So You've Got Some Data...Now What?

Casey Reas    Signal to Noise (5), 2013.

Casey Reas Signal to Noise (5), 2013.

We seem to hear it everywhere we go, at conferences, from consultants, and in myriad publications: to run arts organizations more effectively, arts managers need to adopt data-driven business models. An increasing number of data collection tools are emerging on the market with capabilities and price points that have the potential to meet the needs of arts nonprofits, from CRM systems like to social media management software like Buffer. But once you’ve collected some data, how do you use it? Be it information about your patrons, regional demographics, or marketing trends, how can arts organizations take advantage of incoming data?

According to this spring’s AMT Lab Reader Poll, the question of analysis remains one of the top management challenges our readers face. While next school year’s contributors will continue to investigate this thorny issue, below is a recap of recently published articles that address analytics in three regards: as a general management issue, as a tool for marketing, and as an opportunity to inform artistic planning.  


Christine Sajewski provides an introduction to the business case for arts organizations to adopt data-driven decision-making and provides examples of differing types of arts data and the corresponding management questions they can answer.

Alvin Ailey America Dance Theater homepage

Alvin Ailey America Dance Theater homepage

Erin Wagner profiles the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s efforts to create a data-informed culture as part of Leading for the Future, a program of the Nonprofit Finance Fund designed to propel performing arts organizations forward by providing change capital.

And the late Rick Lester, founder and former CEO of TRG Arts, discusses both the opportunities and limitations of data analysis among arts organizations in his interview with our forerunner, Technology in the Arts.


Focusing specifically on marketing outcomes, Christine finishes her three-part series on data-driven decisions with a look at how to analyze across multiples data sources. For a more in-depth discussion of data analysis aimed at marketers who are just beginning to collect multiple metrics, be sure to check out her full white paper: Making Data-Driven Decisions for Marketing Focused Outcomes.

Our friends at TRG Arts contributed multiple articles outlining analytics tips for marketers (cross-posted on their excellent blog, Analysis from TRG Arts). Rick Lester reminds readers of the importance of crafting a strong message, no matter how precisely defined your target market. Amelia Northrup-Simpson explains the potential for revenue gains by collecting contact information from first-time patrons. And Jill Robinson details three essential metrics to grow audience relationships, including step-by-step instructions to calculate them.

Artistic Planning

Finally, Graciela Kahn shows the analytic potential of spatial data to inform artistic programming decisions. In a two-part series, she introduces spatial data and how they can be applied to programming, and what resources arts organizations can turn to for geospatial metrics, including demographic data at the national, state, and local levels. Graciela’s white paper, Using Spatial Data to Advance Programming Missions, provides a detailed account of the use of GIS software to conduct a site desirability study for public art projects in the City of Pittsburgh, demonstrating how thoughtful data analysis can be tied to mission fulfillment.

Museums in the United States according to data from IMLS Museum Count survey.

Museums in the United States according to data from IMLS Museum Count survey.

What analytical conundrums are on your mind? Let us know what analysis issues you'd like AMT Lab to tackle next in the comments below.