How Digital Program Books Create Data-Driven Connections

A significant amount of research has been performed investigating the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on America’s arts sector. While this research is an important step in the process of restoring the sector, your performing arts organization needs a way to move forward. Discover how digital program books and digital performances are changing the way organizations are gathering, analyzing, and implementing audience data and interacting with their audience.

These innovations affect every performing arts organization. Digital programs and streaming events aren’t just important for musicians and theatre artists. Discover how they affect your unique performing arts organization and how you can make the most of these changes in the industry.

How the Pandemic Affected Performing Arts Participation

Americans for the Arts research estimates that only 52% of arts attendees have resumed in-person program attendance as of October 2021. January 2021 saw the number of jobs in the industry rebound to approximately 1.7 million, which is still significantly less than the 2.5 million estimated in February 2020.

While these are stark numbers, arts organizations all over the country and the world are doing something about it. Performing artists and organizations are pivoting to providing online streaming, convenient advanced ticket sales opportunities, and state-of-the-art program books to move even closer than ever to their audiences.

These changes are here to stay. Many organizations show no sign of giving up the new digital tools or removing digital experiences from their performance schedule. The pandemic may have adversely impacted the arts sector, but it also opened up new opportunities for connecting with patrons and celebrating artists.

Online Streaming

Online streaming events offered several key benefits for arts organizations. While they may not have the same visceral, face-to-face qualities of an in-person event, audiences and organizations have enjoyed streaming events for the following reasons:

  • Safe arts opportunities
  • International attendance possibilities
  • Comprehensive data realities

Streaming allows artists to record performances in small groups or individually in their own homes. This allowed over a million professionals to continue to work in the industry during the pandemic.

Many artists were surprised by the geographical locations of ticket sales for their streaming events. Areas of the globe and of the country that weren’t discussed before suddenly appeared as potential touring locations. Online streaming allowed fans and arts supporters to attend events they otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to travel to.

Thanks to innovative digital program books, online ticket sales, and streaming viewership, arts organizations can collect a broad range of data points. This data includes location and purchase information. Using this data, your organization can identify geographic areas where your performances are most popular. You can also identify superfans, or art enthusiasts likely to attend many events and purchase additional merchandise or experiences.

Greater Need for Advanced Ticket Sales

Once performing arts venues started allowing in-person events again, many were limited in attendance. These limitations created an even greater need for advanced ticket sales.

The pandemic may have increased the need for advanced ticket sales, but it didn’t offer a solution for helping audience members order tickets before an event. Some audience members needed reminders, while others struggled to work through traditional online ticket sales channels.

State-of-the-Art Program Books

Online performing arts events still need program books, so organizations needed to pivot in their program book material distribution process. Instead of handing out physical program books, digital alternatives were necessary to continue to highlight important information, give proper credit to performing artists, and help keep superfans connected.

Some organizations have been hesitant to adopt digital alternatives to physical program books and other resources. This hesitancy may be due to a lack of understanding of digital alternatives. You don’t need to require your patrons to download a new app, visit your website, or even use a smartphone to access program book information from their phone. A text-based digital program book is accessible and convenient for a broad range of audience members.

How Audience Access Digital Program Books Can Create an Immersive Experience

Digital program books contain more information and data collection opportunities than traditional program books. Whether you’re planning an online event or an in-person performance at your venue, a digital program book creates an immersive experience that opens up new channels of communication and data collection.

Many of the innovations the performing arts industry had to rely on during the pandemic are here to stay. Organizations may have turned to digital program books out of necessity, but there are distinct benefits of these digital program books for your organization and your patrons.

Add Layers of Information

A traditional program book may contain upcoming events, artist information, and some advertisements. This basic information needed to be supplemented with announcements, inserts, and other forms of communication.

Digital program books allow you to alter the information in real-time. They can also offer these convenient features for your patrons:

  • Ticket sales
  • Surveys
  • Text-to-donate feature
  • Consierge service
  • Direct call or text options

A digital program book is sent via text messaging, so your patrons can easily access it, share it, and save it. Your patrons don’t need to install any apps or have specific phones to enjoy your program book.

Streamline Ticket Sales

Calling the box office may have worked in the past, but modern ticket sales professionals need a more convenient platform. Many modern performing arts events require all audience members to pre-purchase tickets, which can add a considerable workload to your box office staff.

Some online systems are too confusing for patrons. Visiting a box office used to be a popular option, but became a challenge during the pandemic. Calling the box office tied up arts organization professionals at a time when staff shortages made it inconvenient.

