SOR 006: Matt Lehrman

Matt Lehrman

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Matt Lehrman has been thinking about arts marketing at a very high level for quite a few years. I first came across him a few weeks ago when he was presenting his Audiences Everywhere™ workshop in Indianapolis. What stood out to me about Matt is that he isn’t content to accept empty seats. He views them as the enemy.

On one level or another, all of us who are involved in theatre marketing feel the same way, but we often slip into the trap of  viewing them as an enemy we can never hope to defeat. I have the sense that Matt views empty seats as a tough enemy – maybe an enemy that will require all our savvy and creativity – but ultimately an enemy that can be overcome.

In addition to having logged a lot of hours coming up with new ways to think about audience building and developing the skills to articulate his insights, Matt strikes me as a genuinely nice guy. It was a treat for me to get a chance to talk to him, and I found myself getting re-inspired to challenge the status quo with my own theatre marketing clients.

In this episode:

  • why empty seats give the appearance of failure – even when the dollars add up, there’s a downside when people look around and see empty seats around them
  • when it’s good to get mad – shrugging and accepting that the way we’ve always done things is the way we should always do things isn’t the answer
  • how focusing on marketing to your biggest fans stifles your growth – you need your biggest fans, but if you are never reaching out to new fans you simply can’t grow your audience
  • how a creating a persona for your audience can help – getting specific about a personality – even a fictional one – is going to help you figure out who your audience is and what details affect their decisions about how they spend their entertainment dollars
  • audience building vs. audience outreach vs. audience development – how the term you use as an organization affects how you approach your audience

Items mentioned:

  • Audience Avenue – Matt’s company which focuses on audience development and strategic planning for arts marketing
  • Arts Council of Indianapolis – an organization that works to spread arts awareness and financial support in Indianapolis
  • Audiences Everywhere™ – the presentation that Matt created to challenge assumptions about how we market the arts today and provide some ideas on how we can find new approaches moving forward
  • Scotsdale Center for the Performing Arts – where Matt first volunteered and later became marketing director in 1995; his first job in the arts
  • Audience Wanted – Matt’s blog on audience building over at

Discussion Question: In the episode Matt and I talked about the terms “audience building”, “audience outreach”, and “audience development.” Which do you prefer and why? Respond here.

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