This case study describes the Minnesota Opera’s efforts to expand its audience by reaching a population segment where it suspected potential fans might reside: women ages 35 to 60. The opera company’s work centered on making the most of an unlikely partnership with a local talk-radio host. He had a large following among women in the target age group, was an opera lover, and could dispel the perception of the art form as too difficult or elitist to appeal to newcomers. To that end, he gave away tickets to Tuesday night performances during his radio show, an effort that met with an enthusiastic response. After four seasons of the partnership, 1,114 households new to Minnesota Opera had redeemed their free tickets to attend a performance and 18 percent had paid to come back.

The company, however, found that one or two positive experiences were not necessarily enough to turn most of these audience members into frequent patrons. Follow-up research identified barriers to making a return purchase, and the company has used these insights to adjust its marketing strategy to retain a number of those new attendees.

This report is part of a set of case studies and reports looking at the efforts of arts organizations that received Wallace Excellence Awards to reach new audiences and deepen relationships with current ones.

Points of Interest

  • Thanks in large part to Minnesota Opera’s partnership with a local talk-radio host, women ages 35 to 60 now account for 22 percent of the company’s patron database, up from 16 percent when the initiative started.
    Thanks to @mnopera’s work with talk-radio host, women ages 35-60 rose to 22% of patron database, up from 16%. #arts
  • Forty-eight percent of women who received free tickets to Minnesota Opera enjoyed themselves so much they came back for another performance, evidence that their perceptions of opera as boring and stuffy had softened.
    Who says #opera is boring? 48% of women who got free tickets to @mnopera came back for another performance. #arts
  • For newcomers, ticket giveaways to Minnesota Opera removed the financial risk of making the wrong decision and the need to choose from an intimidating array of operas, dates and seats.
    Free tix for newbies to @mnopera removed financial risk of trying out #opera/difficulty of choosing what to see. #arts