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Culture counts - Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Zoe White shares audience feedback about QSO’s new contemporary music festival, collected through participation in the Culture Counts audience surveying pilot… 

This year Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) held the inaugural QSOCurrent, a small music festival shining the spotlight on contemporary music, local talent and unexpected collaborations at intimate venues along the Brisbane River. As part of the festival, QSO performed with artists such as beatboxer Tom Thum, electronic musician Tim Shiel and jazz trio Trichotomy.

As QSOCurrent was a new initiative that we hoped would reach new audiences, we were very interested in participating in the Culture Counts trial to evaluate audience experience. We can get great quantitative data from our customer relationship marketing and ticketing system, but the qualitative stuff – the intrinsic value on a personal level – is harder to measure.  Besides repeat ticket sales, how do we know we’re giving audiences what they want and engaging them in a meaningful way?

Because QSOCurrent was a constellation of events over a weekend rather than a single event, gathering post-concert survey responses presented a challenge. After talking this through with Culture Counts, we focused on collecting responses in customers’ own time, rather than on site. We distributed survey links in pre-concert emails, on social media, in a post-concert email to patrons who had opted into marketing communications, and at the events using business card sized handouts (so patrons could pop them in a pocket and continue their evening). In the end we collected a good sized, statistically significant sample, and found the post-concert email was the most effective channel.

Apart from the core dimensions measuring intrinsic value, the survey gave us the opportunity to include two custom questions. We were interested in having a repeatable methodology so we can make meaningful comparisons with future events, and in understanding how this new event had affected the audience’s perceptions of QSO. Our first custom question asked respondents, on a scale of zero to ten, whether they would recommend QSO to a friend or colleague. This is used to calculate a Net Promoter Score, a widely used benchmark indicating consumer loyalty. A positive NPS (i.e., higher than zero) is considered good, and an NPS of >50 is excellent. Our score of 66 indicates a strong level of loyalty. For the second custom question, we asked respondents to list three words that they would use to describe QSO prior to the event and three after the event. The structured format allowed us to ask a somewhat open-ended question in a way that doesn’t take long to answer, and gave us more usable data than free-form comments. Here are two word clouds created from the results:


World cloud prior


Word cloud post

We’re extremely happy with the results of both the custom and core sections of the survey.  A large majority of people agreed or strongly agreed the event met all seven core dimensions: captivation, rigour, meaning, relevance, connection, excellence and local impact. High average scores (76% and above) were received for all dimensions, and 99% of people agreed or strongly agreed that the events were well thought through and put together, captivating, of importance to the local area, and moving. Over 90% of respondents also agreed or strongly agreed that the QSOCurrent performance they attended was the best of its type in Australia and had something to say about today’s world.

It has been fantastic to have another way of confirming that we achieved our original creative intention with the event, and to have tangible results which we can use in reporting, to demonstrate value to our stakeholders, and to inform programming next year. The hugely positive results also indicate that our branding and marketing were well targeted, connecting the right audience with the right product.

We’re excited to hold the second QSOCurrent in 2016, and look forward to creating more extraordinary musical experiences that share the exhilaration of live orchestral music with people of all ages and all walks of life.

Find out more about the Culture Counts trial here and read blog posts from other participating organisations including the Institute of Modern ArtBleach* FestivalJudith Wright Centre of Contemporary ArtsAnywhere FestivalAccess Arts and arTour.

Zoe White
Zoe White is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Queensland Symphony Orchestra, with a love of music and an interest in data driven marketing.






Feature image: Beatboxer Tom Thum, conductor/composer Gordon Hamilton and QSO musicians premiere Thum Prints: A concerto contradiction for beatbox and orchestra as part of QSOCurrent. Photographer: Jared Vethaak.