A ‘buy tickets’ link in your digital program book allows patrons to immediately order tickets for future events. Managing the ticket ordering process through text messages reduces the number of calls your box office will receive, which streamlines the entire experience for both patrons and staff.

Personalize Your Marketing Strategy

A physical program book makes it difficult to gauge what your audience is interested in. Digital program books streamline the process to improve feedback opportunities. They also make it simple to donate to your organization or visit sponsor websites through integrated links.

Track program book usage and click-through rates on all your links for personalized data collection. This process allows arts organizations to work with sponsors to improve the value of their advertisements.

You can talk to donors about the success of their advertisements when you use a digital program book. Instead of requiring your donors to perform their marketing research, you can show them click-through rates of their ads in your program. This is a great place to start a conversation about the success of advertising in your program books and what a fair investment would be for this opportunity.

Communicate Directly With Your Patrons

Remove communication barriers between your organization and your patrons. Integrate two-way messaging or call forwarding into your program book to communicate seamlessly with patrons. These features help audience members ask questions, recommend future events, or applaud an inspiring performance.

Some audience members have excellent advice on the performances that would fit your organization’s mission and audience values. Other audience members would love to learn more about working with or donating to your organization. A digital program book accessed through text messages breaks down participation walls between your organization and these valued members of your audience.

How Audience Data Can Reshape the Performing Arts Experience

All the innovative features of digital program books can dramatically alter the experience, but what can you do with all that data? Performing artists and arts organizations know more about their audiences than ever, thanks to digital strategies that help collect the right data. Here are some insights you may be able to gain from digital program book data.


Are you confident that you know where your biggest fans are? Some performing artists have been surprised by the most popular locations of their attendees. This is an important piece of information for any arts organization but is particularly helpful for touring artists and organizations.

Traditional performing arts program books are physically bound, but digital ones can be accessed around the world. Gather information about where patrons are viewing your program book and use it to consider streaming events or touring locations for future events.

Shopping Interests

Add merchandise links to digital program books to give your fans an easy way to purchase items from your organization. These links can improve sales of merchandise, but they also give you information about the items more commonly sold.

Find out what merchandise is most commonly sold to audience members, particularly your superfans, to make informed decisions about new merchandise creation. Some organizations have added VIP events or digital experiences to their online stores to continue to tailor the experience for superfans.

Attention Spans

Whether you’re designing a setlist for your next concert or selecting a script for your next theatrical performance, be sure you factor in the attention span of your audience. Organizations can take for granted that audiences want a concert that lasts about two hours and a theatrical performance that lasts about two-and-a-half hours.

Are these times best for your audience? Digital performing arts program books and digital streaming events can help you find out. These digital opportunities help you understand attention span through participation lengths, surveys, and other signals. Gather this data to consider whether you should shorten or lengthen future performing arts events.

Preferred Communication Channel

Are your patrons typically calling, texting, or filling out online forms? The data gathered by digital program books allows you to confidently answer this question and provide your patrons with their preferred communication channel.

Keep the conversation going and make the ticket sales experience smooth for all your audience members with expanded communication opportunities. Text messaging ticket sales and donation options are very convenient for many audience members, helping you engage with them more and increase ticket sales.

Personalized Texts

Cater to your superfans and diehard arts enthusiasts with personalized texts. Mass texting to all or a select few of your patrons is just one of the innovative features you can enjoy when you use digital performing arts program books.

A text-based platform with custom keywords allows your audience to segment themselves. By texting responses, clicking links, or requesting specific information, your audience members are giving you information about their interests. Use this information to further personalize your program book design for future performances.

Some artists have used this feature to offer direct communication with their audiences. Offer opportunities for superfans to text, call, or video call with their favorite artist. Consider using this feature as a paid service or sweepstakes opportunity to raise awareness and funds for your organization.

Why You Should Collect Data Outside of Social Media Channels

Social media marketing used to be the gold standard for data collection and audience participation. While these channels still exist, they rely on external platforms with shifting audiences and participation. Digital program books can be more customizable and convenient than social media channels for your organization.

The specific information you can collect from a social media channel can be more limited than a digital program book. For example, you can link to donor content and announce upcoming events, but these channels aren’t convenient for collecting donations or processing ticket sales.

Social media outreach is limited by the number of patrons who use these channels. With a growing number of channels, it can be incredibly time-consuming to be sure your information reaches every patron. A text message-based solution doesn’t require patrons to have accounts on any channel to reach them and learn more about them.

Use Data to Power Your Audience Connection

Create new audience and patron connections with digital program books. Try Audience Access for free with a community plan designed for your organization. See how you can learn more about your patrons and streamline the program book experience for your audience members today.

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