BLOG 10th June 2020

The box office metrics you should be measuring

Getting audiences through your door the first time is just a first date, not a long term relationship. We want your audiences to attend time and time again, bring their friends to meet you and love you so much that they’ll unabashedly tell all of their family and friends just how wonderful you are.

So how do you get there?

The first step to developing a relationship with your audiences is to evaluate what you know about them. Our recent survey showed that while most cultural organisations know the basics about audiences (e.g., age, gender, location, and other demographics), those doesn’t tell you about their relationship with you. Do audiences attend often? Do they attend year on year? Those are way more important metrics to look at than demographics. After all, both Donald Trump and Mick Jagger are men in their 70s, but they’re very different people.

Data is a good starting point.

Every year, we mine box office data to uncover insights into audiences for venues and festivals across Northern Ireland. This year, we’ve worked with 16 cultural organisations and their data was fed into our Foundations Report, to produce benchmark figures for Northern Ireland, as well as differences by Belfast venues and regional venues. In the report, we looked at the following:

  • Contact rates (marketing opt-ins) – this figure helps you understand how much of your audience base you can contact to develop your relationship
  • Customer loyalty (year on year attendance) – this shows you how well you’re retaining audiences from the previous year
  • Balance of new vs. returning customers – this shows who you rely on more, your new or returning customers
  • Customer engagement (frequency of attending during the year) – this shows how engaged customers are during the year. Do they attend once, or multiple times a year?
  • Ticket yield (total tickets sold divided by total revenue) – knowing your ticket yield and how it compares to the benchmark will help inform future pricing strategies

All of these metrics will help you to work out where you need to put your effort in terms of your audience development priorities.

Here is what the data told us for the 2018-19 financial year:

Cultural organisations in NI can contact just over half (55%) of their database.

This suggests there may be an issue around collecting customer data (such as names, email addresses, and mailing addresses), gathering marketing opt-ins, or both. This also indicates that organisations may want to do some data cleaning – have people attended 10 years ago, but haven’t attended since? It’s worth it to take a closer look to see what’s going on. If you can only talk to half of your audience, how will you begin to form relationships with the other half? You don’t want to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid – being able to talk to your audience is important.

While GDPR did have an impact on contact rates, it wasn’t as big as we feared

Overall, there was only an 8% decrease in the contact rates from the previous year. This is great – most cultural organisations took the right steps and were able to maintain their contact rates despite GDPR.

Most audiences didn’t return the following year.

Approximately two-thirds of customers (68%) didn’t come back to an NI organisation the following year. This begs the question – do you know why they didn’t come back?

Most audiences are only attending once a year.

77% of customers attended only once during the financial year 2018-19. This means that we have a big opportunity to get those single-time attenders to attend more often during the year.

The average ticket yield in NI is £14.19, and ticket yield is higher among Belfast organisations (£21.28) compared to regional ones (£12.44).

If your organisation is much higher or lower than these benchmarks, it may mean that you’re either pricing your tickets too high/low, or you may be doing a lot of discounts and comps (which may not be doing you any favours).

Now what?

We've published the full Foundations Report and you can download it for free. It contains benchmarks for Northern Ireland, as well as Belfast and Regional benchmarks, so if you have access to your ticketing platform, you can compare your own results with the benchmarks.

We also welcome you to take part in the 2019-2020 Foundations Report. Perks of joining the Foundation Report include:

  • Sitting back and relaxing while we do the hard work – we’ll extract and analyse the data so you don’t have to
  • Receiving a tailored report comparing your data to the benchmark, so you’ll know what you’re doing well on, and what you may need to work on
  • Having handy stats to include in future funding applications
  • Being part of the Foundations round-table discussions with other NI cultural organisations, and learning from others just like you

For more information on how to take part in Foundations, please contact Sarah Blake Knox at

Alix Craig

Sector Programme Coordinator

Related Blog

Understand your audience, develop your strategy today. TALK TO US