We reconnected through YouTube premieres of past shows. The chat feed with its ongoing messaging is a great attribute, allowing us to connect with our audience. We can reminisce about the show, have patrons ask questions and we play trivia.
What’s your favorite recent exchange with CCT’s audience?
There is one simple phrase that comes up every time from audience and performers “WE MISS YOU!” And, we miss them too!