Audience Engagement: Research & Resources

Today’s artists and presenters work harder than ever to build and maintain audiences for their performances, but new media technologies, shifting demographics, and limited funding present long-term challenges for the field. While there is no single, one-size-fits-all solution, through the help of its partnership with the Wallace Foundation, CMA seeks to present a range of strategies and tools to help arts organizations utilize their resources effectively and efficiently.

Explore the videos, podcasts, and articles below to learn from experts in the field; peruse the Twitter chats for first-hand tips from your peers; and check out the research reports on the evolving preferences and demographics of today’s audiences.

CMA, in partnership with the Wallace Foundation, has also published the results of its surveys on the impact of COVID-19 on the chamber music field.

View the Survey Summaries:
June 2021 | June 2020 | April 2020



New episodes will be released on our Soundcloud Page. Please stay tuned for future episodes and more information.

In part one of our two part podcast featuring Bob Harlow, we’ll listen to selections from his 2019 CMA Conference session, Audience Building on a Budget. Listen-in as he discusses the use of focus groups by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston with conference attendees. To learn more about Bob Harlow visit

In part two of our podcast with Bob Harlow we’ll listen to selections from his 2019 CMA Conference session, Audience Building on a Budget. Listen-in as he addresses conference attendees and discusses the unique uses of focus groups by Orchestra X and the Minnesota Opera. To learn more about Bob Harlow visit

Listen as Donna Walker-Kuhne (President, Walker Communications Group) discusses practical, proven strategies for building audiences that better reflect the diversity of your local community. To learn more about Donna Walker-Kuhne and Walker International Communications Group Inc., visit


In this episode, we listen back to Olivia Marlowe-Giovetti's May 2018 First Tuesday session on Improving Marketing Outcomes with A/B Testing.


The Road Ahead Financial Planning Graphic Dollar Sign

The Road Ahead | By Andrew Frank

For organizations facing unprecedented financial uncertainty, a strategy built around scenario planning can help clarify the options and make hard decisions less daunting.

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When Instincts Aren't Enough | By Andrew Frank

When seasons and tours resume, presenters and ensembles will need to work strategically to get back on their feet. Audience research can help ensure their decisions are the right ones.

World Music/CRASHarts

Hidden in Plain Sight | By Sarosh Syed

How a Boston-based presenter is utilizing its festival and an ambitious rebranding effort to draw in younger audiences.

Fifth House Element

The Inside Story | By Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone

Fifth House Ensemble combines the power of storytelling with studio practice, education, and civic engagement, and builds new audiences in the process.

Reaching Millennial Audiences.

Turning the Tide | By John Adams

To reach millennial audiences, arts organizations must adapt to a new set of tastes, technologies, and spending habits. New data from the Wallace Foundation can help.

Third Coast Percussion performs a new work by Glenn Kotche.

San Francisco Performances’ Creative PIVOT | By Claire Sykes

A new series from the established Bay Area presenter uses data-driven insights to attract and keep an elusive target audience.

Community Music Works band

Blurring Boundaries | By Thomas Cabaniss

The worlds of arts education and community cultural development are moving closer together, providing both challenges and opportunities for growth.

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Understanding Your Audience | By Marla Teyolia and Dr. Zannie Voss

Many arts organizations and ensembles have more information about their audiences than they realize, but they don’t use that data to their advantage. By using data—and collecting more—your organization may be able to make more informed decisions, plan for the future, and check its overall health.

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Finding—and Keeping—Your Audience | By Ellen Goldensohn

“What information do you lack that—if you had it—would help you make a breakthrough in audience-building?” The Wallace Foundation first asked that question of arts-organization leaders in 2006. What followed was a multi-year initiative that has yielded a trove of illuminating insights into what draws people to participate in the arts—and what keeps them coming.

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The Audience Whisperers | By Thomas Cabaniss

We all want to grow the audience for our art form, but few of us know how to design programs that satisfy us yet are relevant and appealing to the non-aficionado. Why not take a page or two from the teaching artist’s book? TAs are expert in listening to people who’ve never given chamber music a thought, much less come to a concert.


Research and Self-Reflection Help Strengthen Community Ties

Research and Self-Reflection Help Strengthen Community Ties | By Bob Harlow

Learn how the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia was able to use research, self-reflection, and community engagement to make their organization a more inclusive space in new updates to the Foundation's 2015 Case Study.

The Road to Results

The Road to Results: Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences | By Bob Harlow

Based on case studies of 10 arts organizations that undertook audience-building projects as part of the Wallace Excellence Awards initiative, this guide pinpoints nine practices that successful efforts had in common—from identifying a target group that made sense for the organization to determining what barriers needed to be removed for that target to join the audience.

Taking Out the Guesswork

Taking Out the Guesswork: A Guide to Using Research to Build Arts Audiences | By Bob Harlow

Cultivating new audiences and strengthening bonds with current attendees is a top priority for most arts organizations. Yet even though audience research can help achieve those goals, many arts organizations shy away from it, often citing lack of money, time or skills to carry out the endeavor.

A Decade of Arts Engagement

A Decade of Arts Engagement: Findings From the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts | The National Endowment for the Arts

This report synthesizes findings across several modes of arts participation (attending the visual and performing arts, reading literature, creating/performing art, using digital media to consume art, and learning within the arts) to show how many American adults--and from which backgrounds--have engaged in art throughout the decade of 2002 to 2012. Based on the NEA's Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), conducted in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.

When Going Gets Tough

When Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance | The National Endowment for the Arts

This report examines demographic and socio-economic characteristics of adults who attended visual and performing arts activities in 2012, but unlike prior NEA research it offers in-depth perspectives on attitudes, motivations, and barriers concerning arts attendance. Based on a NEA module to the 2012 General Social Survey (GSS).


Every year, CMA hosts #CMAChats to gain insight from its members about their current practices in audience engagement.

#CMAChats May 23, 2019 Featuring Ars Nova Workshop, Moab Music Festival, and Quad City Arts

#CMAChats March 21, 2019 Featuring Bryant Park (NYC), Evan Christopher, Duo Sequenza, and Jacqui Sutton

#CMAChats May 29, 2018 Featuring Blueprint Piano Series, Emerald City Music, Josh Lawrence, Longleash, and Verona Quartet

#CMAChats February 15, 2018 Featuring Roxy Coss, Allison Loggins-Hull, Kavita Shah, Spektral Quartet, and Thalea String Quartet

#CMAChats October 27, 2017 Featuring Lucy Dhegrae, Jennifer Grim, PUBLIQuartet, Quince Ensemble, and Camille Thurman.

#CMAChats July 24, 2017 Featuring Kenari Quartet, WindSync, and yMusic

#CMAChats May 30, 2017 Featuring HOCKET, Candice Hoyes, Parker Quartet, Sandbox Percussion, TIGUE, and Ryan Truesdell

#CMAChats February 15, 2017 Featuring Rez Abbasi, CapitalBop, Friction Quartet, Miho Hazama, and The Living Earth Show

#CMAChats November 15, 2016 Featuring Alarm Will Sound, Art of Élan, Eighth Blackbird, and Yarn/Wire

Wallace Foundation  CMA’s Audience Engagement resources are presented with support from the Wallace Foundation. Visit the Wallace Foundation’s Knowledge Center for information on Building Audiences for the Arts.


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