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Jamie Alexander
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CASE STUDY: SFJAZZ Dives Deep into Buyer Behavior to Grow Audience and Memberships


The Situation

SFJAZZ has enjoyed fantastic success since the opening of its new building the SFJAZZ Center in 2013. The organization is now one of the largest jazz producers in the United States, which has to opportunities to expand various facets of the organization.

As part of that expansion, SFJAZZ received a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support artist residency programs, commissioning new work, developing digital platforms, and inquiring into the expansion of the SFJAZZ Membership program. SFJAZZ decided to put part of this funding toward research to explore current “best customer” analysis, residency program awareness, deepening engagement, and digital offerings.

SFJAZZ commissioned JCA Arts Marketing to launch its research project with quantitative analysis. We conducted database research to give the team at SFJAZZ a baseline understanding of audience behavior and explore the questions of who are SFJAZZ’s best customers and how they behave.

The Research—A Deep Database Dive

To launch the project, JCA Arts Marketing conducted a deep dive into SFJAZZ’s transactional data in Tessitura. We started the research in May of 2020, and reviewed all ticket, membership, and donation transactions going back to FY2008. We placed particular emphasis on discovering:

  • The effect of the new building on donations, memberships, and ticket sales.
  • Transactional history that indicates a patron’s likelihood to:
    • Become a member (in-person and digital)
    • Become a lapsed member
    • Reactivate membership
  • Audience programming preferences, to target future marketing efforts.
  • Opportunities to increase revenue, with focus on ticket and membership prices.

As the research started at the beginning of the pandemic, we also had the opportunity to analyze early results from the company’s SFJAZZ Digital concert platform and membership, which launched in March 2020. We analyzed behavioral and geographic characteristics of the early adopters.

The Findings

After thorough analysis of the data, our top findings from the project are as follows:

  • The new building was instrumental in building a loyal audience. The number of returning audience members alone in the first year after opening the new building was larger than the total of all new and returning audience members in any year prior. Additionally, memberships at all levels grew after the new building opened—SFJAZZ had more than three times as many members in the 2018–19 season as it did prior to 2013. 
  • To continue to grow its membership base, SFJAZZ should look towards its best prospects for membership—those who have attended the most frequently, recently. Based on members’ past behavior, the best prospects for SFJAZZ membership are those who attended for the first time within the past two years and have attended at least three times. SFJAZZ also has an opportunity to push membership amongst new buyers looking for deals or early access to a specific event, as a portion of new members bought their membership in their first booking.
  • Digital membership has large potential for audience development, beyond geographic confines. We found that 57% of new digital members have never been to SFJAZZ before, and digital members are more likely to come from outside the Bay Area. This is a huge opportunity for growth, as this audience is not limited to the constraints of geography. There’s also opportunity to engage recent new attendees of in-person SFJAZZ performances through digital efforts, as the majority of digital members who have attended SFJAZZ in person attended within the past two seasons. 
  • For enhanced targeted marketing efforts, audiences can be segmented into four segments according to their programmatic preferences. We used a network analysis statistical model to categorize audience members into segments according to the concerts they’ve attended. Those segments areNames in Jazz’, ‘World Music/NPR Listeners’, ‘Hard Core’, and ‘Other’. Coding upcoming performances according to these categories will allow SFJAZZ to create a Netflix-like recommendation model, where SFJAZZ recommends programming according to the patrons’ programming segment.
  • Individuals within the ‘Names in Jazz’ segment are most likely to donate. Patrons in the ‘Names in Jazz’ segment account for the most membership and donation value (42% of value, compared to 31% from ‘World Music/NPR Listeners’). Thus, the audience members who fall into the ‘Names in Jazz’ segment are likely the best prospect for donations.
  • As a whole, SFJAZZ’s audience is not particularly price sensitive, indicating that future price increases could be an opportunity for revenue growth. In the year after SFJAZZ increased its ticket prices, there was no drop in demand and ticket sales continued to grow. Membership prices had not increased with single ticket prices, which indicates there is opportunity to recalibrate membership prices relative to single ticket prices.

As part of the project, JCA Arts Marketing built audience segments based on audience behavior, programmatic preferences, and geographic preferences that will help the company focus its marketing and development efforts in the future. These segments live in the Segmentation Engine, which allows SFJAZZ to tag customers with their segment information in Tessitura with the click of a button, and update those tags automatically as people move between segments.

Barrett Shaver, Director of Development at SFJAZZ said of the research done by JCA Arts Marketing: “Our patron and presentation history is filled with nuances and side excursions that can sometime defy common expectations. The JCA team were great listeners throughout the database project and delivered a final analysis that we can use cross-departmentally with confidence towards our audience objectives.”

Could your organization benefit from a deep-dive into your audience's behavior?

If your organization wants to do a study on your own audiences, but lacks the time or resources, we can help. Our expert consultants will provide the analysis and insights you need to take action and reach your goals! Contact us today to get started.

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