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Culture Track 2011

February 21, 201221 February 2012

Arts attendance and participation

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Based on a survey of 4,005 Americans 18 years of age or over, Culture Track 2011 examines attendance at visual and performing arts events, the attitudes and behaviours of cultural audiences, as well as the motivations and barriers that influence participation.

The report identifies eight segments of arts goers:

  • Non-attendees (27% of survey respondents).
  • Infrequent attendees (21%).
  • Rural history buffs (12% of respondents, typically people who “reside outside of urban markets and are most interested in historical sites”).
  • Devoted theatre-goers (11% of respondents, typically middle-aged or older individuals with relatively high incomes).
  • Museum mavens (10% of respondents, typically wealthy, older, female respondents).
  • Family-centric participants (9% of respondents, primarily women who participate frequently in child-friendly activities).
  • Young cultural omnivores (the 5% of respondents who attend, on average, 4.42 cultural events per month).
  • Seasoned cultural omnivores (also 5% of respondents. These respondents attend an average of 3.86 cultural events per month.)

The report highlights the distinct participation patterns of members of each of these market segments.

The report finds that the current economic malaise has influenced arts participation: 49% of respondents indicated that they have decreased their arts attendance because of the economy. Another 46% indicated that they attend the same amount, while 5% of respondents attend more frequently now. Among those who have reduced their arts attendance, key reasons include the need to “reduce expenses across the board”, “cut back on leisure activities” and “reprioritize leisure time and money”. The report finds that the frequency of arts participation has decreased in recent years, with even the most active arts goers participating less frequently.

Regarding attendance motivations and barriers, the report finds that the most commonly-cited factors that are “very influential” in the decision to attend a cultural event include the cost of the event (cited by 46% of respondents), the fact that the respondent’s spouse or partner is interested (41%), having received an invitation by friends or family (35%), discount tickets (28%), and friends’ recommendations (24%). The report notes that three of these top five influencing factors are social or personal factors. The report also highlights the fact that friends’ recommendations (cited by 24% of respondents) are much more influential than critics’ recommendations (cited by only 5% of respondents).

The three most commonly-cited barriers to attendance include cost (67% of respondents indicated that it “costs too much”), unappealing programs or events (50%), and the belief that it is “too much of a hassle to get there” (39%).

Overall, the report finds that “the value proposition remains the most influential driver as well as the biggest barrier” to participation. Three key incentives are highlighted: cost (i.e., “less expensive tickets”), connections with friends and family, and convenience (i.e., “more convenient transportation or parking”). Free programs and casual dress are other important incentives among survey respondents.

The report briefly examines respondents’ views regarding arts sponsorship. About one-half of respondents agreed that “corporate sponsorship of the arts makes me think highly of the sponsor” (53%), “corporate sponsorship of the arts makes me more receptive to the sponsor’s message” (53%), and “corporate sponsorship of the arts makes me feel good about doing business with the sponsor” (50%). Frequent attendees are in greater agreement with each of these statements.

A large majority of respondents agree with statements about four key benefits of the arts to the community: educating children (82% of respondents in agreement), promoting understanding (79%), producing community pride (73%) and contributing to the local economy (72%).

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