New Research on Arts Audience Attitudes and Behavior

Posted by Mr. Gary P. Steuer, Jan 08, 2008 0 comments

LaPlaca Cohen, in partnership with Discovery Communications and Antenna Audio, has recently released Culture Track 2007, a new national study (actually the fourth done by them since 2003) looking at attitudes and behavior of cultural audiences.  (The report is available from the LaPlaca Cohen Web site) Conducted by e-mail, the results are unusually immediate, and because of the previous research, historical trends can also be reviewed. The research also breaks down the survey respondents into Frequent Attendees (who attend at least one arts event/month) and Infrequent Attendees.  Some the of the 2007 results show little change from past studies, and I will focus here on the trends and what I see as the particularly enlightening findings:

  • There has been little change in overall attendance, but the percentage of respondents attending three or more events per month has risen from 15% in 2005 to 31% in 2007.
  • Frequency of attendance is highly correlated with education, income, and age. Those with college degrees are heavier attenders, as are those with incomes over $75,000. As for age, it is the 18-29 demographic, younger audiences, who are heavier attenders, having risen from 2.2 events/month in 04 to 2.6 events/month in 07. Frequent attendees were more likely than the general population to be under 35 (42% vs. 33%), to be male (52% vs. 48%) and to be people of color (88% of the general population sample was white, but only 83% of frequent attendees. While frequent attendees ARE more likely to be higher income, better educated and city-dwellers - all expected results - I think the fact that they are also more likely than the general public to be young, male and non-white (even if by a relatively small margin) contradicts some commonly held beliefs and is REALLY fascinating.
  • In terms of barriers to more frequent attendance, difficulty in finding the time seems to have DECLINED in importance among both frequent and infrequent attendees. The biggest barrier respondents report remains cost.
  • When asked what they see as the value of the arts to their community, most respondents cite the role of the arts in contribution to the education of children as the #1 value. Second is promoting understanding of other cultures, third is adult education and fourth is "source of price in the community" These have essentially remained unchanged since 2005. There has been a modest (8 point) increase in the percentage of respondents who feel most arts organizations are "child-friendly" but it is still less than 50%. Definitely room for improvement!
  • While in general people still feel good about corporate support for the arts, there seems to be a trend towards a bit more cynicism. The answer to the question"When I see a corporation supporting the arts, it makes me feel good about doing business with that company" has declined from 55% in 2003 to 45% in 2007. There were similar declines in other measures of whether corporate support of an arts group influences people to think more highly of a company and be more receptive to their messages. On a positive note, the share of respondents who "do not like to see corporations supporting the arts" , or "don't feel anyone benefits from corporate sponsorship of the arts" have remained essentially unchanged since 2003 at about 11%. Perhaps not surprisingly the most supportive of corporate arts involvement are older and wealthier audiences (65+, household income over $150k)
  • In terms of sources of information, not surprisingly, Web and e-mail continue to grow dramatically, For the first time, e-mail surpassed direct mail as a source of information; reliance on newspapers (editorial and ads) increases with age, education and wealth. The younger the audience, the more important word of mouth and email are.
  • Another dramatic trend - significant growth in the internet as the preferred method of ticket purchase for performing AND visual arts audiences, across ALL age segments (including 65+!).
  • Many of the results seem to say that CONTENT is an increasingly important influencer in attendance. Audiences are more likely to choose a specific event, as opposed to having a general interest in attendance. Entertainment and enjoyment remain primary motivators for all, but especially the infrequent attenders. LaPlaca Cohen interprets the results to mean that "cost" itself is not so important a barrier, but PERCEIVED VALUE is the big barrier

LaPlaca Cohen, a marketing and advertising firm that specializes in working with arts clients, does a real service to the field by conducting this research and making it available for free to the field. Arthur Cohen, a principal of the firm, also serves on the Board of Americans for the Arts. I definitely encourage those involved in arts marketing, fundraising and advocacy to look at this study. On their Web site you can find both a summary PowerPoint and a fuller version which is a large PDF.

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