Q&A with our BOSS
For the last seven months, I’ve been working at thrive as the Box-Office Systems Specialist. Soon, I’ll be moving into a new role as Sector Programme Co-Ordinator, looking at projects which help arts and culture organisations better understand the needs and wants of all different aspects of their audiences. Since the former role is now open, I thought it may be good to talk to anyone considering it through what it looks like:
What’s the role about?
Box-Office Systems Specialist is a role focused on telling the story of audiences through ticketing data. It’s also focused on offering a good deal of support and help to arts and culture organisations. Using ticketing software, we can see how and when people book for events, their frequency of attendance, and where they are coming from. With these points of information, we can start to build a narrative of what audiences look like, what their preferences are, and how they relate to organisations. No two audiences are the same – there are many that exist just in one place’s database - and no one is more valuable than the another, so it’s great to have an evidential framework to work from and refer to in terms of who is attending, and who may be missing. You will be talking to a lot of people who run and work at organisations, and using what they say to inform your approach toward them. You will be filling in the big gaps where organisations need you to, in terms of gathering information and interpreting it. This is a role which offers a valuable resource across the arts, where workers are already expected to encompass so many roles within one. Though the numbers are a crucial part, this role is ultimately about people and support.
What’s a typical day like?
No two days are the same in the role. Since you will be helping on other projects other than your own, you get a sense of the variety within cultural work. I have been all over Ireland at various venues, interviewing people across public spaces in different regions, offering practical and back-of-house support at venues, museums, and galleries, as well as asking questions directly to people front-of-house when assessing the impact of exhibitions and arts spaces. This isn’t just a role where you’re solely crunching numbers day-by-day in an office, it’s hands-on and diverse. Sometimes you’ll be working on a big project where you need to really sit down and think about what you’re digging out of the information, but that’s all part of the mix.
What do you enjoy about the role?
I’ve met so many interesting people across the arts and cultural world in this role. People who are genuinely determined about making sure the work they put in counts towards their communities and who want to communicate and extend the value of their organisation and what they offer. It’s great to see how many people really care about those who know them and want to consider each part of their audience. Helping them understand their data is a big part of this. One of my favourite things I worked on was the analysis of a Pay-What-You-Want scheme at the Belfast Book Festival, which sought to democratise pricing and open doors for those who may have otherwise felt shut out of these events. It was great to be a piece in a wider understanding that the way art events are put on – not just the content of them, though that is just as important – is crucial in reacting to a world where cuts and hostility toward the arts seem to be increasingly the norm. Using their ticketing data, we were able to assess what worked well and how to improve on an open-ended, people-minded pricing scheme.
What are the challenges?
Unsurprisingly, the challenges of this role are ones that affect the wider arts world in general. It’s hard to offer support in some regards - even when the numbers are stating facts - because there simply aren’t the resources being offered to venues to take on more work to deal with issues they may have. Since I have been interviewing different venues on their work behind-the-scenes, the same problems of lack of both financial and staff resources keep cropping up. You can only offer insight on how to make things better, but unfortunately the tools are not in your hands to enact what may work.
What did you learn in the last 7 months?
So much. If you like to learn, this role is for you. Not just the means of the job, like ticketing software and data analytics, but how people work across the board and their resolve in making sure they are providing as much as they can in their work. As well as this, I’ve been getting training in things I felt less confident on, learning new skills. I have been given the opportunity to be at so many seminars and workshops in everything from Queering Collections by the Queer Heritage and Collections Network to the Ethics of AI by the AI Museums Network. I’ve learned about audiences, about people, about workers, about the difficulties in having creative prospects based on bureaucratic processes. I’ve learned that organisations are very similar in their focuses and challenges, but that bespoke and personal work is deeply appreciated. Mostly, I’ve learned about the benefit of my role to these places.
Would you recommend others to apply for this role?
Yes. For someone like myself, who only had brief forays into seeing how arts and culture worked professionally, I was worried that I might not be the right ‘kind’ of person for something like this initially. I had worked in hospitality for a decade, doing art outside of that, and didn’t recognise how many of my skills were transferrable to work such as this. By this, I mean things like: clear and non-jargoned communication, the ability to adapt, and approaching people from different walks of life. If you have doubts that you don’t have the right experience or history, but are still interested, don’t be afraid to get in touch to ask about it.
Any last words?
You’re learning, so ask for help and you’ll get it.
We're currently recruiting for our new Box Office Systems Specialist. Find out more information about how to apply here. Applications close on Monday 3rd April at noon.