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Building audiences vital to health of arts orgs.

Media release
creative new zealand
24 May 2004

Building audiences vital to health of arts organisations

Creative New Zealand supports audience development projects

Projects by Auckland Theatre Company and Chamber Music New Zealand, aimed at developing new audiences and increasing attendance of existing audiences, have received funding in an audience development initiative by Creative New Zealand.

With the support of $12,000, Auckland Theatre Company will develop a text messaging project (Txt2U) to enhance the loyalty of its existing audience and encourage new attendees - particularly young audiences - through the targeted use of this new technology. With the support of $10,660, Chamber Music New Zealand will develop an online communication tool, including a regular email newsletter, targeting participants in its annual secondary schools Chamber Music Contest and encouraging them to attend chamber music concerts.

The 38 professional arts organisations that Creative New Zealand funds on a recurrent (i.e. one-year or three-year) basis were invited to submit proposals for this initiative. Chief Executive Elizabeth Kerr says the two projects stand out because they target important audience development issues for each organisation and once completed, they will provide valuable information to the rest of the sector.

When the projects are completed, a seminar will be held in December for the marketing staff of the 38 professional arts organisations funded recurrently by Creative New Zealand. At this seminar Auckland Theatre Company and Chamber Music New Zealand will present their findings and share their knowledge so their projects can have a wider impact on the arts sector.

The audience development initiative was developed through Creative New Zealand's Future Strengths strategy, which is aimed at strengthening New Zealand's professional arts infrastructure. Last year, three organisations - Downstage Theatre, Auckland Philharmonia, Capital E National Theatre for Children - were funded to do develop initiatives aimed at building audiences.

"Developing audiences is vital for the long-term health of any professional arts organisation," Miss Kerr says. "We've been working with our recurrently funded organisations to strengthen their capability in a number of areas. This initiative is about developing new audiences and learning more about existing audiences. Ultimately, this will lead to increased attendance figures and box-office revenue."

Auckland Theatre Company

Txt2U is a pilot initiative that ATC believes will enhance the brand of 2econd Unit, the company's development arm. The initiative is designed to test the effectiveness of short message service (SMS) or text message marketing in reaching the difficult market of 18 to 25-year-olds. ATC will use Txt2U to test its effectiveness with two plays in its 2004 season that have specific youth appeal - Caligula by David Greig and the musical Grease.

Helen Bartle, ATC Marketing Manager, says that Txt2U will test the medium and the message as well as the assumption that many young people go out for the night without a clear destination in mind and can therefore be attracted through a mixture of instantly promoted special offers.

"Text messaging is being used increasingly by a variety of organisations to attract customers, particularly young people, to buy a particular product," Bartle says. "It makes sense to test its effectiveness in the performing arts.

"By the completion of the Txt2U project, we will have tested a new method of communication that has seen rapid growth in recent years, offered incentives to attend two productions in the 2004 season, developed a new database of audience members and addressed barriers to attendance.

"Ultimately, Txt2U also has the potential to be shared with other arts organisations and help them adopt SMS technology as a frequently used marketing tool."

Chamber Music New Zealand

For Chamber Music New Zealand developing youth audiences is a priority. The organisation believes its annual Chamber Music Contest for secondary school students is an excellent potential source to encourage more young people to attend its concerts. This contest attracts entries from more than 1800 young musicians each year. These contestants are committed to and interested in the performance of chamber music but most are not currently attending concerts.

Brian Budd, General Manager of Chamber Music New Zealand, believes that by building a relationship with this group through online communication, they will be encouraged to attend the organisation's chamber music concerts.

"Our communications strategy will establish direct contact with the contest participants and encourage these young people and their families to attend concerts," he says. "Until now, our main contact with groups who enter the contest has been primarily through a teacher or parent.

Through our online communication, the contest participants will receive information that will help expose them to world-class chamber music performances, provide inspiration for their own music-making and give them a wider appreciation of the artform."


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