The Demographics of the Broadway Audience 2013-2014

Extra, extra, read all about it!  Broadway theatergoers are rich!

Ok, that’s just one of the obvious takeaways from this year’s demographic study of Broadway theatergoers and their buying habits, as performed by the Broadway League.

Despite some of the “duh” aspects of this study, there are a ton of interesting tidbits that Producers like me and you can learn from as we tailor our marketing (and our shows) to the audiences that fill Broadway houses each year.  And just as I do every year when I get the study sent to me from the League, I bullet point the executive summary of the study here.  (And you’ll see some notes from me laced between the results.)

Ready for ’em?  Here are the standouts:

  • In the 2013-2014 season, there was a record breaking 8.52 million admissions by tourists in the Broadway theatres, representing 70% of all tickets. Domestic tourists purchased approximately 49% of all Broadway tickets and international tourists, 21%.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  That means locals make up only 30% of our audience.  So if your neighbor hasn’t seen your show, that doesn’t mean it won’t be a hit.)
  • Sixty-eight percent of the audiences were female.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  If you’re a single dude, you should hang out at Broadway theaters.)
  • The average age of the Broadway theatregoer was 44 years.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  I’m 2 years away from being average.  I was born in 1972 and came of age in the 80s.  My generation’s idea of a show is much different than someone who was a teenager in the 70s (no more dusty revivals, please).)
  • Almost eighty percent of all tickets were purchased by Caucasian theatregoers.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  This stat turns my stomach.  How do we change it?  Simple.  Produce more shows that people of color want to see.  Movies do it, why can’t we?)
  • Broadway theatregoers were quite affluent compared to the general United States population, reporting an average annual household income of $201,500.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  This makes the average theatergoer ripe for investing in the theater.)
  • Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 78% had completed college and 39% had earned a graduate degree.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  The college part doesn’t shock me.  But 39% have graduate degrees?  That’s fascinating – not sure what to do with it yet, but there’s got to be something.)
  • The average Broadway theatregoer reported attending 4 shows in the previous 12 months. The group of devoted fans who attended 15 or more performances comprised only 5% of the audience, but accounted for 35% of all tickets (4.2 million admissions).  (NOTE FROM KEN:  Only four shows a year – so that means, if your show isn’t one of the top four on the average person’s list (and the average person is 44 years of age and most likely not from around here), then you’re going to struggle).
  • Playgoers tended to be more frequent theatregoers than musical attendees. The typical straight-play attendee saw eight shows in the past year; the musical attendee, four.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  I also bet that the playgoers have a heavier local makeup.)
  • For musical attendees, personal recommendation was the most influential factor in show selection. Playgoers cited a specific performer as the greatest lure.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  Sorry, New York Times.  And I’m sorry for non-star driven shows.  If you’re Producing a play, I hope you just put a call into your casting director looking for star lists.)
  • The most popular sources for theatre information were word-of-mouth and  (NOTE FROM KEN:  Why didn’t I buy that domain?  Why didn’t I buy that domain?  Why didn’t anyone in the commercial theater buy that domain!)
  • Fifty-four percent of respondents said they purchased their tickets online, a number that continues to increase.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  How many on mobile?  That’s the next revolution, and we better step up our buying experience.)
  • The average reported date of ticket purchase for a Broadway show was 36 days before the performance.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  In 1989, we got tickets to Phantom 9 months before the performance date.  Now, buying in advance means a month out.)
  • Twenty-five percent of respondents said that some kind of advertisement prompted them to select the show.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  And yet we spend $1mm up front and $100k a week on advertising.  Well, if it makes you feel better – I’d bet that another 25% didn’t even know when advertising affected their purchase decision.)

What do you think of the above?  What stood out for you?  What did you learn that you could apply to the marketing or development of your show?


(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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  • Phil V says:

    The “star” performer isn’t the only performer some people want to see. NEWSIES has spawned a whole slew of popular boys that perform primarily in choruses (Ryan Steele, Garret Hawe, Tommy Bracco spring to mind), or folks like Andy Mientus who, while not the star of Les Mis, is certainly drawing people to see the show.

  • Felicia says:

    Yes, interesting info, Ken. I was a bit surprised by a few of the study results, among them average income of theatergoers and the overwhelming number of tourists who make up Broadway audiences. After reading the summary overall, I got couple of ideas for marketing and creative pre-production work. I want to think about them a bit more, but if/when I implement them I’ll let you know what transpires. As always, thank you for the insights.

