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The Arts in a Digital World

Survey Data Report

May 31, 201731 May 2017

Arts and digital technologies

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Based on a survey completed by 907 arts organizations and 2,680 artists in Canada, this report examines “the impact of digital technologies on the creation, dissemination and business practices of individual artists and arts organizations in Canada”. Canada Council grant recipients over the past three years were the primary focus of the survey, but it was also open to arts organizations and artists that had not previously received support from the Canada Council. The survey received identical response rates of 23% among arts organizations and artists.

In general, most respondents self-identified as “comfortable” or “very comfortable” using digital technologies (71% of organizations and 60% of artists). Just over one-third of arts organizations (38%) and one-half of artists (54%) have created “digital-first” works of art.

The survey found that arts organizations see digital technologies as being particularly significant for: marketing, communications, and promotions; audience development, mediation, and engagement; managing their organizations; networking; and research. Among artists, digital technologies were found to be particularly significant for: marketing, communications, and promotions; research; networking; audience development, mediation, and engagement; and disseminating art.

On average, arts organizations estimated that they spend 37% of their operating budgets on digital technologies. The survey found that “the cost of digital tools (both initial and on-going) is the most pressing concern” among both organizations and artists. Only 44% of arts organizations and 52% of artists indicated that they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their investments in digital technologies. The report indicates that respondents might be aware “that they could do more with technology but are unsure how to take full advantage of these tools”.

With regard to future plans to invest in specific digital tools, arts organizations most commonly selected digital communications and engagement (79%), websites (78%), digital dissemination (68%), and social media (65%). For their part, artists most commonly expect to invest in websites (71%), digital communications and engagement (63%), crowdfunding (55%), blogs (also 55%), social media (54%), and digital dissemination (53%).

The research project also included a literature review of reports related to the arts and digitization. The literature review highlights six “digital phenomena which affect the arts and creative industries sectors acutely, including”:

  1. Discoverability (i.e., “greater challenges in reaching audiences, or being discovered, in a crowded content world”).
  2. “The evolving role of intermediaries, curators and programmers”.
  3. “Multi-format and transmedia works”.
  4. “Social media as a means of engaging with audiences and as a means of disseminating content”.
  5. “Diversified funding sources, such as crowdfunding to build their digital capacity, introduce necessary upgrades, undertake new digital projects or solidify their funding base”.
  6. “Virtual and augmented reality”.

Some key themes for arts-related digital strategies include:

  • “The use of digital technologies in the development and creation of new works;
  • Supporting innovation in the arts/creative industries;
  • Enabling greater access to, and dissemination of, creative works through digital technologies;
  • Building the organizational capacity of arts/creative organizations, through digital technologies; and
  • Strengthening social inclusion through digital.”


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