• Alan Brown

WolfBrown Announces the COVID-19 Audience Outlook Monitor

The set of decisions now facing arts administrators and programming directors is daunting. In talking with dozens of decision-makers across the artistic disciplines, we are hearing questions such as:

  • When and how should we resume programming?

  • What kinds of artistic programming will meet the needs of our traumatized community?

  • Under what conditions will our patrons feel comfortable going out again?

  • When will patrons be willing to make plans to attend our programs?

  • After restrictions on public gathering are lifted, will spending be the same as before the crisis? What level of demand should we expect?

  • What steps should we take to assure patrons that our facilities are safe?

  • How have patrons adapted to at-home participation? Will heightened interest in virtual programming extend beyond the current health crisis? What are the revenue opportunities?

To assist arts leaders in addressing these and other questions, WolfBrown is spearheading an international tracking study of audiences and visitors in partnership with numerous funders and service organizations. The COVID-19 Audience Outlook Monitor will bring timely and essential data to the sector’s decision-making about when and how to resume programming. Initially the research will launch in the US, Australia, and Norway:

  • In partnership with the Theatre Development Fund, Arts Boston, the League of Chicago Theatres, and Theatre Bay Area, the survey will be contemporaneously deployed to theatre patrons in four cities

  • In partnership with CultureSource (Detroit), the survey will be deployed through a cohort of organizations in southeastern Michigan, with funding from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

  • In partnership with The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the survey will be deployed through a cohort of organizations in Atlanta

  • In collaboration with Australian research agency Patternmakers, the survey will be deployed nationwide in Australia with support from the Australia Council for the Arts, Create NSW, Creative Victoria, and Arts Queensland

  • In collaboration with Norsk Publikumsutvikling/Audiences Norway the survey will be deployed in Norway and the Nordic region.

Additional US and international partners are expected to join the study soon. The research will take the form of a longitudinal tracking study with multiple waves of data collection over the coming months. Cohorts of participating organizations will deploy the survey to samples of their patrons via email, and will have real-time access to results through WolfBrown’s online dashboard tool. Regional results will be analyzed and interpreted through the regional partners and their constituent organizations. Aggregate results across cities and countries will be summarized and disseminated through WolfBrown’s communications channels, including our e-newsletter Navigating the Crisis and our Facebook feed. A new website, www.audienceoutlookmonitor.com, will serve as a home on the web for communicating research results and exchanging viewpoints about what it all means for programming, marketing, and engagement. We believe that now is the time – even while venues are closed – to start a reliable stream of data, at or near the height of anxiety about gathering in public venues. With this baseline we’ll be able to see change when it happens, and participating organizations will be able to make decisions about resumption of programming based on a reliable picture of likely demand. Beyond the primary survey, our hope is to develop a version specifically for providers of youth programs, and to develop qualitative tools (e.g., protocols for virtual focus groups) that arts organizations can use on their own to delve more deeply into the minds of their audience members. Organizations wishing to participate in the study should contact their local or regional service organization and/or foundation funders to advocate for deploying the survey through a cohort of organizations in their area. Inquiries about cohort studies should be directed to alan@wolfbrown.com. Individual organizations wishing to deploy the survey to their patrons independent of a cohort study should contact Megan Bander at megan@wolfbrown.com.