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Motivational and Demographic Factors for Performing Arts Attendance Across Place and Form

June 21, 201221 June 2012

Performing arts attendance / Audience motivations

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This report examines demographic and motivational factors in theatre, dance and classical music attendance in Boston, Seattle, and Minneapolis-St. Paul based on surveys conducted in 2002. The researchers created statistical models to investigate similarities and differences in factors in attendance between the three cities and the three art forms.

Four attendance factors – two motivational and two demographic – showed the greatest consistency in the nine statistical models created for the project (i.e., models for each of the three art forms in each of the three cities):

  • The “escape motivation” for attending was significant in eight of nine statistical models. The researchers derived their analysis of “escape” from questions about respondents’ inability to escape “due to lack of familiarity with locations, the costs of travel, or not having anyone to escape with”.
  • The “self-esteem measure” was significant in six of the nine statistical models. The researchers synthesized the results from three questions into their measurement of self-esteem: whether the performing arts help respondents understand other cultures better, be more creative, and make them feel more connected to their community.
  • Education levels were a significant factor in seven of the nine statistical models. Interestingly, dance attendance was the exception, showing relatively consistent attendance rates across education levels.
  • Household income was a significant factor in five of the nine statistical models.

While not consistent across the three art forms, the desire for social interaction was a statistically significant variable in predicting theatre attendance in all three cities.

On the whole, most psychological motivations for attendance were not found to be consistent across the three cities and the different art forms: “the statistical significance of motivations [was] often too unstable across models to justify broad generalizations about socialization motivations’ roles in explaining performing arts attendance”. As a result, the researchers argue that “socialization, psychological, or lifestyle variables … require more science before they can provide guidance to nonprofit managers and marketing specialists on how to attract more audiences to their performing arts.”

Because “demographic variables have slightly more veracity across place and form”, the researchers “urge scholars and managers not to underemphasize the value of demographics in predicting performing arts attendance”.

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