Who is the Broadway Touring Audience? The 2011-12 Report Revealed!

Almost two decades ago, the Broadway League began tracking the demographics of the touring audience for Broadway shows, understanding that the audience on the road is a feeder audience for Broadway.

It is/was true for you, right?

If you don’t live in or close to NYC, and you’re a Broadway fan, odds are you see shows at your local Civic Center or PAC, am I right?  That’s what I used to do (shout out to the Colonial Theater and the Wang Center in Beantown!).

Touring shows are gateway drugs to the bright lights of Broadway.  Additionally, since touring shows can be more profitable than Broadway shows, it’s important for us Producers to understand just who out there is buying the tickets, how they buy them . . . and why.

Enter The League and their biennial report on the Touring Audience Demographics!  And the latest report, for the 2011-2012 season (which featured almost 13 million admissions in almost 300 theaters across our great theatrical nation) was just released last week.

You can get the full report here directly from The League, but I’m going to summarize their summary for you.

Here are the key points from the 2011-12 Touring Broadway Demographic Study:

  • 12.7 million total attendees is the lowest reported attendance since 2004-05.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  GULP!)
  • 70% of touring show attendees were female.
  • The average age of the Touring Broadway theatregoer was 50.5 years.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  This is older than the NYC audience)
  • 89% of the Touring Broadway theatregoers were Caucasian.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  This is whiter than the NYC audience.)
  • 78% of the audience held a college degree and 30% held a graduate degree.
  • 46% of national theatregoers reported an annual household income of more than $100k, compared to only 21% of Americans overall.
  • 31% of respondents were subscribers to the “Broadway Series” at their local venue.
  • On average, Touring Broadway attendees saw 4 shows per year.
  • When looking for information about the show, the majority of audiences looked to the theatre’s website.
  • The most commonly cited source for show selection were:  the music, personal recommendation, articles about the show, having previously seen the show, and its inclusion in the season subscription
  • Respondents reported the Tony Awards to be more influential this season than in previous seasons.  21% of respondents said that Tony Awards or nominations were a reason they attended the show, compared to 8% in the 2005-06 season.
  • Only 17% of respondents said that an advertisement influenced them to see a show and 14% said they were influenced by a newspaper critic’s review.
  • 65% of the audience said that some kind of incentive (discounts for restaurants, parking and transportation, free merchandise, backstage tours or complete packages) would encourage them to attend theatre more frequently.
  • Facebook was the most widely used social networking site.
  • 40% of respondents said different performance times would encourage them to attend Touring Broadway more frequently.
  • 47% of Touring Broadway theatregoers used the Internet to purchase their tickets, the highest percentage yet.
  • Advance sales to single-ticket buyers has increased in comparison to the early 2000’s.
  • 34% of respondents said they made a visit to NYC in the past year.  Of those 82% attended a Broadway show while in town. (NOTE FROM KEN:  This number should be 90% or more IMHO, so we’ve got work to do.)
  • 75% of respondents said they would prefer to receive theatre information electronically, rather than postal mail.

Well, what do you think?  Is the Touring Audience what you expected it to be?  Do you fit in the above group?

If you’re interested, click here to see a summary of the latest report on the Broadway demographic audience and you can see how the two stack up side by side.

Lots of interesting stuff in the report, as always.  Of course, the most concerning stat is the drop in attendance since almost ten years ago.  And, significantly, the past three years have seen a decrease each year.

Why?  Is it because the subscription audience is waning?  Is it because there’s too much competition out there?  Is it because there aren’t enough new blockbusters out there to drive admissions?

Sure, yep, and true that.

But those aren’t the only reasons.  And because the Touring Market is such a necessary component of the Broadway Business Model, especially for musicals, we better find out.  And fast.  Because no one wants to see a fourth year of decline for the next report.

What do you think the issue is?


(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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  • Zac says:

    Very interesting data. Since the survey was only administered electronically via email, leaving individuals without an email address on file or who may not be as web-savvy out of the data set.
    Not that this is a bad thing, but I wonder how that influences what we’re looking at. Are there benchmark numbers reported by presenters or by ticket sales that let us know how many total are buying online?
    Is the 12,700 total attendance or total of number who responded to the survey? There are several markets with that number of subscribers alone.

