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B.C. Patron Insights

A Data Strategy for British Columbia's Arts and Culture Sector

November 2, 20202 November 2020

Arts attendance and COVID-19

Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance

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Aiming “to better understand arts and culture patron sentiment in order to assist in our sector’s COVID-19 recovery efforts”, this report summarizes the views of British Columbians who are on the mailing lists of 11 participating arts organizations, including data on respondents’ expectations regarding cultural spending as well as their digital and in-person cultural activities. The 2,189 survey responses were collected between July 21 and September 8. Among respondents, 76% are female, 47% are over 65 years of age, and another 27% are between 56 and 65 years old. As is the case for all surveys where people self-select whether to respond, there is uncertainty as to whether the responses provide a representative sample of all attendees at participating arts organizations.

Very high proportions of respondents agree that the arts and culture strengthen many aspects of their communities:

  • Quality of life: 98%
  • Mental health and wellness: 97%
  • Civic pride: 90%
  • Tourism: 90%
  • Economic recovery: 88%
  • Business community: 82%

About one-half of respondents (47%) expect to spend less on arts and culture over the next 12 months, compared with 27% who expect to spend the same amount and 25% who expect to spend more.

Since mid-March, 59% of respondents have attended at least one digital arts event, performance, or virtual tour. While there is a broad willingness to pay for live online performances (89% of attendees), the price point is much lower for online performances than in-person ones. The largest group of respondents (30%) would expect to pay roughly one-half of the price of an in-person live performance. Another 32% would expect to pay less than 40% of the in-person price, while 27% would expect to pay 60% or more of the in-person price.

Many respondents don’t know when they will return to different types of activities and spaces. The “don’t’ know” response was the most common one for all arts and culture activities:

  • Indoor Arts – Seated: 53% don’t know
  • Indoor Arts – Open Space: 47%
  • Outdoor Arts – Seated: 44%
  • Outdoor Arts – Open Space: 35%

In comparison, 53% of respondents have already returned to indoor seating in restaurants, while 23% don’t know when they will return.

The survey examined two key dimensions of respondents’ desire to return to in-person programming and activities. Regarding their eagerness and interest, 62% of respondents expressed “a high level of eagerness and interest to return to in-person programming”. Regarding respondents’ comfort levels, there is a strong split in the data between those who are very comfortable returning (29%) and those who are very uncomfortable (35%).

Many safety-related strategies and measures would make respondents somewhat or much more likely to attend an arts or culture activity:

  • Physically distanced seating and empty seats between groups: 86%
  • Availability of a vaccine: 84%
  • Mandatory masks for visitors/audience members: 82%
  • Mandatory masks or protective barriers for staff: 81%
  • Increased cleaning and disinfection of all touch surfaces: 81%
  • Controlled and staggered entry into, and exit from, the venue: 81%
  • Cancellable and refundable tickets: 79%
  • Hand washing or hand sanitizing stations: 79%

There are mixed results regarding respondents’ willingness to contribute to arts and culture organizations in ways other than attendance:

  • 49% are somewhat or very likely to buy vouchers or certificates redeemable for future programs. The other 51% are “not sure”, “somewhat unlikely” or “very unlikely” to contribute in this way.
  • 48% are somewhat or very likely to temporarily pay higher ticket prices, until programming and venues can operate at full capacity
  • 46% are somewhat or very likely to donate the value of unused tickets that they previously purchased
  • 46% are somewhat or very likely to make a special donation to a relief fund to benefit organizations like the one that sent them the survey
  • 44% are somewhat or very likely to buy tickets to live-streamed programs that they can watch at home
  • 27% are somewhat or very likely to pay a small monthly subscription fee for access to pre-recorded digital programs that are curated for them

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