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Home / Blog / Communities / Introducing the Festivals Audience Lab

Introducing the Festivals Audience Lab

Lisa Simmons, Program Manager

Festivals Audience Lab participants meeting in October 2019. Photo: Catherine Peterson.
Festivals Audience Lab participants meeting in October 2019. Photo: Catherine Peterson.

Mass Cultural Council has embarked on a new pilot program aimed at Festivals. As part of our commitment to support the sustainability and viability of festivals in Massachusetts, we have enlisted 10 festivals to take part in a year-long Festivals Audience Lab.

The Audience Lab, a program conceived by ArtsBoston, seeks to help organizations build diverse audiences in the arts and culture sector through disruptive innovations in marketing practices. It builds a community of knowledge and practice around marketing and audience development, using data-informed experimentation to test new strategies intended to build and deepen more diverse audiences.

The Festivals Audience Lab will guide 10 participating festivals  – selected from Festivals Program grantees – to take a deeper look at their current audience, their practices around accessibility and inclusion, and the marketing and promotion of their festivals in order to reach wider audiences. The outcome of the pilot will be the creation of resource-rich guide that will be shared with all of our funded festivals to bring the learning full circle.

Participating Festivals include:

Festivals were chosen based on regional diversity as well as their ability to have 2-3 members participate in monthly meetings for the year-long pilot. In addition, it was important for the cohort to have a thematic diversity so that the Audience Lab would have a number of different examples from which to draw from when creating the culminating resource guide.

At our first in-person meeting last month, festival representatives came together to learn from each other about social media techniques, marketing and PR approaches, and data collection practices. The cohort reflected on ways that they could use information that was shared and bring it back to their organizations as they prepare for their upcoming festivals. As a common theme, participating festivals all are interested in increasing attendance and diversifying their audiences as well as learning about ways to further engage their audiences. Participating festivals also reflected on some common roadblocks they have experienced around measuring attendance, and drawing more diverse audiences (especially outside of their local geographic areas). Future cohort meetings will address specific topics offering best practices and insight from industry professional around audience development, inclusion and accessibility, and marketing.

As we learn from the cohort over the next year, we will be updating our festivals resources page and providing information that comes out of the Lab.

Learn more about the Festivals Program. The next grant cycle opens January 3, 2020 for Spring/Summer festivals that occur between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020.


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