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Culture Track 2014

May 27, 201527 May 2015

Dance / Arts participation and engagement

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Based on a survey of 4,026 Americans 18 years of age or over, Culture Track 2014 examines cultural attendance as well as the attitudes, motivations, and behaviours of “culturally-active audiences” in an attempt to “understand what’s really driving or discouraging cultural participation”. The sample size has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Between a similar 2011 survey and the 2014 iteration, there was an increase in the percentage of Americans participating at least once a year in many art forms (including four types of museums, musical theatre, and classical music), but there were some decreases (including drama, classical dance, modern dance, and opera).

The survey found that the frequency of participation has decreased over time, which the survey attributes to a lingering “effect of the economic downturn”: many respondents indicated that they were “reducing expenses across the board”, “cutting back on leisure activities”, or “reprioritizing time / money spent on leisure”.

Respondents held fairly broad views regarding what activities might be considered “cultural activities”:

  • 79% would include national, state, or municipal parks
  • 66% would include a broadcast of a live performance at a movie theatre
  • 64% would include street art
  • 64% would include food and drink experiences
  • 56% would include an independent film at a movie theatre
  • 51% would include non-commercial television

The report indicates that “cultural audiences are seeking both entertainment and enlightenment”. The most common reasons for making culture a part of one’s life include:

  • Entertainment and enjoyment (93%)
  • Time with friends / family (83%)
  • Expanding one’s perspective (79%)
  • An interest in the subject matter (77%)
  • Learning about other cultures (76%)
  • An introduction to new things (73%)

Regarding attendance drivers, the report finds that “content, value and being social” are key. The most common barriers to attendance include cost, unappealing topics, and the hassle of getting to a cultural activity.

While advance planning appears to be on the rise, “loyalty continues to decline for both visual and performing arts”. In the visual arts, the percentage of respondents holding memberships decreased from 26% in 2011 to 15% in 2014. In the performing arts, the percentage of respondents with subscriptions decreased from 23% in 2011 to 10% in 2014.

The report also provides survey results concerning information sources used to find out about cultural activities, the use of technology to enhance cultural experiences, charitable donations, perceptions of sponsorship, as well as a breakdown of some differences in responses by age.

The report concludes that audiences are “anything but passive”, “open-minded”, and “actively seeking new experiences”. For cultural organizations, the key recommendation in the report is to “listen to what audiences have to say”.

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