Audience Development

Getting people from very different social backgrounds involved in the arts


“Audience development means creating a love affair between arts and audiences”, according to the leader of the education department of Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The education department was installed by Sir Simon Rattle, the chief conductor of the most famous German orchestra, who himself comes from the UK, where “audience development” was invented. Rattle installed the first department for education and audience development in a German classical orchestra in 1995. For a German orchestra, educational work and the search for new, unusual audiences was a kind of revolution – and it took Rattle a lot of effort to convince everyone to take part in these educational activities. Since then, the Philharmonic has produced, often in cooperation with choreographers like Roysdan Maldoom, several dance and music projects, mainly with schoolchildren from some of the more deprived areas of Berlin. And since then, arts education and audience development have been pursued in other arts institutions all over Germany.

What’s new about Audience Development?

Audience development is an active process of connecting new audience groups to an arts institution. Audience development works with ideas and strategies from cultural education as well as with marketing strategies. It develops new approaches to marketing and promotion, different ways of developing, curating and distributing the arts, and new educational ways to communicate ideas, content and aesthetics with different target groups.

1. Why some people attend arts events and others avoid them

The first step in any audience development project is, of course, to have knowledge about potential audiences. Why do you personally attend arts events? Why do you visit a museum, or go to the theatre or concert? Is it because you are particularly interested in a specific aesthetic or topic? Or is it because you like the location? Or because you want to go out with friends, using the concert as a starting place for a nice evening out? Is it because the museum visit fits well with your Sunday afternoon walk? Is it because the classical concert is associated with picnicking in the park? Is it because you were invited to an opening and expect to meet nice and interesting people there?

If you want to know which kinds of positive incentives you have to develop to motivate people to attend arts events and become involved in the arts, you have to first find out why some people like to take part in the arts, and what prevents other people from engaging with the arts.

Motivations for arts attendance

Existing audience research shows the following motivations:

  • Social interaction: to experience something special with a partner or friends
  • Entertainment and distraction
  • To experience something beautiful and out of the ordinary; stimulation
  • Novelty: to experience and learn something new
  • To be informed
  • To pursue and demonstrate a certain lifestyle

It is important to distinguish between motivations that are prompted by social desirability and those motivations that spring from an inner need. Despite the fact that the majority of respondents rank „entertainment“ at the top of their own personal motivations, they also generally stress the „educational value“ of the arts for society as a whole (see Mandel 2005; 8. Kulturbarometer)star (* 1 ). In our own empirical studies, which were conducted at Hildesheim University in 2005, we found that the need to socialise through arts events is more important to most arts attendees than the need to learn something new. And it is important to bear in mind that the personal motivations of most non-professional arts attendees are different from those of arts producers and art policymakers. Producers of art and culture tend to presume an intrinsic interest in the aesthetics and content of the arts. Cultural policymakers highlight the educational value for the population, whereas the individual arts attendee greatly appreciates the social dimension of an art event: going out with a partner and friends to see something beautiful, or just to have fun.

Let us move on to the opposite.


Mandel, Birgit/Institut für Kulturpolitik (2005): Einstellungen zu Kunst und Kultur, Kulturimage und
Kulturbegriff. Ergebnisse einer Bevölkerungsumfrage in Hildesheim, durchgeführt
von Studierenden des Studiengangs Kulturwissenschaften und ästhetische Praxis
der Universität Hildesheim,


Bourdieu, Pierre (1970): Zur Soziologie der symbolischen Formen. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp.


Mandel, Birgit/Renz, Thomas (2010): Barrieren der Nutzung kultureller Einrichtungen. Eine qualitative Annäherung an Nicht-Besucher. Institut für Kulturpolitik, Universität Hildesheim,


Hoffmann, Hilmar (1979): Kultur für alle. Perspektiven und Modelle, Frankfurt/Main


cf. Council of Europe (eds.) (2002): Cultural Policies in Europe. UK

Birgit Mandel (2013): Audience Development. Getting people from very different social backgrounds involved in the arts. In: p/art/icipate – Kultur aktiv gestalten #03 ,