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Survey of the General Public

The Value of Presenting: A Study of Arts Presentation in Canada

June 21, 201221 June 2012

Performing arts attendance / Audience motivations

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This report examines Canadians’ performing arts participation based on a combination online and telephone survey of 1,031 adults. The survey instrument was designed to be comparable with results from the 2005 General Social Survey. These two surveys (unlike the 2010 General Social Survey) asked respondents about their attendance at performances by professional artists.

When asked “How often have you attended performing arts performances by professional artists over the past 12 months?”, 75% of respondents indicated that they attended at least once, including 14% attending only once, 33% attending between two and four times during the year, 21% attending “five or more times, but not every month”, and 7% attending “at least once every month”. On the other hand, 13% of Canadians indicated that they have never attended a performance by professional artists.

The study provides statistics on the percentage of Canadians attending theatrical performances (44%), popular music performances (42%), cultural festivals (29%), symphonic or classical music performances (20%), performances of cultural or heritage music, theatre or dance (19%), dance performances (15%), and other types of performances (19%). This is the first time since 1998 that dance-specific data have been available in a broad-based national survey. The report also provides attendance rates for six geographic regions: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan/Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada.

The survey also asked respondents about their non-performing arts activities: 55% visited a conservation area or nature park during the previous year; 48% visited a museum or public art gallery; 46% visited an historic site; and 38% attended a live sporting event. The report confirms other research in finding strong crossover attendance between performing arts activities, other cultural activities, sports events, and zoos or other animal exhibits.

Regarding ways of engaging with the performing arts other than via live performances, the survey found that 71% of Canadians access performing arts presentations via television, 46% via the Internet, 34% on DVD, video or Blu-Ray, and 28% in movie theatres.

While three-quarters of respondents attended a performance at a performing arts facility and one-half did so outdoors, a number of other venues were also commonly mentioned: 39% attended a performance at a community space; 34% at a restaurant or bar; 27% at a general purpose stadium or circus; 25% at a museum or public art gallery; 20% at a place of worship; and 12% at a private venue.

Among Canadians with a performing arts facility located nearby, 79% indicated that they would “miss it if there were no live, professional performing arts available in [their] community” (including 58% to a high extent and 21% to a moderate extent).

Regarding active participation in the performing arts, 41% of respondents indicated that personal participation (such as taking dancing lessons, playing a musical instrument and acting in or reading plays) was important. Another 21% indicated that personal participation was moderately important, while 37% stated that personal participation was not important to them.

For survey respondents, the main personal benefits of attending the performing arts were “entertainment, fun” (84%), “emotional/spiritual/intellectual stimulation” (58%), and to “learn/experience something new” (57%). In addition to personal benefits, the survey asked respondents to select three main collective benefits of the performing arts in communities. The most common responses included bringing energy and vitality to the community (42%), improving the quality of life and well-being of residents (38%), fostering a more creative community (37%), and promoting economic development (32%).

The survey also asked respondents whether, in the long run, attendees or the community as a whole benefit more “from the presentation of performing arts in your community”. Overall, 36% of respondents indicated that both attendees and the whole community benefit equally. Exactly the same percentage (29%) selected “the community as a whole” and “those who attend performing arts activities”.

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