The difference in Broadway Demographics in six years.

You know why I love you guys?

No, it’s not because you laugh at my jokes . . . because obviously I can’t hear you if you do laugh . . . which is probably better off, because I’d probably cry in my buffalo wing sauce if you didn’t.

I love you because you ask smart questions.  And you make me think.  And you make me learn.

Example . . .

Last week, I posted my annual by rote post revealing the latest demographic information of the Broadway Audience as released by the Broadway League.  And as always, there were great nuggets to mine about our current audience, and I’ve already used the data at least a handful of times in coming up with marketing strategies for my current and future shows.

And then in the comment section, “Stephanie” said this:

I always love these statistics, and I would be really interested to see what, if anything, has changed over the last few reports.

I mean . . . duh, right?  Why didn’t I think of that?

Again, that’s why I have you.

So, Stephanie, and all you other readers out there . . . below you’ll find a comparison of the first demographic report I published on the blog, which detailed the demos of the 2007-2008 Broadway Audience, as compared to the most recent report about the 2013-2014 Audience.

Let’s see what has changed over the past six seasons, shall we?

  • In 2007-2008, 65% of Broadway tickets were purchased by tourists.
  • In 2013-2014, 70% of Broadway tickets were purchased by tourists, an increase of 5 percentage points.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  Hence our current boom.  Although it should be noted that tourists to NYC increased over 15% between these two seasons – so we’ve got more tourists to capture, for sure.)
  • In 2007-2008, the average age of our audience was 41.5.
  • In 2013-2014, the average age of our audience was 44, a 2.5 year increase. (NOTE FROM KEN:  This is one of the most disappointing trends as it means that we’re losing the battle for the young-ins.  We need more high impact strategies to capture the kids.)  
  • In 2007-2008, 75% of our audience was Caucasian.
  • In 2013-2014, almost 80% of our audience was Caucasian.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  This is even worse than the above stat!  How are we not getting more minorities?  The minority population in the country is growing rapidly – but we’re losing them.  And we didn’t have many to begin with.  Grrrrkajl;kjwoierjhaskdjfad.  That’s me so frustrated I just slammed my forehead into my keyboard.)
  • In 2007-2008, the typical musical goer saw 4 shows.
  • In 2013-2014, the typical musical goer saw 4 shows. (NOTE FROM KEN:  Ok.  No blood.)
  • In 2007-2008, 40% of tickets were bought online.
  • In 2013-2014, 54% of tickets were bought online. (NOTE FROM KEN:  You all knew this would be the case, but it’s still startling to see.  Where do you predict it will be in six more seasons?)
  • In 2007-2008, 38% of theatregoers were prompted to buy tickets by advertising.
  • In 2013-2014, 25% of theatregoers were prompted to buy tickets by advertising. (NOTE FROM KEN:  Ok, ok, so this is where things get super interesting.  The impact of advertising is going down???  And I’d bet that we’re actually spending more.  Is this the effect of social media?  Is this because there is so much advertising out there that people are becoming more numb to it?  Should we slow our spending?  Increase our spending?)  
  • In 2007-2008, word of mouth was cited as the strongest factor in deciding to purchase tickets.
  • In 2013-2014, personal recommendation was cited as the strongest factor in deciding to purchase tickets by musical goers and a specific performer was cited as the strongest factor in deciding to purchase tickets by straight-play goers. (NOTE FROM KEN:  Ahh, the star driven revival. Note to self – do a play, use a star, or suffer.  That doesn’t mean you won’t come out on the other side, but it will be a slog.)

Thanks again for the poke to do this comparison, Stephanie.  It was insightful to say the least. I’m going to go cut my ad budgets on all my shows now . . . and just put that money into making the shows better.  Because season over season, that is what sells every single time.

What do you think these changes (or lack thereof) mean?  Let me know in the comments below!



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  • Becca says:

    65% tourists to 70% tourists isn’t an increase of 5%, it’s an increase of 5 percentage points. To see whether tourists’ Broadway attendance is keeping pace with the increase in tourists to NYC, you’d need to compare the actual numbers of tourists attending Broadway, not their share of the total Broadway audience.

  • Will says:

    Young folks are not coming to Broadway shows because the ticket prices are too steep. Perhaps offering deeply discounted tickets for students, or $15 tickets for Wednesday matinee performances for kids under 25 might help? My 20-year-old niece lives in NYC and she laments all the time that she’d love to go see more theater but it’s out of her price range.

  • Jared W says:

    Ken, I think you know the reason why the number of both younger theatre goers and minority theatre goers is decreasing, but whenever it’s brought up on this blog you basically plug your ears. Tickets are getting more expensive, and both of those groups traditionally have less money than the more affluent Caucasian population. One way to combat this trend would be to offer more affordable seat options so people with more limited resources can still afford theatre more than once in a blue moon.

