New work for new audiences: an approach to audience development

New work for new audiences: an approach to audience development

By Giles Pearman


Explore Welsh National Opera's approaches to reaching new audiences and delve into the evaluation of Classic FM-supported concerts in this presentation by Lucy Shorrocks and Giles Pearman.

This presentation will begin with a look at:

  • how reaching new audiences affects your organisation, particularly when making it a central plank of your work
  • the history of WNO's previous behaviour (looking at a project that went wrong as well as a success story)
  • The Chorus! case study, including the campaign results and legacy
  • our conclusions

Although this presentation focuses on a specific event aimed at new audiences, it is important to be clear that new work is not the only, or even necessarily the best, way of attracting new audiences. Indeed WNO aims to put opera on the 'going out' agenda for new audiences more generally by:

  • offering 250 tickets for every WNO performance at the Wales Millennium Centre at £5 (when WNO moved into the Millennium Centre it doubled the capacity of the house and a new pricing strategy was put in place, including reducing the top price from £47 to £35 and offering £5 tickets that could be booked in advance)
  • conducting special promotion campaigns de-mystifying opera for those who have not tried it before
  • the fresh2opera website which has won numerous awards and uses accessible language
  • extensive education and outreach work (including new commissions)
  • specifically commissioned work

First of all, the story of WNO's Carmen. The Education Director was keen on the idea of a one hour, one act Carmen which would have the passion and the punch to attract new audiences. Tickets were £10 and it was a big undertaking, utilising the full WNO resources (orchestra, chorus and principals). Performances were staged at 1.30pm and 6.30pm (the latter to reach the commuter audience) and it was aimed at people new to opera. However, there were a number of issues with the project:

  • confusion over who the event was for, and although the 1.30pm performances sold well to schools, the 6.30pm performances didn't attract a commuter audience
  • as the project was to attract 'new people' there wasn't any specific targeting of particular groups
  • the venues were not involved in the detailed planning of the project: WNO depends on its relationships with its tour venues and they were nervous about losing a main scale show, as well as concerns over the timing of the performances and the abridged nature
  • because the performance was only one hour it did not deliver the full impact of the opera experience
  • low audiences, with the evening performances averaging only 300 (a respectable number but not ideal in the context of a 1,500 seat house)

As a result Chorus! was approached in a very different way.

Download the PDF presentation to read more

Resource type: | Published: 2013