About Arts Audiences

Arts Audiences is a partnership initiative of the Arts Council and Temple Bar Cultural Trust.

Following a short period of research and project planning, the initiative decided what actions it would take in 2009. Details of the projects which were undertaken are on this site.

The projects outlined are designed as a starting point, to get people and organisations interested and involved and to build a base of action research material which is useful to all of us.

Why is there an Arts Audiences Initiative?

The arts compete for the attention of audiences with all kinds of media and entertainment. Arts organisations need to be thinking about levelling the marketing playing field with their commercial counterparts in a very competitive environment.

Maintaining and increasing audiences, as well as being a good thing in itself, has the potential to increase revenue and help to attract new sources of revenue.

The project aims to help organisations to measure and increase their audiences, building on what is already known.


  • Information on audiences is not consistent across artforms; different artforms and organisations need different starting points
  • In certain areas, sufficient information exists to allow opportunities to be identified. As you go through this document you will see that some projects focus on the performing arts area because this is where we have some specific baseline information. Other artforms need different starting points.
  • Eight out of ten people in Ireland believe that there are no significant barriers to their attending at arts events; no financial or distance barriers. This means that the potential audience is large and willing to attend if we persuade them.
  • There is significant capacity to increase audiences.
  • We know that a strategic and business method of looking at audiences can work to increase audiences – for instance, a simple and measurable goal is to look at increasing the number of people who attend at a venue or festival twice, rather than once, a year. It makes business sense.

If you would like to know more about the information available on audiences email ucarmody@templebar.ie

What’s the thinking behind the initiative?

To foreground audiences in our thinking as an essential part of the arts landscape

To be as practical as possible in what we do given the current financial climate

To encourage and support arts organisations to adopt audience-focussed practices and to set targets

To carry out “action research” projects, seeing what works and what doesn’t and what lessons we can learn

Develop good quality information and evidence for a long-term plan, and for how arts organisations can work together

Key Issues

We have identified 5 key issues that we think need to be looked at.

  1. Attendance and consumption; attendance for some artforms is falling; we need to increase the frequency with which people come to, for instance, our venue or festival and we need to keep people coming back year-on-year.
  2. Customer service and experience; customers care about more than just the show or event and we need to see what we can do to make sure their experiences are good ones
  3. Working together; arts organisations should collaborate more to speak to and attract audiences
  4. New media; All of us need to know more, to help us take advantage of the opportunities which a new media landscape have brought. We recognise that organisations operate at different levels of online activity and will strive to reflect this as we address this.
  5. Information; we need to address the gaps in our information about audiences – who they are and how they behave. Figuring out what we need to know is a key step in figuring out what to do.

What can we do about these issues?

  • Arts Audiences has devised action-oriented projects to address each of these issues. We hope that all the knowledge we gain can be shared with everyone.
  • Over the coming few months, we will be publishing more details of each project and in many cases asking you to get involved.


  • We will devise pilot projects with different kinds of arts organisations in different regions, targeted at specific goals, and report back
  • We will publish available information about audiences and their behaviour
  • We will devise a mechanism or mechanisms for profiling audiences to inform programme decisions

Customer service and experience

We will carry out a pilot project focusing on the customer – facing work of Temple Bar Cultural Trust and Project Arts Centre which will:

  • Assess levels of customer service, in part through “mystery shopping” and assign them a score. Set targets for improvement
  • Devise ongoing methods of assessment and improvement
  • Publish a manual for use by arts organisations who want to begin to look at their own customer service and set goals for themselves

Working Together

We are currently devising two projects in the performing arts which we hope to implement in 2009

  • A low-tech no-cost project where arts organisations will recommend each others work and we will report on what worked and what didn’t
  • A large-scale national promotion of the performing arts for a period of time in the autumn
  • We hope as many organisations as possible can participate in these projects and will be issuing details in early July.

We will examine what could be done to put in place a structure where arts organisations can work together to maximise audience and get best value for money from their marketing budgets.

New Media

  • We will create a range of material available online to inform the arts about what is going on in this area and about interesting and exciting ideas
  • We will create a small number of training and mentoring projects for organisations, recognising that organisations have different levels of expertise

Information about Arts Audiences

We need more and better information about our audiences to inform our decision-making. We will:

  • Create a usable and accessible log of available information
  • Devise a meaningful method of gathering information on audiences from organisations
  • Scope a research project which could, in the future, provide a benchmark from which we can judge the success of what we do

For details of Arts Audiences work in 2010, please search the homepage. To be kept up to date with our activities please join our RSS feed.

What next?

For now, all we want is to stay in touch. This section of the site will have regular updates on the initiative and opportunities for feedback on what we are doing.