  • Beki says:

    As a member of the Tour Going Theatre crowd, I have input. Ticket prices and seating selection is a huge factor for me. Several theatres have going to the model of “Make this huge donation to our theatre and you have the right to buy center section seats” and I think it is horrible. I have no problem paying top dollar for good seats. I paid $400 to see Book of Mormon when I wan in NYC in 2011, but I should not have to donate $2k then pay $150-300 per seat just to see one show!
    Also, I believe shows are staying too long in some markets and excluding other markets that cannot support a two week run. I think there would be more sell out crowds for many shows if it was only in that area for 3-4 shows instead of 3-4 weeks.

  • Jim says:

    Why is attendance dropping? It seems like every year, we get fewer and fewer good shows out of New York. I seem to remember years where I would be reading season announcements and thinking there were 5 or 6 or more shows I wanted to see. Now, there might be three. Next season I get Sister Act, Wicked, Evita, and Porgy and Bess, and I think that’s about it.

    Then our seasons get augmented with the 18th tour of Mama Mia and crap like Flashdance and the way way way off-Broadway tour of Spamalot. Would you attend any of those shows?

  • Lois Jacobs says:

    Jim is correct. There is not enough Broadway product out there. Dollars are precious. When I look what is offered in my city, 2 newer musicals and the rest are repeats. I have been putting my money to the smaller theaters for new plays and musicals. I don’t want to see Phantom or Les Miz again. I want the newer shows.

  • LA Producer says:

    I think the audience for musicals is simply dying off. Go to any show and notice the number of blue hairs and walkers. Not enough guerilla marketing to get young people away from their iPhones and video games. Maybe the next Ken Davenport project is partnering with a video game maker? Develop a slick game primarily directed at females? (see stats above) Maybe with a “Smash”-like premise?

  • Michael L. says:

    I’m not only one of the touring crowd, I also participated in that survey.

    The reason I didn’t subscribe to our local touring venue’s season this past year is the same reason I won’t be a season subscriber next year: the show offerings. Of the five shows they’re bringing in in 2013-14, I’m really only passionate to see Jersey Boys. They’re also offering White Christmas, I Love Lucy Live on Stage, Chicago [seen it, on B’way], and The Wizard of Oz.

    So, I’ll just pay for my non-subscription tickets for Jersey Boys.

    By the way, I’ll be making at least one trip to NYC this year, and will see as many shows as I can while there, B’way and Off-B’way.

  • Sue says:

    The recession, combined with the reasons from the heartland given above, is the issue. To increase B’way attendance to over 90% by those who visit NYC, why not offer a slight B’way discount to subscribers? At least give them several thousand Audience Rewards points with their subscription. Win-win.

  • I subscribed this year, opted out of Wicked and Jersey Boys (though I wound up second acting Jersey Boys, lol, because I had friends I was meeting after the show and the brilliant show I was ushering for next door, Stuck Elevator, ended an hour earlier.)

    I was pretty disappointed– but I’m picky these days. I saw 34 shows in 2012 and none of SHN stuff I saw with my subscription would make the top ten (though Les Miz from the previous season did.)

    Jersey Boys was sold out that night (I had to say my back hurt to explain to an usher why I couldn’t go to my seat), even though it was on its second round here in SF.

    It was really interesting to see the different reactions from audiences– Stuck Elevator features a guy who is on stage almost the whole time giving a tour-de-force performance and I was one of only a smattering of people who stood for him, which was the case both times I saw the show.

    The Jersey Boys audience jumped to their feet as soon as the Frankie Valli actor came out for his curtain call. He was good, but it wasn’t special like the latter performance.

    It seems like the touring producers are getting less and less adventurous because it’s a lot easier to sell Jersey Boys and Wicked over and over than more adventurous fare, although to be fair, JB was a replacement for the Sheryl Crow musical and the coming season looks relatively innovative. Once, Peter and the Starcatcher, Beautiful (Carole King jukeboxer)and Porgy, plus non-subscription Mormon return and Priscilla.

    Maybe Broadway needs to get more innovative to send more innovative fare for touring. On the other hand, touring audiences may not be interested in innovative fare.

    Sorry for the sprawling comment.

    So what times do you think touring audiences would prefer for shows?

    As to the 85% number of visitors who also go to a Bway show, I bet it would help if the touring version of Playbill was as comprehensive as the Broadway version. Although Carole Shorenstein is conducting surveys that indicate she might want to skip Playbill altogether.

