Audience participation: Clonmel doesn’t rock, but Kerry feels good

What do audiences want, when will they take a risk and what are they spending their money on?

Let’s dance: members of the Siamsa Tire production of Oilean in rehearsal at the Pavilion Theatre Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien

Let’s dance: members of the Siamsa Tire production of Oilean in rehearsal at the Pavilion Theatre Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien

Sat, Apr 6, 2013, 07:00

NOLLAIG HEALY
Clonmel, Co Tipperary
General manager of Clonmel Junction Festival, which works year round producing, presenting and promoting arts events in Clonmel, culminating in an annual 10-day festival each July.


What is popular at the moment?
From our ticket sales, classical music and known theatre.

What is not popular?
Rock music. In Clonmel, the 18-25-year- old bracket don’t like paying for tickets. Contemporary dance is difficult to sell.


What is the biggest challenge to selling tickets?
Motivating people to go to an unknown event.


What is the biggest factor in determining the ticket price?
We put a lot of thought and research into our ticket pricing. We look at what other festivals are doing, then we think of bundles and family-ticket pricing.
What is the hardest audience to access?
The 18-25 year old bracket is a mystery. While they engage with us on Facebook, Twitter and love hanging out in the festival club, they don’t go to shows or concerts.

What are the challenges to being outside Dublin ?
We don’t have a proper theatre, therefore we have had to create our own theatre spaces which is costly. From a tourism point of view, transport to Clonmel is difficult.


NIAMH HONER
Tällaght, south Dublin
Audience development and marketing manager at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght, Dublin, which opened in 1999. It is both a producing and receiving venue.


What is popular at the moment?
Anything lighthearted; a good story .


What is not?
Niche art forms; anything we are asking people to take a risk on.


What is the biggest challenge to selling tickets?
One of the big challenges is trying to market a considerable amount of events from different genres. There is not as much audience crossover as may be perceived.

What is the biggest factor in determining the ticket price?
There are a number of factors: whether it’s an amateur or professional performance; whether it is being performed in the studio or the main auditorium; the length of the performance.


What is the hardest audience to access?
Non-attenders, people who do not engage with the arts in general. This is why access to the arts through education, such as our Tenderfoot Programme, is critical.


What is your greatest competition?
Any form of entertainment, people are living on restricted budgets and we have to fight for a share of that spend.


What are the challenges to being outside the city centre?
Our brief is not to compete with the plethora of venue options in the City Centre but to provide a varied programme to our community.


CATRÍ ONA FALLON
Tralee, Co Kerry
General manager of Siamsa Tíre, National Folk Theatre and Arts Centre, which moved to its permanent home in Tralee in 1991. The building programmes work from the National Folk Theatre between May and September, and hosts touring exhibitions and productions and local community arts events for the rest of the year.


What is popular at the moment?
Feel-good events. There is a hunger for arts events that are life affirming, or that make you laugh, or even predictable. With less money, patrons are almost looking for a degree of certainty about what’s on offer and are less likely to take risks.
What is not?
Anything that might be perceived as obscure or without a track record, or with a theme seen as too gritty, too grim. People get a lot of gloomy introspection in the news and many, though not all, are looking for some old-fashioned entertainment.


What is the biggest challenge to selling tickets?
Ticket prices and ticket yield have decreased in the past five years. In marketing the productions of the National Folk Theatre, it would probably be the language.
What is the hardest audience to access?
Those between 18 and 25. It’s probably less about accessing than convincing them.


What is your greatest competition?
The television or the laptop. Anything seen as easier to access or less expensive. Good weather is also competition.


What are the challenges to being outside Dublin ?
There isn’t a sense of a broader arts infrastructure that we can be part of. It’s much harder to get coverage from national media; we’re hard to get to, and time is money. Local media has more power so national advertising by touring companies has less impact. But the advantages are probably there too.


JANICE BELTON
Longford, Co Longford
Marketing and promotions manager at the Backstage Theatre in Longford, which opened in 1995 as the first theatre to be established in the midlands.


What is popular at the moment?
Well-known theatre, well-known theatre companies, comedy. Also, locally produced and amateur theatre has a particular following that is more consistent.


What is not?
New work, unknown or challenging work. We recently reintroduced a special one-off money-back guarantee offer on a production. It takes away the element of fear and encourages people to take a risk.
What is the biggest challenge to selling tickets?
People are much more cautious about their spending. They have become more selective about what they choose to attend and the frequency of attendance is dropping. They are less likely to take a chance on new work.


What is the biggest factor in determining the ticket price?
We have not altered our ticket price since the economic downturn, but we have increased the product surround: after-show talks, workshops, etc. People are being more selective, rather than price-sensitive, about what they see.


What is the most difficult audience to access?
The 18-29 age group is difficult to attract, particularly as we don’t have a college or institute of technology in the region. Since the economic downturn many young people have moved away from the area and this has impacted on attendance again.


What is your greatest competition?
It might sound strange, but busy lifestyles are the biggest obstacle to attendance.


What are the challenges to being outside Dublin ?
It is harder to attract audience for niche theatre. We are dependent on what work is touring and runs tend to be shorter so that means that there is less time to build word of mouth.