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The Broadway visitor: lily-white, female, loyal and well above the Balkenende norm

These are data that somehow do not make the press here, because they are about America, which is not in the Netherlands. Still, it is interesting to take a closer look at the composition of the audience on Broadway. After all, that is where, in the wet dreams of VVD/PVV celebrities like Bart @deliefde and @halbezijlstra, the future of Dutch culture lies.

We took a look at the official figures of the totally unsubsidised musical and theatre circuit on Broadway. They come from the Broadway League, or the trade association of Broadway producers, and are compiled in the booklet 'Who Goes to Broadway? The Demographics of the Broadway Audience 2010-2011 Season'. In it, we read what the absence of any form of state aid does to a cultural sector.

Coming up are a few highlights, courtesy of broadway blogger and producer Ken Davenport:

  • 62 % of tickets were bought by tourists
  • 65% of the audience are women
  • average age 44, which is slightly older than in previous seasons
  • 83%(!) of tickets were bought by white (caucasian) theatre-goers
  • Of those over 25, 78 per cent had college attended college (i.e. at least havo) and 39% held an academic degree.
  • In terms of income, Broadway visitors were wealthy. On average, they gave up $244,100 a year to the - already barely existing - tax
  • The average broadway visitor attended at least five shows that year.
  • Drama fans were more loyal than musical fans: drama fans went 8 times, musical fans 5 times.
  • True fans, i.e. people who bought tickets at least 15 times, make up 6% of the audience, but thus buy 33% of all tickets.
  • For information, broadway visitors were less likely to flip open the newspaper, than to hit sites like broadway.com clicked on. Main source of information appeared to be word of mouth. Advertisements in newspapers or on TV did not influence the decision to visit. Discount offers did.

The Dutch situation - thanks to generous subsidy and distribution policies - is somewhat more favourable, at least if you favour art that reaches more sections of the population. But we should not beat ourselves up about it. The theatre-goer here is a lot older than the average Broadway customer, and tickets here, even for the unsubsidised offerings, are dirt cheap. Especially when you understand that the incentives that attract US audiences to theatres (discount offers, gifts) are already in full use here.

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