Theatre Thoughts: Audience Demographics

I recently came across this infographic on Time Out's 'Now-Here-This' Column:

Image Source: J.Cheshire, O.Umberti, The Information Capital, Particular Books

The image shows theatre attendance amongst Londoners and compares them in the tab on the left to trends in other major cities around the world. It was accompanied by this quote:

"In 2012 Londoners watched nearly twice as many theatre performances as music gigs, and for every 100,000 of us we watched just 35 dance shows."

Each year there are an estimated 1,472 dance performances in London alone ( this figure includes one off events as well as touring productions and resident shows at places such as Sadler's Wells and The Royal Opera House.

So why are Londoners watching so few of them? 

According to research from TicketMaster, the worlds largest ticketing agency, there are a few statistics that might explain this trend. (N.B. The link is a really interesting article - definitely worth a read!)
  • Demographics: 16-19 year olds are more likely to attend the theatre than any other age group
  • Ticket prices: cost is the main barrier to entry for both attendees and non-attendees

How do audiences find out about a show?

Word of mouth - 28%

I have taken a couple of examples from the article: if word of mouth is the main method of people choosing to go and see a show, the relatively poor attendance figures of Dance shows causes a vicious cycle: fewer people to recommend the performance means less people likely to visit and so on.

Dance performances may also be seen as less accessible to those who may not have experienced dance before. Again, this is a self-perpetuating cycle - the less people go to watch dance performances, the less people may in the future!

The age range of those considered likely to book theatre tickets is interesting. I feel that dance shows, along with opera and operetta, are considered slightly elitist and therefore are aimed at an older demographic than those that the TicketMaster research suggests are the most likely to visit. Perhaps productions need to rethink their marketing and presentation strategies to attempt to appeal to a younger audience.

This is often attempted with productions by the English National Ballet aiming their work at children, and events at The London Coliseum intended to attract a younger audience, but it's obvious there is still some way to go!

Coppelia for Kids?: Image Source - atgtickets

However, theatre itself is experiencing a resurgence in London, possibly due to the proliferation of deals, cut price ticket offers and growing tourism in the wake of the recession.

"According to the Society of London Theatre, 2012 was a record year for Theatreland with 13,992,773 visits..." (BBC News - also an extremely interesting article!)

Personally I believe that shows deliberately aimed at this 16-19 aged audience are responsible for this upsurge: 'The Book Of Mormon' is one of the most successful productions of recent history: with writers known for popular comedy films and cartoons, a mocking tone and catchy songs, this seems to be the way to hook a captive audience!

'The Book Of Mormon' marketing strategy was also aimed at a younger audience. Tube posters carried Tweets and Hashtags, making the show seem more like a collaborative event as opposed to a removed performance.

"Social media is hugely popular among theatre audiences. Nearly a quarter (24%) tweet about the performance they are about to see or have already see. Among 16 to 19-year olds this rises to nearly half (47%). Meanwhile, around one in five theatregoers are using social media to write reviews about what they have seen. However, only around 3% are currently getting their information about theatre through social media – this could indicate that theatres are not using social media to its full extent to market shows." - TicketMaster Report (

This strategy seems to have paid off as tickets sold out for months in advance of opening, despite initially receiving mixed reviews from critics.

Book Of Mormon poster with Tweets - Image Source:

Personally I love going to see dance shows, however given the choice between a dance production or a musical, I would probably choose the musical. The statistics in the initial infographic seem to back this up but I couldn't tell you why! 

Why do you think this is so?

Originally Published at


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