    Broadway is a business and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but the continually increasing ticket prices are driving away certain segments of the market. Between your blog and the many friends I have in the industry, I have a better understanding of where a lot of that money is going, but as a producer you and your colleagues have got to figure out a way to decrease costs so shows don’t have to sell $150 tickets to even hope to be profitable. Because with such a high financial barrier to entry, it is very difficult to form a theatre going habit in people who don’t already have one, especially with all of the other entertainment options available to people today.

    • Rich says:

      While I agree with Jared on the negative impact on youthful theater goers per increasing ticket prices, the 800 lb gorilla no one seems willing to address are the increasing operating costs to produce a b-Way musical or play, many of which are union driven. Producer’s Perspective needs to present a basic cost analysis of b-Way vs. West End theater production (i.e., with roughly equivalent content) along with, if possible, an explanation for why the former are so much higher. And savvy b-way producers who piss & moan about escalating costs, yet refrain from confronting unions have only themselves to blame.
      Long term, without addressing the rationale for decreasing costs and thus making theater prices more accessible to emerging audiences, the entertainment-seeking public will surely go elsewhere.

  • Ken,
    I agree with much of what Will and Jared said, as to why the younger theatergoer isn’t going to theater on Broadway.
    I think that also partially explains the allure of the star: If you are going to spend over $100 for a ticket than you might be more likely to make sure you see a star so- even if the show isn’t great- you can at least say you got to see a star (i.e.- ‘The Last Ship’ and how ticket sales have bumped up with Sting beginning to perform in the show now). It helps hedge your bet.
    The point you made about tourism being up 15% but tourists buying tickets to Broadway shows only being up 5 percentage points is the biggest cause for concern. Does it mean Broadway shows need to commit more dollars to the tourist-oriented media? Maybe.
    But I’d really want to see a breakout of where those tourists are from; are they foreigners or are they just from outside the immediate NY Metro area? Where did the biggest spike come from?
    That would be great to know- especially if the trend is expected to continue.

  • But the 41.5 year olds in 2008 are six years older now. So if the average age went up 2.5, wouldn’t that mean the average age of the same theatre-goers actually went down 3.5?

    Clearly I’m crazy, but it is a nice thought.

  • Dan Radakovich says:

    The figures seem to indicate tourist trade from domestic and international tourists had fewer percentage points rise than expected. Two major factors are the earlier season still had Manhattan reeling from 9/11, with a big hole still in it and 2 minor wars going on inteernationally which probably cut international tourism, and had gas prices at historical lows which are only now beginning to impact again. [That year I recall a 300% jump in gas that freatly constrained my own travels from the year before] which probably heightened domestic tourism, which would come in for other reasons[seeing family, etc.] Then next yrat the economy tanked with the mortgage bubble burst.
    The aging of America will account for part of the age change, as will cost of tickets. But the main problem is lack of kid-friendly fare on the Great White Way, let’s face it, absent CATS and a Disney-derived animusical what is there? Rent? Once? Wicked is a teen-angsty thing, I suppose that Spiderman could claim some of that but even the Pippin revival is more a 20-something show than the original. There is even less G rated stuff in the non-muisical theater you would feel right taking your kids, nieces and nephews, grandkids, or grandparents to for that matter, even though the shows that do seem to bring in more dough and last longer are those inclsive ones that do make it on.

    The advertising change seems most dramatic but if there are different categories for traditional and social media now there may be separation diminution from how people perceive things now. Other things to consider is most shows try to hang on past the Tonys in hopes of the bump from that, and more longer running shows are apparently occupying space these days. The longer a show runs the less advertising is likely to affect it, this is traditional.

    Again i do not place that much influence on the Caucasian aspect,increasing by about 5% when more international travelers and domestic ones affect the tourist trade since most of those will be that set, given NYC’s costs and climate issues. That said, the best way to diversify is to present more diverse casts and lower prices as well as stories that to some degree affect or resonate with the relevant experience of the playgoer. It does not mean a show has to dircetly affect one’s experienc, but should do better if the attendee can relate to similar experiences. Fiddler hit a chord not because all were Russian Ashkenazi but the struggles between generations and the immigrant[even pre-immigration] experience resonated in families be they Irish or Slavic or former slave-descended[Jerry Herman’s hummable music helped too :)].
    Consider the popularity of Tyler Perry;s silly Madea drag flicks. EVERYbody has crazy relatives.
    But there is a tendency, mainly in TV, to whirebread or segregate things almost out of diversity;s existence [look at the difference between the M*A*S*H* novel(s), the movie, and the long running excellent TV show. The first as as multi-ethnic/racial as could be, had a common experience[army insanity which those formerly under its authority could relate to] and while anti-war was not completely anti-army. B y the TV series’ end it was antiwar and antiamy and nearlt choking on its bile in the ending episode which was good drama of a sad end to the franchise.But Klinger as the darkes-skinned regular? Army integration in the Truman years was definite and not unnoticeable. Or for exampl any show like Perry’s TV efforts or Blackish or animated comedies. Except for the crime/med shows almost no diversity is seen on the small screen.