  • Dw Gregory says:

    Combination of the same old same old and limited discretionary dollars. A lot of people have to be more selective about how they spend and if you are going to see a Broadway musical, you want to see something that you feel is worth the money. My meek opinion.

  • Roy O'Neil says:

    The audience numbers would probably be higher and perhaps more encouraging if the survey data was not limited to touring shows. Here in Connecticut there are numerous venues that present community theater and equity performances which are not part of a tour. Guys and Dolls, Anything Goes and Next to Normal to name a few were all drawing good attendance at community theaters in the Naugatuck Valley this past month.

    • janis says:

      My own reason for no longer subscribing is that most of the shows are the same ole same ole. Revivals and repeats of Bway shows are like re-runs. Nobody cares.
      We’ve already seen (sometimes better) productions at local community theaters.
      Send us some good NEW shows and we’ll all be there. Do the same on Broadway and we’ll be there too. Otherwise more of us will be staying home. (The economy is probably a factor as well. The competition for our entertainment dollar has increased with TV, sports, movies, gaming, reading email, etc. At the same time, the dollars available for entertainment has decreased.
      All forms of live entertainment are facing the same problems. With all the competition for the younger audience, maybe it’s time B’way and touring gives up on the younger audience and does more to keep the audience it has with the understanding that for at least as long as I can remember B’way attracted an older more affluent audience.
      Count your blessings and produce NEW shows that will attract the folks who have seen all the old stuff, but can afford to support you.

  • Anna Pitera says:

    I would love to see what these numbers for the road markets look like if you pulled out subscribers. Subs make up a lot of the ticket buyers on the road, but might not reflect how the audience is changing. What does the racial/ethnic make-up of the audience look like if you break out single ticket buyers versus subscribers?

  • Road Producers have been dishonest in their marketing. Calling a season “BROADWAY” when they had THE LION KING and then filled in the season with second, third and fourth teir shows like the South American nonunion bus and truck of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. Yet they sell them all at top prices and they misleadingly market them all as “BROADWAY”.
    The one cardinal rule of theater is it must be terrific! When people have an average experience, get charged $100 bucks plus for a ticket, another $15 to park, $5 for a bottle of water, etc. they feel (not incorrrectly) that they are being exploited, not appreciated.
    Great treatment of customers and great shows are the only way to sell a product with such a premiem price tag. Options for lower prices would also help reverse the trend of theater for a tiny elite.

  • Alan L. says:

    Before I say my two-cents about this topic; let me provide where I’m coming from: I’m pushing 60, never been to NYC, go to Chicago to see 1-2 Broadway Touring shows per year, have subscription to a “Broadway Series” at a local theater that uses both union and non-union actors, and lastly I appreciate almost all styles of music.

    That being said it doesn’t surprise me that attendance continues to decrease, that the average age is going up, that the internet and social networking continues to see growing importance in determining what people go to see.

    Now for my thoughts on a few of the bullet points:
    • The music – seems to me that the shows that have been successful in the past and that continue to see revivals are shows that the patrons sing the songs on their way home from the theater and that get radio play.
    • The shows – it’s hard to see some of the more recent shows, i.e. The Book of Mormon”, getting performed as a high school musical.
    • The audience – have us baby boomers created a generation (our children) that requires everything to be fast paced and in rapid bursts. Look at the video games, the movies, and even the hip-hop songs.
    • The price – I would have liked to know how ticket prices and the extras (restaurant, transportation, and parking) have increased since the early 2000’s. With the combined costs eating into the discretionary spending and with so many choices for those dollars I would guess that it’s going to be hard to turn the results of this survey around.

    Like I said it’s just my two-cents… and two-cents aren’t worth today what they were back in 2000.

  • Bunny says:

    I am used to watching shows over and over again (producing background I guess)and I go to NYC frequently – loved Kinky Boots, glad I saw Lucky Guy. Soon I’m seeing Matilda and Tommy Tune Steps In Time. I saw Drowsy Chaperone in NC recently – it was better than the original. Saw Spamalot in NC recently and it was simply dreadful. So bad I would have left after the first act but I was with people who had never seen the show and were wondering why it had even been nominated for a Tony. The caliber is so variable that it’s beyond description and ALL the good seats are subscription but there are always empty seats because subscribers don’t show up. I don’t know if there’s an answer but it sends me straight back to my old stomping grounds.

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