Busking Skeptically Part 2 – Demographics
As a busker, I’m in the entertainment business and part of that business is targeting your audience. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been making an effort to observe my paying customers and determine if there is a group that I should be focusing on. It proved challenging, and the results surprised me.
The first challenge is, of course, that I am juggling and tap dancing while I am attempting to gather data. This makes it somewhat challenging to get a reliable data-set. Not only will I suffer from the full host of perceptual biases, sometimes I just don’t see people because I’m facing away.
The next challenge was to try to discern what demographics were observable. Given that I couldn’t exactly give every donor an exit interview, I had to go with what was superficially visible. Sex and age were the easiest, followed by race. Religion was harder to tease out, but there were some markers that I was able to pick up on. Nationality was nearly impossible because most people don’t talk to me so I can’t tell the difference between a fifth generation Canadian and a tourist.
So with all that, who is my target audience? Everybody. Seriously. There was no demographic that I could pick out that did not donate. Men and women of every age gave me money. At least one person from every visibly different race has tossed a coin in my hat. Practicing Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians (identified by their Hijabs, Turbans, and Crosses respectively) all gave. Children, parents, teenagers, groups, individuals, seniors, farmers, programmers… whenever I thought of some group that I hadn’t noticed tossing my a dollar, a representative would appear to prove me wrong. It was kind of lovely, really.
Even people without money to give sometimes donate. I received two interesting gifts last week. The first was a pouch of broccoli seeds. It was given with honest enthusiasm for the broccoli that I would grow. This was lovely and kind but not nearly so much as my second unusual gift. A young man, perhaps seven or eight years old, entirely on his own stopped to watch my performance. Having no cash, he instead gave me something precious to him. He dug out a small bag of gumballs, earnestly selected one and placed in carefully in my hat. It was utterly heart-warming.
Warm fuzzies aside, what have I really learned? We all know that within every group, there will be someone generous, or appreciative of performance, or just with more money than sense. What we really want to know is what group has the highest proportion of givers. Well, for the most part it was hard to work out. I couldn’t take a solid survey, but broadly speaking, it was pretty even. There were only three groups that stood out at all.
The group that gave the least were probably high school students. This doesn’t really surprise me. When I was in high school, admitting that I was impressed or entertained was a sign of weakness, and also money was more precious.
Parents with children are probably the most reliable audience members. This is unsurprising, but they are also the group most likely to stop and watch and then leave without giving, which is an odd balance. Although, I do not mind this them as children are expensive things to have already without giving money to strangers on the street. Also, just by being an audience, they attract a larger audience.
Finally, the demographic that gives the most, from my observations, are middle-aged men wearing dresses and vibrant eye-shadow. It is hard to determine if they are transvestites, or transsexuals, or just in a play somewhere, but it would appear as though they donate at a rate of 100%. This may be something of a sampling error, though, as I’m working from a sample size of 1.