One of the many lessons learned among the shocks of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was the vital need for better data about the cultural economy. As government moved to support the cultural sector during the various lockdowns it rapidly became clear that the data describing the sector was patchy and did not paint an accurate picture.

To address this problem The Audience Agency and MyCake were commissioned by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to identify ways to strengthen data on the cultural economy, especially the availability and quality of financial data.

The cultural sector needs better data so that it is possible to understand its value and contribution to the economy and society. At the moment, significant data gaps make it difficult to account for the value of the cultural sector accurately.

Data about the cultural economy is published by different institutions both inside and outside the sector. Some is published by cultural organisations, some by arm’s-length bodies, regulators and funders and some by different government departments. Because the data is not consistent it’s difficult to get an holistic view of the whole cultural sector, from theatres to museums, cinemas to heritage, and it’s not possible to easily combine datasets to derive better insight.

To assess the financial value generated by the cultural sector’s multiple supply chains, DCMS and other interested parties need data with more comprehensive coverage, greater detail and improved accuracy.

We identified five opportunity areas for collecting better data:

  1. Exploiting administrative data which represents the best opportunity for collecting data to report on the cultural sector’s impact (Administrative data is information created when people or organisations interact with services or other organisations.)
  2. Standardising how organisations collect, segment and analyse data to generate new insight.
  3. Linking different datasets to add value to the data collected.
  4. Publishing data in a timely way to ensure annual, organisation-level data remains a valuable data building-block.
  5. Modernising how data is collected, moving away from submission using PDFs, so generating new insights is sustainable.

We have proposed a roadmap to ensure our recommendations can be implemented:

  • Aligning the data to be collected by cultural Arms-Length Bodies (ALBs) such as Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, British Film Institute and National Lottery Heritage Fund.
  • Enhancing and making better use of data already collected by Charity Commission for England & Wales, Companies House and government’s Interdepartmental Business Register (IDBR).

Read the Full Report on the DCMS Website