How a Lifetime in Banking Paved the Way to Predicting Broadway Audiences

News   How a Lifetime in Banking Paved the Way to Predicting Broadway Audiences
 
Lee Gallagher was active in the arts in the small town where he grew up. When he went to college, he at one point contemplated switching his major from business to the arts, but he was dissuaded by his family, who thought a business degree a better bet in terms of stability.

Lee Gallagher
Lee Gallagher

But Gallagher never lost his love of the arts, and, when he retired from IBM after 22 years of number-crunching and data analysis in service of huge companies and corporations, he decided to apply what he had learned to the theatre world.

"I feel the arts sometimes, from a technology standpoint, is overlooked," said Gallagher. “When you're at a Broadway show, you can see a lot of technology. What I mean by 'overlooked' is larger companies that are working in technology and data, but don’t have offerings specifically for performance."

Gallagher’s company, Arts & Analytics, definitely does have offerings for the arts. On May 14, it unveiled a new software initiative called PatronLink360 designed to help producers and arts organizations better understand and find their audiences and donors.

While at IBM, Gallagher deployed his skills to help large banks, utilities and hospitality industry giants. His title was Director of Precision Marketing when he left.

"I really wanted to apply all the knowledge that we had to the arts world, because I was passionate about it," explained Gallagher about his new, post-IBM career. "Wouldn’t it be cool if we could use their data and do a better job about predicting their audiences?" Generally speaking, theatres and producers are still operating in the 20th century when it comes to analyzing and finding potential theatregoers. The way they go about finding folks to fill the seats hasn’t changed much in the last 40 years.

"I’ve been in this business long enough to remember subscription marketing, where the whole goal was to send out as many brochures as you could," said Tom Gabbard, the president and CEO of Blumenthal Performing Arts and an early convent to Arts & Analytics' services.

"It was described as 'cast your bread upon the waters,'" Gabbard continued. “We were all encouraged to do mass-market subscription. And that was the model that worked for so many years. But now, I think we’re realizing that, number one, that's not cost effective to market so broadly. And even when the cost is not that significant, as with email, that kind of broad blasting has become a problem. We find consumers tuning out and unsubscribing from lists when they get messages that are not relevant to them."

Gallagher’s methods aim to stop such waste and patron alienation through precision marketing and a very narrow focus on the interests and proclivities of potential theatregoers. "Making sure buyers are interested in what you’re selling," is how Gabbard puts it.

"Let’s say for some reason you have an amazing sold-out house, and the next day your audience falls off," explained Gallagher by way of example of how his service works. "You probably want to know what was so different about that first night. We’re actually able to upload the names of the people that attended. What our software does is it automatically adds in up to 500 different buying behaviors. You could find out what percentage of males and females that attended; the education levels; how far did they live from the show."

By this process, you can use the software to "find 10,000 people who are a lot like the audience that came last night."

The analysis can get quite specific, right down to eating habits and whether the ticketbuyers own pets. "You could see if they like wine or organic food — we have so many characteristics. It helps you understand the kind of audience that you’re attracting," said Gallagher. The software can also be used to enable producers to do a better job when raising money for shows and searching for potential donors. The data tracks peoples' donations — not just the habits of arts patrons, but "who’s donating to theatres on a regular basis, who’s donated to religious causes, to political causes, environmental causes," said Gallagher. "There are a lot of different aspects you can break down."

A few organizations have already adopted PatronLink360, including the Denver Center for Performing Arts, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as well as Blumenthal, which acted as a sort of "guinea pig" for the last year, said Gabbard.

It’s paid off, said Gabbard. He explained that Gallagher dived deep into Blumenthal’s audience and donor data and hooked it up with outside databases and research. "The cost of reaching out to third parties for research — that’s just something that we cannot afford," said Gabbard, but Gallagher was able to do it "in an affordable way and timely way."

Gabbard further said that Blumenthal has experienced significant success in reactivating old consumers, particularly on the email side. "We’ve seen our unsubscribe rates drop significantly because we’re only talking to people about the things that they really are interested in," he said, "so it’s information that truly is relevant."

According to Gallagher, putting together such precise demographic information in the past would take $40,000 and six weeks. PatronLink360, meanwhile, is available as a subscription service with a relatively monthly fee of a few hundred dollars.

As he expected, Gallagher is enjoying working in the arts. He sees certain advantages in dealing with arts workers that he didn’t in his past clients.

"What I love about the arts, they have a lot more agility than a large marketing department in a big company," he said. "They’re able to able and change more quickly."

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