The Rise of Co-op Databases
In a nutshell, in cities with shared arts databases, the symphony, opera, ballet and other groups share a database of all the people who have shown an affinity for the performing arts. Anyone not in the shared database, regardless of their demographics, is generally a less likely prospect.
What is striking is that the direct marketing industry, in general, has not been a supporter of the shared arts database concept. Some list brokers and data providers have pushed demographic or lifestyle lists, which is their traditional way of selling. A relative few have seen the benefit to the arts groups of building the shared arts databases, and adapted their own businesses and offerings to fit.
A clear hierarchy for performing arts lists exists from one symphony to another, and any direct marketer can look at it and see why it makes sense to trade names.
One of the keys (for the arts groups) is ranking segments for the merge/purge. There is so much overlap within and between segments that ranking is crucial. A so-so list, if ranked above a better list, could perform better than expected if they have a large amount of overlap. This is particularly true when duplicates are merely eliminated, rather than tracked.
It is relatively easy to make a list with demographic selects that matches a high percentage of the generally affluent performing arts patrons (see inset). However, the value of trade names with a proven affinity for the arts is best shown when demographic/lifestyle names are last in the merge/purge. That is, when those unique demo names are not on any of the other lists. These known "non-buyers" seldom perform well, regardless of demographics.
The point of arts trade databases is not that they work so well, nor that most arts groups are receptive to participating, but rather that those in the direct marketing industry are usually not able to serve this need.