  • Liz Wollman says:

    I find it appalling that Broadway has become so expensive that it is now most accessible to the rich. It doesn’t surprise me, but it’s not a good thing. At all.

  • Stephanie says:

    I always love these statistics, and I would be really interested to see what, if anything, has changed over the last few reports. Income, ethnicity, and even education levels haven’t changed much – which shows me that Broadway is solidifying its status as a luxury good – and I’m not so sure how I feel about that. I’m not sure if we’re pricing people out, or if we’re missing the opportunity to cultivate a love of theatre in other demographic groups. And I completely agree with you on the advertisement point, I’ve seen stats that say it takes, on average, 7 impressions for an individual to begin to recognize the ad and make a buying decision. I’d say more than 25% were influenced, they just don’t know it. That 25% who cited ads must have seen something memorable – which is a credit to more creative marketing tactics we’ve seen recently. I also wonder, because this is self reported, if people tend to over-report the number of shows they’ve seen, skewing the average up slightly.

    • Melissa Bell says:

      I think advertising has a place to make people aware of a show, but if it doesn’t interest them, they won’t spend their hard earned money on it.

  • Steven Conners says:

    Are you referring to the “dusty revivals” of Rogers & Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins or anything that has great melodies and interesting books? Or are you of the ‘modern’ opinion that anything from the past is not relevant and won’t do well at the BO? Are you doing art or (from your blog) are you so commercial that anything you can ‘hype’ to the younger crowd is fair game? Or are you of the thinking that everything ‘new’ is good because it’s new? (whether it has good music, lyrics or book) See, they come to Broadway to see ‘good’ Broadway shows. Artistic selection. There aren’t many producers or directors today that have good taste, so keep on keepin’ on encouraging the “it’s gotta be now and new” kinda stuff and avoid the classics (dusty stuff) and you personally will hasten the B’Way demise. You talk of building a new audience, but the youngsters don’t know what a good steak is, cause they been fed only hamburgers and burritos. Sometimes I wonder about you! –sjc

  • Solange De Santis says:

    I think a legitimate topic of discussion might be whether such a huge proportion of out-of-towners is a good thing at this point, since that proportion has been growing over the years. The New York metropolitan area has something like 19 million people. Or are we including New Jersey in counting out of towners? Maybe we should investigate what’s preventing locals from coming to the theater.

  • Andrea Jill Higgins says:

    These statistics are so unsettling: Musical theatre should not be staged solely for the rich (or 80% Caucasians?!) Great shows are produced all the time in high school gymnasiums, minus expensive sets, costumes, orchestra, etc.! And we certainly don’t need to “cow tow” to minorities to bring them in: we all feel the same emotions, and should be educated (music in schools) to appreciate, participate in, and enjoy the intrinsic values of musical theatre. Amen!

    • Marysa Yvonne Angelli says:

      Yes, but typically the rate of minority patronage and participation in the arts is far lower (see the NEA’s most recent study done in tandem with the census), and working to stage productions that show “the human experience” as something other than just the white experience can help to diversify audiences across the board. It isn’t surprising that folks who don’t see anyone who looks like themselves on stage, especially as kids, don’t necessarily feel like the theater is a worthwhile way to spend limited entertainment dollars, especially if they haven’t been raised in the arts.

  • JM says:

    I was surprised with the plays vs the musicals attendance. Even though I mostly direct/choreograph musicals, when I am in NYC I see plays too, as I am not thrilled with the musical selection these days. I just didn’t know so many others felt the same way…

  • Melissa Bell says:

    3 things hit me: first, 80% Caucasian audience (I’ve noticed this just attending theatre). Your response: “Produce more shows that people of color want to see, Movies do it”. But movie tix are cheaper. second: theater goers are more affluent: this ties in with the previous factoid. Income inequality is in all the headlines and is reflected at the box office. Third: “star power” is alive and well on Broadway. So let’s take it a step further: the most interesting thing at the box office is that CINDERELLA took a 26% jump in the Box office grosses this week. It now features Sherri Shepherd and a predominantly black cast. Does this mean that non-Caucasian audiences have found both a “star” and a show “they want to see?” People of any racial background will pay up for that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Ah, but that’s the rub: we never can predict ahead of time what it might be.

  • Paul L says:

    Well, Ken, when I talked 9in your blog comments) about an ethnic audience you apparently didn’t like the tone.

    The fact is that your audience isn’t just racial, it’s also religious, ethnic, and even an age demographic. You can slice and dice all these any way you like.

