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Creative Trust’s Audience Engagement Survey

Results by Discipline

February 9, 20119 February 2011

Performing arts finances, attendance and participation

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This report examines the engagement preferences of Toronto-area performing arts attendees before, during and after performances. The report is based on nearly 3,700 responses to a survey distributed by 20 performing arts organizations that are members of the Creative Trust. The survey was conducted by WolfBrown and Hill Strategies Research. The report highlights discipline-based results for dance (436 respondents), music (1,008 respondents), opera (142 respondents) and theatre (2,076 respondents).

Women comprise 69% of all survey respondents and a substantial majority of respondents in all disciplines. The average age of survey respondents is 49. Among the disciplines, music audiences are the oldest (average of 57 years of age), followed by opera (53), theatre (48) and dance (46).

Many audience members attended the programs of several of the 20 mid-sized performing organizations over the past two years. The report indicates that “the most avid performing arts goers attended the programs of 15 of the 20 organizations in the past two years.” On average, respondents attended the programs of 3.5 different organizations.

The report outlines different ways in which individuals participate in the performing arts, including attending performances, dancing, singing or playing instruments themselves, taking lessons, creating works, listening or watching on the internet, reading or writing blogs, and watching TV competitions.

Reinforcing research into the social aspect of live performances, the report indicates that “friends are the most common attendance companions in all four disciplines, followed by spouses or partners. [However,] a substantial minority of audiences in all disciplines attend alone.”

Data in the report indicates that the most common reasons for attending performances are “to be inspired or uplifted”, “to engage intellectually with the art”, and to discover new works. The report notes that the most common motivations for attending performances vary between the disciplines.

Over one-half of survey respondents indicated that they prefer to do “just a bit” of preparation before attending performances, and about one-quarter prefer to do “a moderate amount” of preparation. Some audience members suggested that they “would like to get more of a glimpse at the ‘process’ behind the performance, be it videos posted online or actually attending rehearsals or hearing interviews from the creative team, performers and crew”.

Short introductions from the stage were the most commonly-desired engagement activity during performances. Regarding audience participation, the survey results show that “music and opera audiences are strongest in agreement that audiences should just sit quietly and watch or listen during performances”, while “dance and theatre audiences are strongest in agreement that audiences should be allowed participate, react and interact during performances”.

Regarding potential activities after performances, “the strongest preference in all disciplines is ‘both’ reflecting privately [on performances] and discussing [them] vigorously”. Among specific activities, “discussions with friends and family are very popular among audiences in all four disciplines”. In addition, the report finds that “interest in reviews by professional critics is quite high among attendees in all four disciplines” and that facilitated Q&A and informal discussion sessions are also quite popular.

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