Lisa Baxter, 11 January 2016

This question has been on my mind because in my work in shaping audience and

public value, it has always been difficult for venues to articulate their value to


The conversation included a programmer, an actress/director and someone involved

in participatory arts.

I asked each to try and articulate their audience value, and none were able to do so

with confidence. When I asked why, some of the answers were:

- the funders do not require this as part of an application

- they are focussed on audience metrics imposed on them externally

- survival and financial performance is a priority

- creatives are very involved with the making of the work, but far less concerned with

the audience experience/impact

- artists just ‘know’ what it is

All agreed that the ability to articulate value-to-others (audiences, communities) is

becoming increasingly important and yet hard to achieve because arts organisations

aren't hardwired to do this. One person stated:

“I think we are really bad at communicating our value. Its intuitive and we assume

people know.”

And there lies the rub. By keeping our value hidden, tacit, intuitive and unarticulated,

we cannot share it, strive for it creatively or strategically, advocate it and, importantly,

seek to augment it insightfully.

The focus then turned on how would you evaluate the dimensions of value. Would it

be yet another survey in a metrics laden industry. I suggested this would fail to surface

the humanity of our value - feelings, emotions, behaviours, connection etc. Rather, we

could seek ways to connect-in with elements of our work/programme through direct

contact with audiences: the methods available are many.

We also discussed how describing work in terms of its value proposition (as well as its

artistry) would result in more honest conversations between programmers and artists.

If there was alignment between an organisational value proposition and that of an

artist (whether their work is popular, risky, or anywhere inbetween), it would result a

more productive, equal relationship (as opposed to artists trying to second guess what

the programmer wants).

But it is not a straightforward proposition. We acknowledged that there are many

factors that affect an individual's experience of a show, some reside within the

character of the person, some around the surrounding in-venue experience. Despite

this, we should acknowledge the importance of articulating and interrogatiing our value

propositions through direct contact with the audience.

Questions arose about how you make audience experience visible and tangible, in a

way that is meaningful to the organisation and its stakeholders?

We also discussed how important it is to engage with audiences around questions of

value/experience to surface those unexpected outcomes that could lead to artistic

growth. This would change the rhetoric of a ‘failed performance’ from “the audience

didn't understand our show” to ‘We didn’t understand our show".

Everyone present recognised (as a result of this discussion) the importance of seeking

to articulate value and understand whether it has been delivered. I look forward to

continuing the discussion with some of those who engaged.


audience, value, insight, Value, Audience