CultureTalk: Unlocking the Power of Data with Kulturdata
June 12, 2024

CultureTalk: Unlocking the Power of Data with Kulturdata

Join us in an insightful conversation with Frederik Fabricius, founder of Kulturdata, as we discuss how data and digitalisation are revolutionising audience engagement and development in the arts and culture sector. Discover innovative strategies and practical tips for leveraging data to enhance your cultural organisation's outreach and impact.
Matt Yau

It’s no secret that data has become a vital asset for industries across the spectrum, driving decision-making, enhancing customer experiences, and boosting commercial performance. However, arts and culture venues often lag behind other sectors in leveraging the full potential of data. Despite its transformative potential, many cultural organisations struggle to develop effective data strategies that could significantly improve audience development, engagement, and ticketing.

Understanding and utilising data can empower arts and culture venues to better understand their audiences, tailor their marketing efforts, and optimise their operations. By analysing audience behaviour, preferences, and feedback, venues can create more personalised and impactful experiences, ultimately fostering deeper connections and loyalty among their patrons. Moreover, data-driven insights can help streamline ticketing processes, enhance promotional campaigns, and drive revenue growth.

In this episode of CultureTalk, I spoke to Frederik Fabricius, founder of Kulturdata, about how cultural organisations can overcome existing challenges and implement effective data strategies to thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape. Join us in this discussion as Frederik shares his expertise and insights on leveraging data to elevate the cultural experience.


Matt: Hello everyone. Welcome to an episode of CultureTalk, where we share insights and learnings from leaders in arts and culture. Today, I'm here with Frederik Fabricius, founder of Kulturdata, a consultancy that helps arts and culture organisations manage and

leverage the data they collect to enhance audience engagement and drive audience development strategies. Kulturdata is a CultureSuite partner who specialises in the Nordic region. 

Hi Frederik, thank you for your time today. Can you tell us a little more about Kulturdata's ambitions and why you founded a business?

Frederik: Yeah, sure. Matt, and thank you very much for inviting me. It's good to be at this category that I'm an industry leader. That's always nice. I'm based out of Copenhagen, I've been spending…most of my career has been in the IT industry. And where…you know, I ended up as the Head of Data Solutions for IBM Europe for quite a few years. And then, as so many men in my age, or I shouldn't say that, but people in my age, I wanted a change in my career. And one of my passions has always been museums. They've always been a place of sanctuary for me, both mentally and physically. 

And what I was seeing in the cultural sector and especially in the UK was this drive for cultural organisations to become more, it's difficult to say without it sounding a bit insulting, but more professional, more structured in the way they approach their outreach and become more audience centric.

So about seven years ago, I created this consultancy. And really what I'm doing is I'm taking a lot of best practices from the UK and applying them in the Nordics because the UK has been ahead of the curve there and giving cultural organisations the tools, the insights as to, you know, how they should approach developing their audiences. I hope that makes sense. 

Matt: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I mean, as you say, the importance of and the power of data has been prevalent in public discourse for a long time, and for many businesses, maybe in other industries, more so than in arts and culture. But there are many opinions and solutions about the way businesses should be utilising and leveraging data. How would you summarise the importance and benefits of data and digitalisation for cultural organisations?

Frederik: Well, you know, something I've been reflecting on and we all bring our own baggage and backgrounds into our different jobs. And what I find interesting is that when I'm working in the cultural sector, a lot of the people who are working there, they themselves, you know, have a cultural background or cultural education. And then I suddenly pop up and my background is from business school. My speciality is I'm a marketing economist. 

Now, the way I look at a problem always is, in many ways, and in the cultural sector, if you look at it from two key drivers which we've seen in recent years. One is cultural democracy. And what does that mean? Cultural democracy means that there's a drive to have more people using culture and the second big driver is that there's this whole new digital marketing paradigm, which is, you know, digital marketing, which is essentially and this is the marketing part of it is, how do I communicate the right product to the right person at the right time? 

What was very interesting, it was a study done in Holland a couple of years ago where they looked at five different theatres and they looked at all aspects of how they communicate and how they engage with their audiences. And what I like is, you know, a very simple fact, which is that if you can get one person to come to one theatre three times, then there's a 70% chance of that person having this as a fixed, what is it, ritual. And they will come again and again and again. So that's obvious to a lot of people. 

The question, then, I asked the cultural organisations is, how do you know who's been there once or been there twice? And how do you get them to come a third time? And that's why for me, it's very much an operational exercise answering that one simple question, how do

I get the right product to the right person at the right time? And to answer your question, you need the underlying data. I know I need to know who that person is. I know I need to know what their preferences are, and I need to know, have a history of when they prefer to get that information about when the next performance is so that they buy it. So I'm presenting a product at the right time for them to make the right decision.

Matt: Yeah. So clearly it's a powerful tool to kind of enhance the commercial operation of venues in the sector. But as you say, gathering, storing and organising the data is a big part of the process and the challenging part of the process for many organisations. But then you also need the knowledge to dissect it, analyse it, and draw actionable insights. In big tech businesses, this would often be done by expensive data analysts. Perhaps this is why arts and culture venues aren't quite leveraging data as effectively as they could be. So how can venues ensure they're utilising data in the best way possible?

