THE TEEN AUDIENCE KNOWLEDGE PROJECT
The TeenTix Pass Program—Seattle’s revolutionary arts access program for teenagers—is embarking on a big, ambitious, tech and data-driven upgrade called Teens Count. The goal of Teens Count is to gather all of the data that we can about teens who attend the arts AND teens who don’t yet attend the arts, and get it out to our 75 partnered arts organizations so that they can build better programs to serve diverse, young audiences.
Nobody has ever tried to do this before, because nobody else can. Teens are hard to reach, and no other city in America has what we have. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we know that 13,000 teenagers will sign up for TeenTix next year. So, we are going to use that huge and growing sample to make a big difference for our whole community. We believe that the impact of this work will reverberate nationally.
Peter Linett from Slover Linett Strategies in Chicago is one of the leading arts participation researchers in the county. When we told him about Teens Count, he said “Research on millennials is being done all over the arts field, but not on younger audiences. We need to understand the stage of life when people are forming their perceptions and behaviors about culture. Frankly, by the time they’re in their 20s, those views may be set. Doing this type of research with teen audiences would help our sector really broadly and systemically – the time is right.”
So, we’re going to try to do this thing nobody has ever tried before. But guess what? Nobody had ever tried to do something like the TeenTix Pass Program before, and look how that turned out! Since 2004, almost 50,000 teens have self-selected into arts participation by signing up for a TeenTix Pass and purchasing more than 75,000 tickets to performances and events. Teens in our community are arts-empowered and they are reshaping our community for the better. The way that young people in our corner of the world relate to the arts is changing. In fact, it already has changed. TeenTix is entering its 14th year, so a Seattleite turning thirteen this year won’t remember a time when art was out of reach for teens.
That’s change. And we’re ready to make some more.
THE KNOWLEDGE GAP
The arts may be the only sector that simultaneously says “Young people are our most important customers” and “We know nothing about young people.” The youngest cohort ever surveyed by the NEA’s Survey of Public Participation in the Arts is 18- to 24-year-olds. Locally, our community's shared audience system registers zero teen ticket sales, even at TeenTix partner organizations with robust participation. Why? Because the program tracks credit card sales, and most teens purchase tickets with cash or a parent’s credit card. It’s as simple—and as impactful—as that. When teens aren’t counted, they cannot be accounted for.
74% of TeenTix members say they now attend the arts “more” or “much more” than they did before joining. Still, most students—but especially low-income students of color—lack access to robust arts education and participation opportunities. For most young people in our community, the arts—a crucial form of civic engagement—seem distant or non existent. This is bad for young people, bad for the arts, and bad for the community at-large.
Our community is looking for ways to bring equity to educational opportunities, decrease youth violence and delinquency, and empower youth as change agents. The arts can answer all of these challenges, but we need better tools.
TeenTix’s great strength is collective impact. The Teens Count project will use data to empower our 75 parter organizations to serve teens much more effectively. In a virtuous circle, the better arts organizations serve teens, the more stable they become.
Teens Count builds upon the success of The TeenTix Pass Program. It is a four-year project, designed to implement modern technology paired with community-based research on teen participation habits, resulting in a new Pass Program infrastructure. Next year, thousands of Seattle-area teens will walk up to the box offices of our partnered arts organizations and buy $5 tickets. Right now, those purchases are tracked only as whole numbers. We have no way of knowing which member bought what kind of ticket, how often they attended, nor (most importantly) why. In this massive data gap lies a world of opportunity.
With the implementation of a relatively simple barcode system—something like what you use when you go to the grocery store—TeenTix will become a wellspring of a type, quantity, and quality of data about teen audiences that never before been collected anywhere. Planet-wide.
The hard data portion of the project will paint a great picture of teens who already attend the arts. But, the project would be incomplete without a simultaneous effort to grow our sector’s knowledge of the teens who will not sign up for TeenTix next year.
This is why Teens Count will deploy researchers to six community organizations serving low-arts-attending youth. Through site visits, we will work with these youth to introduce them to the opportunities available through TeenTix, and to learn about their goals, needs, and challenges. We will bring this information back to our partner organizations, beginning a conversation about how the arts can help address these needs.
Phase 1: Research and Project Development | Jan 2016 - Dec 2017
A task force of experts from TeenTix Arts Partner organizations, teens, staff, Board, and Advisory Council lead the development of the detailed plans for the full four-year project, identifying funding needs, staffing support, technology upgrades, and community research plans.
Phase 2: Technology Implementation and Testing | Jan 2018 - Jun 2019
We are now entering Year 3 (2018) of Teens Count, and our efforts are focused on implementing the technology upgrades. We’ll build and refine our new technology, distribute new barcoded passes to teens and scanners to Arts Partners.
Phase 3: Community Research | Jan 2019 - Dec 2019
The final phase of this project includes in-depth community research to identify additional barriers for teens not yet participating in the arts, and working with our Arts Partners to adapt to the needs of these communities.