What do theater and golf have in common?

Ken Davenport, Broadway, Off-Broadway, Theatre, Theater, Producer, Golf

I tried to get into golf at least three times before I was twenty five.  Just couldn't do it.  I was way too impatient.  I wanted more action.  It was expensive.  And it seemed like a "old guy's game."

In the last five years, I've picked it back up.  And I've actually enjoyed it (!!!).  

Golf, like wine, is one of those "acquired tastes."  It's easier to enjoy and appreciate after you have a few decades under your belt.

Sure, there are a lot of young players that get into the game, but I'd bet the majority of new players every year are aged 45 and up.  (I spent yesterday with an 87-year-old man who just picked it up last year and now plays every day.)  

Could it be that theater is an acquired taste, as well?  Aren't people more likely to start going to the theater more often once they have more disposable income, and maybe even more time . . . putting them in their 40s or 50s, after their jobs are more stable, their kids don't need babysitters, etc?

Makes sense, right?

So when we talk about "audience development," why do we automatically only think of getting kids to the theater?

I'll tell you why, because those kids are the audiences of 20 years from now, and it is essential to train them to enjoy the theater now . . . so they will see it and support it when they reach theatrical puberty.

But Marketing 101 says that if we want to develop a "new" audience in the near term we should focus on the group that is more inclined to come now . . . aka "the forties."

So in addition to an audience development program for young folks, we need an audience development program for middle-aged folks!

What could we do to reach this demo?

Is it partnerships with real estate companies that give everyone who buys a home two tickets to a show as part of their housewarming gift?

Maybe in addition to a Kids Night on Broadway, we need some kind of Take-a-40-Year-Old-to-Broadway initiative.  It'd be like a Broadway buddy program where ambassadors get a free ticket to take a forty-ish friend that normally doesn't go to the theater  to a show.  

Singles events?  2nd marriage events?  A direct mail to people who take fancy cruises?

How about . . . Get a prostate exam, get two tickets to a show?

(Ok, forgive the last one – I'm a teensy bit jet-lagged)

My point is that no one could have gotten me to even think about getting on the golf course 15 years ago.  Now?  If the right marketing initiative got in front of me, I'd buy the clubs, the balls, and maybe even the ugly sweaters.  

There are lots of folks out there who are ready to acquire the taste of going to the theater.  We just have to find them, and give them a reason to get started.  


(Got a comment?  I love 'em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what's on your mind!) 

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  • RLewis says:

    Folks under 30 don’t want to be the audience; they want to be the show. That’s why arts-in-education should not focus on getting kids to sit & pay attention for 2 hours. It should focus on having them do the art: act, paint, sing, etc.
    We’re wasting a lot of money on teachers whose role in the arts is just repeting, “sit still!” If we want a big audience of 40-somethings in 20 years, we need to get teens up on the stage today.
    Like golf, it’s not about going pro. Only a small faction will stay in the biz, but the rest will be our loyal audience.

  • John Lallis says:

    Very astute analysis. Not everything should be geared to the twenty-somethings. Want to get more 40 pluses to go…give them a good story and great songs. Simple, no??
    John Lallis

  • don l. says:

    The cruise reference (and you know why that caught my ear right?) – I know Carnival likes to offer packages to guests coming a day early into a home port to get on the ship. I can see some partnership in this context as they have a few ships which sail regularly in/out of NYC. Lemme know if I can help wth contacts in this regard…

  • Connie says:

    I had an aunt who was very involved with the symphony.
    She started taking me to the symphony when I was about 7 years old.
    Beethoven, Brahms, the ballet, the opera. At first it was a bit of an exercise
    in patience and I became pretty antsy. But because of her patience and
    insistence I became great lover of the arts and music and have a wonderful
    Children become fascinated with performance…. especially if it is good.
    I don’t believe in playing down to children. Expose them anyway you can.
    Of course some may not take to it, but both the exposure and the discipline
    are great for kids. They are a lot smarter than you think. The theatre is an
    awesome place for a child. They will always remember.

  • Connie says:

    I forgot to say, regarding the previous comment, exposure, discipline and
    patience are also required to play golf…. 🙂

  • When I was in grammar school, I read the NY Papers in NJ almost every day and dreamed about attending many Broadway plays and films, that i was never able to see until I started working part time in high school. TDF kicked in, and the City Opera @ Lincoln Center was actually cheaper than a Broadway show.
    I always throught Golf like skiing is very expensive needing the right shoes, clothes, clubs et, though I have been an aggressive miniature golf fan. I have bought very expensicve and cheap wine, and can only barely discern a difference, except for California white wines that once made me sick, and I never had again. The Theatre in my brilliant Drama Guild experience was a teacher named Frank Torok who went on to Yale to teach there. These experiences embedded my love for the theatre and the Arts. I am still a devoted fan, and producer/director/playwright and practioner of both, when I have the money.

  • Patsy Daussat says:

    Well, shameless self-promotion here. If we want to cater more to the 40 to 60 year olds, and get them in the audience – produce more plays like “The Makeover” by Daussat 🙂 which relates directly to problems they face. It’s funny, too, and might remind them of their college days. Dealing with their college kids, and current issues they face – they might like some shows that they can relate to and enjoy.
    So many shows are geared toward younger audiences, or very “liberal” ones – for lack of a better word. I personally enjoy that, but much of the US is made up of middle of the road baby boomers. And that is a huge part of the theatre audience, not only on Broadway, but across the country.

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