By The Numbers: Profiling the Rich White Female Broadway Attendee

Greg Ehrhardt

Contributor to OnStage

The Broadway League published their annual report on the demographics of the Broadway Show Attendees for the most recent year, stemming from June 2015-June 2016. This report is done for the benefit of the Broadway show executives, especially the marketing departments, so they know how to best use advertising budgets to generate business.  

We acquired a copy of this report, and some of demographic trends are quite interesting when evaluating some of the concerning trends we see as far as Broadway shows being too expensive and being too often based on existing TV/movie properties.

The primary takeaway from the report is that the typical Broadway audience member is rich, Caucasian, highly educated, and female, in much greater proportion to that of the general population of America.

The Broadway League randomly surveys audience members from 48 different productions at 96 different performance time from June 2015-June 2016 (2016). The following numbers are a result of more than 16,000 returned questionnaires:

1. The Broadway Audience was 67% female in 2016. This has been fairly consistent for the last few years, but represents a 10% increase from 2000, when women were “only” 61% of the Broadway audience. As one could have guessed, women make up about 51% of the general US population. So the Broadway audience is quite disproportionately female. 

2. The Broadway Audience is 77.3% Caucasian. The % of the general population of the US is about 62%. So again, the Broadway Audience is quite disproportionately Caucasian. 

3. The Broadway League in their report made sure to point out that the number of tickets sold to minority groups has been increasing the last few years, and this is strictly true for the last 3 years. “Tickets Sold” is sharply up for Hispanics and especially Asians over the last 5 years, while being sharply down for blacks and other races. Complete chart below

4. 81 % of the Broadway Audience graduated college or grad school, compared to just 31% of the US population. This isn't merely disproportionate, this is a completely different America that is watching Broadway shows according to this metric. Complete chart below:

5. The average household income of a Broadway attendee was $195k. The average income of an American household is around $75,000.  Since 63% of tickets are sold to tourists outside of the NYC suburbs, this isn't merely due to the higher cost of living on the island. 

a. 40% of the audience makes $150k or more, while less than 17% of the audience makes less than $50k. The comparison of income between Broadway attendees and the general audience is jarring. Full split below

Two Americas Indeed!

Two Americas Indeed!

This is a tell-tale sign to me that Broadway tickets are too expensive for most of the general audience.

If a typical business were to see these numbers for their customer base, this would be an immediate signal to convene the executive team to determine a strategy to reverse the trend.

Broadway is in a different position because they have a very limited seating capacity, and there are only so many theatres on Broadway.  So Broadway could simply live off the backs of the super-rich and be a healthy business. 

Or, Broadway could create a special section of lower price tickets, increasing demand for an underserved section of the populace who currently cannot afford tickets. 

I don’t think Hamilton has to do this for example, but other shows could benefit. I went to a Broadway Show of a Tony winning musical back in September, and the show was only about 60% full on a Saturday matinee. But I digress.

In summary, Broadway Show executives know their customer base is comprised of rich upper class highly educated women. Do they try and appeal to different demographics? Since the number of tickets sold is at an all-time high in 2016, my guess is no. However, I have to wonder if it’s in Broadway’s best interest to appeal only to a very narrow, hoity-toity slice of Americana. 

You can buy the full report yourself or look at the full executive summary here via The Broadway League:

Photo: Riverland Community College