    The real ring on this carousel we’re all riding on is to find a common denominator that all these groups would find irresistible.

    How about a bet that all your one percent-ers don’t ever find themselves in a social situation where theater doesn’t come up at some point, If only to ask or be asked what they’ve seen lately. All the folks reading this comment who wouldn’t care if they couldn’t contribute to that conversation raise their hands.

    There, see, I didn’t see even one hand. 🙂

  • Melissa Bell says:

    In answer to this one: “Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 78% had completed college and 39% had earned a graduate degree. (NOTE FROM KEN: The college part doesn’t shock me. But 39% have graduate degrees? That’s fascinating – not sure what to do with it yet, but there’s got to be something.)” My response: people with graduate degrees generally have higher incomes, which again ties in with “more affluence.” My personal belief is that once people hit a certain level of income, they a) fell they can afford theatre and b) feel a certain cultural obligation to support it.

  • Jacquie says:

    There is such a lack of diversity on the Broadway stage, is it any wonder that Caucasians are the majority who attend theater? If it were not for King & I and Miss Saigon you would rarely see an Asian on stage. As a group they come in third after Blacks and Hispanics. If a role is done well the audience is not going to care what ethnicity they are. Come on Broadway – diversify!

  • Marysa Yvonne Angelli says:

    Key Brand Entertainment owns, so it was bought by a commercial theater entity.

  • Dan Radakovich says:

    OK lots to comment on. First caveat, i flunked statistics in colllege.[8 am classes skipped, attendance mandatory and strict bell curve even though tests passed]. That being siad:

    I would not be too upset over the wealth and racial disparities. Only 30 % if attendees are from the metro area. Thus the figures are principally skewed by the domestic and international tourist trade, which is heavily in favor of wealthier Caucasian vistors to the NYC region. This is an area for politicians’ concern not the theater’s. NYC is expensive to visit, ergo the wealth discrepancy. It is also not prominent on the radar of most people who could have a week at the shore or two days in New York. Of the domestic playgoers it is clear that most are actors, or at least in the biz, meaning an amazing disassociation of the local community from the plays being shown or the trends in the modern theater, That is more a matter of content than one of racialism. That being said i do think diversity is a good thing. My primary adaptation has a largely Asian cast with open roles otherwise. It does seem to have a harder time getting looked at than a primarily white-based show, though i have heard privately that lack of visible Jews and Gays also hurts it-wry grin! Not sure if they are channelling Spamalot or not there.[More credibly it gets dismissed on the basis of a recent largely Asian show being viewed as a failure or minimal success]. However, just having ethnic-specific plays is not the answer, if that were so August Wilson would have been a milliionaire and his center in Pittsburgh not be up for sale. But for example a major community in NY is the business and financial one. When is the last time you saw anything that remotely praised business, or investing, or stocks, or people getting jobs or anything matching their lives? Plays against it, sure, lambasting [Mame, The Producers]or lampooning[Mary Poppins?] the Babbittish lifestyle abound..the closest thing to sympathy is the satirical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying but even that was skewering not supporting their lifestyle. That may resonate with people who are in Occupy Wall Street but they have to live in tents, how can they afford a show?

    The wish to see a certain performer actually enhances the NYT and other reviews’ aspects. If a show has a good peroformance, and a visitor has limited time, they will want to see the good performance. What star driven vehicles give is a prequalification of perfomance expectations, if filled or not, that helps with tourists. As such, non-star driven vehicles are not as hampered as they seem to be since gettung the good reviews gives the leg up on attaining that star status. Good writing helps get good reviews and so is a major point from the aspect of attracting talent. A juicy role makes up for much in the way of other drawbacks. And a really good ensemble work is a treasure for most great actors, as operating off each other makes for great performances, and too rarely that is mentioned to try to get talent by the hopeful.

    So in short what this is telling us is: It is best to have a show that A) is attractive to tourists both domestic and international B) has an enhanced likelihood of being attractive to locals, C) has some recognizable roles so performers can be viewed as draw accrual D) can attract the wealthier segment or at least not discourage them. An E) optimally this would be a musical or the top non-musical is deducible. This is because if someone is visiting NY for more than 1 day the odds are they will first wish to see a musical. After that they are open to seeing non-musicals,as a way of diversifying their visiting experience and possibly saving some money. Rich people are often, in my observation, cheap :). So, given that, a play with resonance outside the metro NY area should do better than one without such. No problem then.

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