This article critically examines how segmentation is used to identify, understand and engage arts audiences. Policy reports and academic publications are reciewed to establish the priorites of arts policymakers and practitioners fir understanding arts audiences ant heir continued focus on audience data and segmentation. This article then makes two contributions. Firstly, critical perspectives on the use of data for audience profiling are applied to arts audience segmentation. Secondly, reseach using biographical methods is introduced as a new approach for critically evaluating arts audience segmentation. This research, employing biographical methods, shows the exploration and negotiation of audience identity positions. This article takes these insights to critically examine the implications of how profiles and segments are used to define and understand audiences for the arts. The conclusion addresses the implications of segmentation in terms of the design and communication of cultural experiences, the complexities of aligning audiences’ identities with segments, and the seemingly inevitability of exclusion. This article will be of relevance in the scholarly study of arts audiences and for arts and cultural organisations and policymakers in reflecting on the implications of quantitative and qualitative approaches in designing and undertaking audience research.