Audience development: what is it?
We recognise audience development as a multi- dimensional concept, with cultural, social and economic dimensions. It’s about both building new audiences, deepening the relationship with existing audiences, and diversifying audiences.
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The pace of change with digital technology is having a profound impact on the arts, as well as the behaviour and expectations of audiences. The public is more educated than ever before, with more leisure time, creating a great opportunity for the cultural sector. However, there is also greater competition for how time and money are spent. People are increasingly demanding and critical. If they have a bad experience at a cultural event, they will vote with their feet and are unlikely to return. Against this backdrop the arts need to be increasingly relevant to people’s expectations. The cultural institution must accept the reality that it is no longer the solo gate-keeper to people’s tastes. Being and remaining relevant may require involving the public more closely in programming, in content decisions and in opportunities for feedback. How are cultural organisations dealing with this? What examples do we have of empowering people at the research and/or programming phase? What challenges does this present? Is there a risk to artistic quality, a danger of “dumbing down”, how to avoid becoming entirely “product led”? How to surprise the audience about its expectations and what it thought it wanted? Credit © European Union