Frederik: Well, if we look at the basics, you know, data collection is about, you know, everybody's talking about data collection. But if you take one step back, and we’ve done several conferences in the nordics, where everybody is screaming for data. We need more insights, we need to know more about our audience. What we discovered, during this conference, and the conclusions of the conference where we had stakeholders from theatres, museums, funders, national agencies who are providing insights, it’s not the data that’s the issues, it’s the questions. What is it cultural leaders want to know, and if you really want to be sophisticated about it, what do they want to know about their audiences, artistically, or about what they want to do or be artistically? What do they want to be socially, i.e. for whom? And finally, one of the questions they should be asking themselves is what are our financial goals here? 

So, step one, before we get to this ‘how do we do it?’ And because we're a small organisation, asking the question, what is it we want to know? And once we've done that, and I was at a recent conference on this, you know, we all know about the problem that the larger organisations, they have a big, sophisticated marketing machine and ticketing and, what is it, sales apps. Start small, you know, go into the foyer. Develop a questionnaire specific to your needs, look at the data which is out there, you know, provided by people like Audience Agency in the UK. And then, see whether there is a correlation between what you want to do and what you want to find out. And sometimes it's very simple things you want to find out, but that's one aspect of it. 

The second aspect of it is what we're seeing in Europe and in Nordics is that there's a greater collaboration between cultural organisations. And, you know, we've been doing this for ages in the IT industry. We said we've been saying to our customers, you don't need to be IT specialists. You need to concentrate on your core business. And the thing about taking care of computers and generating reports, you know you can outsource. And what I'm seeing cultural organisations doing and cultural clusters is that several theatres will get together and have a common CRM system, several theatres or museums or, you know, festivals will share customer data and they will, which you can do and be GDPR compliant. And then, have a communal approach to marketing. 

And even in Sweden, you know, there actually was the councils who will fund an organisation who will do it on behalf of all of the cultural organisations which they fund in their area. So I think there's, you know, there's different approaches. There's not one silver bullet in this. But going back to the start, what is it you want to find out? And ask that existential question about who it is you want to be and for whom. And that's easier said than done. And then base what you want to know about your audiences from that. But on a more practical level, it's all about, you know, if you don't have a big IT system, if you don't have a data analyst and so on, speak to your colleagues, see whether you can share this. This thing about aggregated data is so powerful, and it's one of the key drivers we see in the Nordics where, where cultural organisations are getting around the table together and the different marketing people are getting together and then saying, why don't we lift this as a team?

Matt: Yeah, that makes sense. In the arts and culture sector, we often like to think our raison d'etre is more than just about making the balance sheet go black. Arts and culture helps answer some of life's most difficult questions. And venues often host culturally significant performances that everyone should witness. What role does data play in something like diversity, inclusivity and I guess, more social aspects of arts and culture.

Frederik: Well. I think I'll answer that question by talking about a great case study we did. So we were approached by a region of Sweden, which is, you know, 2 million people. And they, more than most, have seen a great influx of economic migrants from the north of Africa. So you take a very, you know, Nordic country and you get a lot of people from Morocco and Algeria and stuff like that. And culture has been put forward as, by the politicians, you know, the mechanism whereby you create an integrated and balanced society where you take the different society groups and you bring them together under the umbrella of, the fabric of culture, which is Swedish. 

So putting on my marketing economist hat again, for me, what the funders are looking for is that they want as much of the public funded culture to be distributed across as many citizens as possible. I hope that makes sense. So what we need to know is who is engaged, who's not engaged. And we need data and what we discovered in Sweden is that the data was not being collected, was not being analysed when they wanted to look at. Was it the specifics? And imagine a map of a big area and imagine it as a heat map where you have, you know, people who are highly engaged and people who are not engaged. And then I want to know where, the people who are not engaged, where do they live, what kind of demographics are they? What do they spend their time on? 

And one of the ways we did it, which was, I thought, you know, quite innovative, was going back to the previous point, which is if we take all of the ticketing data from the major cultural organisations, anonymise them, aggregate them, and then have a look at generating that heat map. Then you've got a first step in terms of understanding where the people, who are not engaged, live. And then you can start mapping your marketing to the channels for what their preferences are in those areas. You know, is it a language issue? Is it, you know, are they using different social media than we thought they would be using, etc., etc.? And that's where, you know, unless you've got the data and you're collecting data and you're analysing data, you're really not going to get an understanding for who's active and who's not active. 

And by doing that, thereby you increase that social diversity which a lot of the politicians and funders have as a quid pro quo for providing cultural organisations the finances they do.

Matt: Yeah. So data is really going to inform a lot of that decision making for cultural organisations, really. Well, it's been really insightful, Frederick. Thank you for your time. If anyone wants to learn more about leveraging data strategies, what's the best way they can reach you.

Frederik: Well, I'm so old, so I'm still using  email. So you're always welcome to send me an email. It's Frederick at Kulturdata, as we say in Danish, but and specifically if you're interested in being inspired by what your colleagues are doing in places like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in Copenhagen and in Berlin then, you know, drop me a line. There's always some good conversations. We've got some activities going on. We've got a one day conference in Copenhagen on the 19th of August, and then we meet again with the European Data Alliance in Bergen in October, which is in Norway. So just reach out. There's some good conversations to be had.

Matt: Yeah. Well, we'll make sure we'll put your emails down wherever we host this video as well. So that'd be great. All right. Well, thank you for that. Excellent. It's been great talking to you. And yeah, we'll hopefully see you next time.

Frederik: Brilliant. Good speaking to you, Matt. 

Matt: Take care. Thank you. Bye.

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