The Audience Agency worked with twelve London theatres to help them build their audiences through better understanding of audience behaviour in relation to frequency of attendance.

Objectives of the research

The outputs of the project were to understand:

  • What audiences value about a trip to the theatre and what puts them off
  • How theatre features as an option when planning a night out
  • The motivations and drivers for attending the theatre, including the importance of venue when deciding on a visit
  • How recent theatre-going experiences had measured up to expectations
  • The likeliness to attend again in the future and the factors affecting this
  • How they found out about shows and how they would like to be kept informed
  • The importance of reviews, recommendations and peer to peer feedback
  • If/how they recommend theatre
  • Their reaction to idea of a portal for peer to peer feedback and enhanced show information.

The above were put into context of the respondents’ visit profiles - whether they were frequent, infrequent, lapsed etc. The results were also to be used to feed into the development of an audience segmentation to help understand:

  • The extent to which the proposed segments could be found in the sample
  • A guide to the relative size and ‘opportunity’ of each segment
  • Whether existing segments should be refined and whether there are any additional segments that should be included.

Segmenting an audience is a way of breaking audiences down into distinct groups that behave in similar ways or have similar needs. This can provide additional insight for marketers and help them to identify groups to target in campaigns. The Audience Agency undertook depth telephone interviews with 136 respondents and segments fell into two broad categories; those that were based around the individuals’ attitude to theatre as an artform and those that were based around the opportunity to attend (or lack of it). These types of differences were key in developing the different segments.

To develop the segmentation, information from a range of sources was pulled together and worked up into a number of profiles of types of infrequent attender (see below). Each of these was supported with a description of their lifestyle and habits. The attitudinal segments were Trip or Treat, Trophy Hunters, Popular & Unperturbed, Knowledgeable Niche, Knowledgeable Theatre and In Search of. The opportunity based segments were Lifestyle Lapsers, Passed Me By and Keen to Share. It is also important to note that some respondents showed characteristics of more than one segment.

Largest opportunity group – LIFESTYLE LAPSERS

Lifestyle Lapsers were once frequent attenders, but no longer visit due to changes in lifestyle. They tend to be from middle age groups and have found that other priorities have now taken over. Theatre has fallen down their priority list, although the interest still remains.

Largest attitudinal group – TROPHY HUNTERS

This group of attenders look for familiar hooks and low-risk programming. They follow star casting or well-known plays, but the subject matter can vary. They are looking for guarantees that they will be entertained and want value for their time and effort.

Two examples of segment descriptions from the observed segments are included below:

Trophy Hunters

Overlap - This attitude based segment does not tend to overlap with other attitudinal segments. It has some overlap with the opportunity based segments; Lifestyle Lapsers and Passed me by.

The graphs below show the percentage of Trophy Hunters that were represented in the sample group compared to the percentage of identified infrequent attenders.

Key characteristics:
  • Not risk takers - Trophy Hunters follow the ‘buzz’ of a show and are less likely to attend shows that they consider to be a risk. They want to be entertained and overall they enjoy their visits to the theatre.
  • Lacking in confidence - Although Trophy Hunters are knowledgeable up to a point they are not overly confident about making choices without the right guarantees.
  • Cultural consumers - Theatre has its place amongst a range of different cultural activities. They attend other artforms in a similar way.
  • Busy people - They are busy people who don’t have the time to explore and research their theatre choices.
  • Follow reviews - They follow reviews closely, and are influenced by them. Recommendations from friends are taken on board if they are backed up by other sources.
  • An evening with friends - Who they attend with is more important than for the frequent attenders.
  • Open minded – They are quite open minded about the shows they visit. The key thing is that it has to be well reviewed. Many said they liked a mixture of shows (popular or niche).
  • Age – Trophy Hunters are predominately from the 35-44 or 45-54 age groups.
  • Size of segment – This is a relatively large segment, with Trophy Hunters making up 19% of the whole sample and 25% of infrequent attenders.

Lifestyle Lapser

Overlap - This is an opportunity based segment so it does overlap with other attitude based segments. Across the sample there are a number of respondents who were predominantly Lifestyle Lapsers and then other segments did show some characteristics of Lifestyle Lapsers.

Key characteristics:

  • Interest still remains - One of the key characteristics of this segment is that their interest in theatre still remains, even though they are not currently attending. A large proportion of them did they think they would visit again more often in the future.
  • Lost the theatre habit - They often talked about ‘getting out of the swing’ of visiting the theatre. These are people who felt that it was necessary to have a closer relationship with theatre to make informed decisions about attending.
  • Knowledgeable - A good proportion of the Lifestyle Lapsers are knowledgeable about theatre, it should not be assumed that they only have/ had a passing interest.
  • Reasons for lapsing - When observing the reasons for lapsing, a divide is apparent between those that would be harder to influence (such as moving to a less accessible location and lack of finances) and those where there is more opportunity to change behaviour. Some of the key reasons for lapsing were, in order of relative importance: starting a family, moving house/ location, illness, finances, changes to work-patterns and new partners.
  • Generally out less – Generally people in this segment were going out less for entertainment. When this was the case it appears that theatre drops further down the priority list.
  • A point in time - This group really emphasises the point that a theatre-goer’s attendance at any one point in time is part of a much longer relationship with the theatre. It is common to go through periods of time when a person is more or less frequent.
  • Age – Lifestyle Lapsers tend to be from middle age groups such as 35-44.
  • Size of segment - Lapsing due to lifestyle changes appears to be a common occurrence. Subsequently, this is a relatively large segment, contributing to 26% of the whole sample and 47% of the infrequent attenders.


The results of the project helped inform:

  • A customer segmentation model - Infrequent attenders were grouped into different segments by looking at their attitudes and motivations for attending. This extra level of understanding enabled more appropriate and effective audience development campaigns.
  • Development of a customer forum – The research informed the development of an online forum, or portal, containing information and reviews on the 12 theatres and their offerings.
  • A marketing campaign - The results of this project also helped inform a marketing campaign, the objective of which was to increase visits to the online portal, and in turn increase attendance from infrequent attenders.