For „50%“ not to remain the „New Sold Out“

Audience Development-Workshop for the Deutscher Bühnenverein

In the face of visitor numbers that still haven’t reached pre-pandemic levels and of less than boisterous audience trends already before COVID the IKMW on 10 June 2022 gave a workshop on Audience Development at the annual meeting of the Deutscher Bühnenvereins (DBV) at the Oldenburg State Theater – it was the most frequented out of seven workshops offered to the member theatres.

In a facilitated inventory Achim Müller collected and structured the experiences and knowledge of participating theatres. The research followed three guiding questions: Who comes, whom do we know? Whom do we miss, whom do we want to come? How and where do we want to seek, find, motivate and bind them?

To complement this experience-based kowledge Achim Müller and Klaus Siebenhaar introduced basic results from scientific research on visitor structure, motivation, behaviour and development.

The core findings were humbling, but not very surprising: significant decrease of visits, specifically among frequent visitors; both encouraging and disappointing expereinces both with measures to regain former and with those to attract new audiences visitors – and, lingering above, the insight already formulated by Bourdieu in the 1960s: Programming that is truly visitor-oriented  – including innovative participatory formats and new venues – together with adequate, if possible personalised communications remain remain the core of all successful audience development.

The results made it clear: For the future theatres don’t really need additional general research projects without reference to concrete measures. For audience development to be at the same time art-oriented and evidence-based they should instead invest in a process of research & development focussing on developing and testing specific activities, formats and strategies. The IKMW already has entered talks with the DBV to start such a project with selected theatres.