arTour worked with Culture Counts to evaluate the Queensland tour of jazz cabaret show, Sweet, Sour & Saucy, by Melissa Western and Antony Dyer.

We wanted to participate in the Culture Counts trial to capture audience and peer responses to shows that tour throughout regional Queensland. By collecting and analysing this data, we hoped that it would help in building understanding of what communities are looking for from an arts experience, what the value of art is for them, and the impact of seeing and experiencing a show. We chose this tour because it had a Brisbane season followed by an extensive regional tour including some remote towns. In regional areas, the use of paper surveys was more effective than the use of tablets to capture audience responses as we experienced internet connection issues in some places.

Talking about the value of audience surveying, artist Melissa Western said:

We are so glad we surveyed our audience to discover just how much the vast majority rated it extremely highly. It gave us a great morale boost to see those cold hard figures of audience satisfaction.

We used seven Culture Counts dimension questions to assess audiences’ experience of the show from an artistic quality point of view. The Culture Counts report highlighted that high average scores were received for all dimensions, with 100% of people agreeing or strongly agreeing that the show was well thought through and put together (rigour), was absorbing and held their attention (captivation), and that the artists weren’t afraid to try new things (risk). Over 90% of respondents also felt that it was different from things they’d experienced before (distinctiveness), moved and inspired them (meaning), helped them to feel connected to people in the community (connection), and had something to say about today’s world (relevance).

We also posed a broader question asking people to rate their overall experience, with 92% having an excellent experience and 8% a good experience. Just over two-thirds of respondents had attended a jazz cabaret show before (68%), but only 26% had seen a show by these particular artists.

An interesting part of Culture Counts was surveying peers pre-show and post-show to test whether their expectations were met. We found that the actual experience of the performance aligned quite well with peer expectations for six of the ten dimensions we asked them about. The results showed that the show had greater reach and potential than peers had expected.

For the artists, receiving generally very positive feedback gave them great encouragement that their shows had tapped into what their audiences wanted to see and experience:

We learned that our particular shows fit extremely well with Queensland audiences, both in the city and in more regional areas. We would be looking to capitalise on the fact that our show fits so well in a touring structure. I don't think that Culture Counts would make us change anything artistically about future shows but they certainly gave us an indication that we are currently on the right track.

One outcome of Culture Counts that we hadn’t anticipated was being able to use these reports as advocacy and sales tools. As Melissa Western states:

The Culture Counts reports are really well set out and they give an excellent overview of the show. We also gained a great deal of promotional momentum for the shows as we started to use the figures in updates and especially in pitches to future presenters and venues. Being able to share these reports with potential bookers goes a long way to managing the risk that might be inherent in booking an act for the first time.

For the future, we are interested in the ongoing potential of Culture Counts to provide a way of measuring the impact of arts experiences in regional towns and then being able to collate and analyse the data in a meaningful way. Culture Counts would assist arTour and the local venues and presenters to advocate to their supporters and local councils about the value of performing arts tours in Queensland.

This article was originally published on the Arts Queensland blog.

The Sweet Sour and Saucy artists have kindly agreed to share their Culture Counts report. Take a look to understand how the data is displayed and what insights can be gained.

We understand Culture counts is currently developing offline survey capabilities. This works by automatically saving responses to the phone or tablet while offline, which will be synced to the server when next connected. This will enable digital surveying in areas with unreliable internet access.

Find out more about the Culture Counts trial and read blog posts from other participating organisations including the Institute of Modern ArtBleach* FestivalJudith Wright Centre of Contemporary ArtsQueensland Symphony OrchestraAnywhere Festival and Access Arts.