    There is little difference between word-of-mouth and personal recommendation. I believe the stat re gettting a star’s benefit relates to whatI had said earlier, it is the known quantity they fring to otherwise ifft propositions. Logically more ensemble pieces that could attract stars[plural] should do better. But most plays that are not musicals have exceedingly small casts and are low on ad budgets as well as smaller seat theater occupations It is likely to be a feedback loop situation especially how most MFA programs and play contests are now one act shorts exclusively, which are the most uncommercial of vehicles to present. And do not even mention adaptations, horror, something not completely original?

  • Alexis Marnel says:

    The statistics regarding audiences of color has been a sore point with me for along time. People of color do not just go to “black shows”. But what the budgets are not including is advertising shows in diverse neighborhoods. Even though Jelly’s Last Jam was a virtually all black cast, the advertisements only showed an all white cast – none of the black performers that were in the show (Brenda Braxton, Adrian Bailey, Ken Ard, to name a few) were not included in the billboard.. One of the only times a broadway show was advertised in billboards in harlem and other uptown neighborhoods was for Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk because it was in the contract. To incrase audiences of color we need the people currently producing, etc willing to increase the amount of producers of color on ANY show, spread out the billboard advertising budget to include all neighborhoods in the 5 boroughs, and take a page from the Shonda Rhimes playbook and do color blind caSting (as was done in Kens revival of Godspell). I have mentioned this before but it would be in the best interest of the Broadway League to create a diversity panel to change the statistic.

    • Alexis Marnel says:

      correction: the black performers from smokey joes cafe were not included in the bus advertisments – which means Brenda, Adrian, BJ, Ken, and the rest of the group were not on there. White performers who were not in the show were on the bus advertisements. It was eventually changed, but it was done like that in the beginning which is wrong on thousands of counts.

  • Kim says:

    The stat that struck me the most was the age groups that see shows. It’s no surprise that young people don’t go. Who has the money? Even if you have TDF, $35-$45 per show on a regular basis is super expensive. I’m sure It’s not that they don’t want to go, but if you’re trying to handle just paying rent, that becomes secondary. What about $15-20 tickets certain dates of every month? Make it special so their business is celebrated and appreciated. I know many people who would jump on that. And if the producer makes a point of showing that they understand young audience’s monetary concerns and lifestyle here in the city, you could build a customer for life. My two cents.

  • The above comments on advertising are good. Advertising is very specific and individualized these days. A billboard or printed ad doesn’t cut it. Has Broadway embraced the new advances? I am curious to know the effectiveness of social media versus the effectiveness of traditional advertising. And more specifically, should a producer invest money to make a short video with music and dancing that will attached to internet ads, e-mails and be included in Youtube searches (ie movie trailer style)? What about co-op advertising with hotels, airlines, and tourist sites. Young people travel more frequently than in the past. “Come to NYC for the weekend…” is feasible in todays culture. So, what improvements are financially worthwhile? There is much to discuss here but it does appear to be an area where improvements can be made.

  • Jim Joseph says:

    Next time you’re in a marketing meeting for one of your shows, count the number of non-white faces in the room. And then count the number at your next staff meeting. That’s why minorities aren’t attending much theater. The gatekeepers and those charged with spreading the message are homogenous. Don’t just reach out to people of color when you’re producing MOTOWN or IN THE HEIGHTS. Audience Development is a skill that very few on Broadway have made any legitimate attempts at.

  • Janis says:

    Almost every negative statistic could be associated with over-priced tickets which should be the focus of future budgetary choices. If Broadway is to survive, lower ticket prices must be achieved without lowering quality of productions which means spending must be decreased in the least quality associated expenses.
    I find myself increasingly desensitized to advertising and hype. I avoid movies, etc. that are over-advertised and over-hyped because far too often it seems the shows most advertised and hyped are of lower quality. It’s as if producers have determined to place their focus on marketing rather than the qualify of their show.
    Another diversion from quality is spectacle. If the audience are impressed only by tremendous sets, lights, and costumes, the story and emotional journey for which we all long has failed. Spectacle may appear effective in the short-trm, but as with advertising, we are becoming desensitized. Only a great story with the impact of an emotional journey will resonate long enough to inspire audiences to return to the theater and recommendations it to friends. Advertising and hype budgets should be cut.
    Another waste of time for me is celebrity performers. Most are experet in their art forms, and some are good at the craft of Broadway, but the art form is far different than concerts or movies and again most shows that focus on the attraction of a star have sacrificed the emotional impact of Broadway.
    Overall, if Broadway is to not only address ticket prices, it must do so without sacrificing quality of the product.

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