Thursday, April 22, 2010

1.2 Million and Counting

Earlier this month, some of the good folks from TRG visited Chicago to show us how our new community patron database ticks. Afterwards, I asked Katherine Raz from The House – who mentioned that she’d already been using the system – to tell me what she thinks of all this: “This list is everything we've ever dreamed of. Not only can we share lists with other theater companies, we're able to analyze data so we can learn more about our own patrons. And by comparing data with all other theater companies, we're learning more about the Chicago theater-going audience as a whole. Invaluable.”

In addition to learning about what we can do as individual companies, we’re starting to see where we are as a community. For anyone just tuning in, let me recap what we’ve been up to. This March, Chicago launched our Community Cultural Database (this is the co-op patron database program we’ve been calling the Big List – we’ve changed its name, but not its awesome). This system provides super-easy list trades and free data cleaning through the NCOA every quarter (you heard me – Every. Quarter.) And did I mention this is free? It is. ALSO – there are community reports, and our TRG friends showed us the first batch of that data earlier this month.

Lemme break some of this down for you: Chicago is the first community to break the million mark in our first data upload. We are the biggest the fastest – currently sitting at just over 1.2 million unique households – and that’s with just 39 organizations putting their records in the co-op.

Looking at this data, we know the average age of Chicago’s theatre goers (younger than the national average); we know that many of them have young children in the home; we know that about 35% of them have completed college. We’re also learning that – just like the rest of the country – the more people go to arts events, the more they go. Cultural consumers don’t get “full” – they keep asking for another helping.

The CCD can look at our community by zip code or Aldermanic district, increasing our ability to effectively advocate for theatre in every neighborhood as well as our city as a whole, and our region outside Chicago’s city limits. And that’s just local advocacy – with the data TRG is collecting nationwide (over 20 million unique households!), our collective advocacy power is only going to grow exponentially from here.

The BEST thing about this data? The reason I’m geeking out about this? Is that this is just where we’re starting. Breaking the million the quickest in the country is our START. The more folks put their data into the CCD, the more we’re going to know, and the more we’ll be able to do.

So, League Members, what are you waiting for? Our next data upload date is July 9. That’s plenty of time to get in touch with me and for us to get the ball rolling so that your company can be part of this next push. I’m not above telling you that the biggest database right now is in L.A. and suggesting that we should totally be able to surpass their numbers this time around without breaking a sweat. Even in Chicago in July.

Give me a call (312.554.9811) or shoot me an e-mail ( and let me answer any questions you have, or help you get ready for the July 9 upload.

Jess Hutchinson

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