The Demographics of the Broadway Audience 2014-2015

Broadway Marketing is an open book test.  Literally.

Every “this time of year,” The Broadway League sends all of its members a book.  That book contains a complete breakdown of who came to Broadway shows in the last calendar year, where they heard about Broadway shows, why they came, how much money they earn, whether they bring their families, and so on, etc. etc.

For Producers like me, who sometimes wish demographic data was a liquid I could dive into and bathe myself with, it’s one of my favorite things to get in the mail every year.

When you know who the primary customers in an industry are, it is much easier to create a marketing plan to reach them.  You wouldn’t go on a trip without knowing where your destination was, would you?  Not researching who the primary customers are in your chosen field, whether that’s Broadway or worm farming, is the quickest way to get lost, and lose a lot of money.

Now, that’s not to say new audiences can’t be found and shouldn’t be cultivated (I always portion a piece of my marketing budget to developing an audience that I feel may be unique to the show I’m working on), but if there is one thing we know about Broadway shows . . . it’s that we live/recoup or die/don’t recoup based on how the traditional audience responds to what’s on our stage.

That’s why I love doing a pencil dive into the pool of demographics The League sends out each year.

And it’s also why I share some of that data with you!

Below, please find the Executive Summary from The League’s office report (along with some comments from me).

And if you want the full 52 page book from The League, click here to order your own copy.

Enjoy the swimming!

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • In the 2014-2015 season, there were a record breaking 13.1 million admissions to Broadway shows.  Approximately two-thirds of those were made by tourists: 49% from the United States (but outside New York City and its suburbs) and 18% from other countries.
  • Sixty-eight percent of the audiences were female.
  • The average age of the Broadway theatregoer was 44 years.
  • Almost eighty percent of all tickets were purchased by Caucasian theatregoers.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  It will be interesting to see if this number changes in next year’s report since we have such a diverse group of offerings this year including The Color Purple, Hamilton, Eclipsed, Shuffle Along, On Your Feet, etc.)
  • Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 78% had completed college and 39% had earned a graduate degree.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  College kids may not want to pay a lot for tickets now, but they obviously will in the future . . . so we should focus on this audience big time.)
  • 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 less than 5.6% of the audience, but accounted for 32% of tickets (4.2 million admissions).  (NOTE FROM KEN:  5.6% representing 32%? Wow.  So much for the 80/20 rule.)
  • 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.
  • Over one-half of the respondents said they purchased their tickets online.
  • The average reported date of ticket purchase for a Broadway show was 36 days before the performance.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  Got a promotion? Make sure it launches a month before you want folks to show up.)
  • 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:  I guess the star-driven revival is here to stay.)
  • The most popular reported sources for theatre information were Broadway.com, Ticketmaster.com, and the New York Times.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  Two of the three were ticketing sites?  Huh.)

 

What do you think of the above?  How would you use this to market your Broadway show?

Or, how would you use this to develop your Broadway 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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Comments
  • Iris says:

    To the last point:
    I know that Broadway.com is technically a ticketing site, but I would guess there is a large group of people who use the site as a resource and read their articles without even using it to buy tickets. I personally consider is an alternative to Playbill.com and Broadwayworld.com, and have never (and will never) buy a ticket there. It’s still my preferred source for all things Broadway. I value them for their content & accuracy (and restraint) of reporting news, in combination with a pleasing layout As a matter of fact, I had been using broadway.com for years without even being aware that they sell ticket (I think I saw the links and assumed it would redirect to the original ticket source).
    Just something to keep in mind when thinking about broadway.com as a “ticketing website”

  • Carvanpool says:

    Suspicious and mostly spurious data. Self selected respondents and a tainted data set.

    Grains of salt for one and all.

    • Cliff Thompson says:

      I don’t really have “a dog in this fight,” but I wonder if you might elaborate on your reasons why the Broadway League data is spurious. How is the survey data collected? How is the data set tainted? If you would prefer to send me to your information source for these claims, I’ll be glad to read that. I’m a college prof. and I share this data with my students annually.

      Thank you for any thoughtful responses you might share.

  • As always, this information is fascinating, but thankfully it is not the primary guide for developing new Broadway musicals by the lead producers with the best track records in town. If it had been, the three biggest hits so far this season, HAMILTON, THE COLOR PURPLE and ON YOUR FEET would never have seen the light of day.

    Fortunately for all of us,these most insightful and intuitive producers know that the quality and accessibility of a show’s script and music and how it speaks to our shared human condition are the two most important factors that determine whether or not a new show will be successful. Trying to concoct the ultimate project to appeal to 44 year old Caucasian women is a fool’s errand that almost never works. Middle aged Caucasian women like the same things we all do, of course. Shows that leave us with hope, love and an affirmation of our shared humanity. That’s why everyone who was ever a child or parent loves FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, not just Jewish people with a shared ancestry , and why we all cry when HAMILTON moves uptown whether Alexander Hamilton is brown, black, white or green.

  • Norlan says:

    Ken, great stats to think about. I appreciated the effort to help guide promotional directions to where the majority of ticket responses are generated. With the expense of promotion and the multiple choices our theater goers are presented with, it helps to have an edge by considering the facts. Of course those facts are generated by what’s offered, but, it helps to be able to have the stats in the effort to become one of those four musicals the average attendee is going to see. I realized your comments where directed to where one night focus on promoting their show, as opposed to what the content of the show should be, unlike some of the respondent’s offended attitude in mistakenly assuming you were suggesting what would be the more successful subject matter. We all know quality dictates the interest; hip-hop Hamilton being the perfect example. Thanks again Ken for your insights. Every little bit helps.

    • RICK says:

      Ken, I agree 100% with what Norlan, my writer and business partner said….”….focus on promoting their show, as opposed to what the content of the show should be”… One of the many reasons people should be open minded to new and off the A typical Plays and Musicals…or….As YOU… have said, “Ken’s mission is…. to do @#$% that other people don’t.” Thanks Ken!! …..Doing…”Whatever it Takes” …Today, February 22 is 2 months since we sat in your NYC office and YOU gave us great insight and direction for our Musical..GTM…THANKS!

  • larry little says:

    I am curious about the “average” age statistic. What is the median age? Does the sample exclude children? Is there a breakdown of the “average” musical attendee that attends more than one show a year?

  • Thanks for the “heads up” that the Broadway League has posted their executive summary. I refer to this data every year in several of my classes. Last year’s data reported an average household income of $201M. The rest of the stats look pretty much the same as they did last year. I wonder, too, how many billions in gross sales the Broadway League estimates is generated for the city of New York. A Big Billion-Dollar business run by a lot of producers with little imagination, in my view.

    Still it’s good to see the financial and demographic landscape. Until Broadway theatre tickets drop in price, it will never be on the entertainment radar of most of the young people that I work with. However, those who love theatre will see a local production or a touring show every time!

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