Growing The Audience: Bums on Seats

Growing the Audience is something we’d all like to do. I was at Edinburgh Grand Opera last night where a stellar cast gave their all to a Queen’s Hall with huge gaps along the rows.

Where were the bums for those seats? Don Giovanni must be one of the most audience friendly works in the history of opera – if you can’t pack them in for that, what’s the prospect of tackling anything more challenging?

I have no idea what EGO does by way of advertising, but a lot of the chorus members were greeted by a small group of family or friends at the interval and the end. So that’s one ploy for growing the audience. You can have children and you can be nice to your friends.

The practitioners among us have all done it and been supported by those sections of the theatre going public. I love them.

Okay, mutual admiration ain’t growing the audience or getting extra bums on seats in sufficient quantity. The folk who come to our productions are often pleasantly surprised by the quality, but they haven’t necessarily risked embarrassment by flogging tickets to their friends. I think this is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of criticism in so far as people often feel they want to know they’ll enjoy the production. By extension, your family and friends don’t want to find themselves defending your sortie into surrealism, or physical theatre, or anything with a risqué content.

Any answers? Well, next time the pal asks how ticket sales are going, challenge them to not only come along, but bring one or two of their pals. Ask them where they distributed the flyers you gave them – sitting on, or under, their hall furniture is not selling any tickets.

Another growing the audience idea is probing people’s extended family links. Are you touring to Pumpherston? Whose Mum, sister, best friend’s Bridesmaid lives there or shops there or works in a shop there. Will the shop take a pile of flyers? Will your extended contact display the flyer on the parcel shelf of their car?

Have you exploited as many friends’ blogs and websites as you can identify? Watch this space in coming weeks for news of Theatre Broad.

My friend was explaining how she’d taken her niece to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, see below; pick any one, because the girl is going to University to study Engish Literature but had never been to the theatre. How can this be? The child is in Glasgow which is not a cultural desert.

My friend has also undertaken the further education of other nieces and is conscientious about buying tickets for her own children. She’s the prompt for this piece, together with my shock at the gaps in EGO’s audience. If it’s okay to introduce the next generation to golf, football, tribute bands and all that, why not introduce them to theatre, opera and all that?

And those out there who only buy tickets for known quantities, whether of scripts at producing theatres or for star-vehicle touring productions, try to remember Shakespeare was a journeyman once. We all need support in the beginning. Grow our audiences and put bums on the seats of our productions – please. Stepping out of your comfort zone could be an energising experience.

Any of my family, friends, neighbours, or other audience out there reading this. I love you all. Thank you for the ongoing support.

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