Between Aug ‘86 to Mar ‘87, the MCD Cultural Services Section conducted a full cycle of audience surveys, leveraging on the Drama Festival (Aug/Sep 86), Jazz Festival (Sep 86), Dance Festival (Dec 86) and the Festival of Choirs (Mar 87). Since manpower resources were scarce, it was all hands-on-deck and I remember standing in the lobby of the Drama Centre on Fort Canning, questionnaires and pencils in hand, persuading members of the audience to complete the forms while waiting for the show to start or for drinks and toilet during the interval.
This first cycle of audience surveys revealed that:
1. Females outnumbered males by a ratio of 1.4 to 1 for all festivals except for the Jazz Festival where there was equal attendance by males and females;
2. Choral music fans were between 10-49 years;
3. Dance and drama fans between 16-39 years of age;
4. Jazz fans were between 20- 49 years of age;
5. Not many people aged 50 and above went to shows;
6. Singles outnumbered married persons at a ratio of 2.5 to 1. They went to shows with friends or colleagues;
7. There was considerable overlap in the audience ship for the various festivals. Dance fans saw 7-8 performances within a festival;
8. Word-of-mouth was the most common way of finding out about a show followed by information in the newspapers.
The audience of the ’80s took an active interest in matters concerning art promotion and was very forthcoming with suggestions for future programmes and strategies for nurturing a more cultured society.
-Help local musicians. Give them status;
-Set up a National Arts College;
Audience ship Building
-Get audience to participate;
-Teach more music, dance and drama in schools;
-Make music lessons available to children in the neighbourhood;
-Focus more on TV to improve the cultural knowledge of the nation.
-Publish articles on goodness of arts, how arts improve one’s lifestyle and make one satisfied.
-Build a good theatre with full stage facilities and more seating capacity;
-Build a cultural centre with an ethnic identity;
One more national theatre is really necessary;
-Get rid of bats / birds in Victoria Theatre backstage!
The cycle of audience surveys was part of a larger Cultural Affairs Division Research Programme mooted in 1985, to gather information to inform us of the state of the arts. A body of statistics with base-level data on the frequency of art activities (performances, exhibitions, and courses), audience profiles and the size of our talent base would provide clarity and help us improve our arts promotion effort.
Other research initiatives included a national survey conducted by consultants from NUS and the round-the-year collation of secondary data from linked agencies – the Customs and Excise Department for audienceship numbers (since they collected entertainment tax on tickets sold), the Public Entertainment Licensing Unit which issued licenses for events; and People’s Association for the number of un-ticketed events. We also gleaned information from the newspapers and magazine to get a panoramic view of the arts landscape. Thankfully, the public service was embarking on a service-wide computerization programme so we enjoyed enthusiastic support from the Ministry’s Computer Services Branch in digitizing all the information that we gathered.
With the passage of time, many of the suggestions made by the audience have come to fruition. The Esplanade has been built, there are several art colleges and most recently, bats and birds must have been expunged from the Victoria Theatre which has just re-opened.