Audience Outlook Monitor Snapshot Report — November 2022
This report reflects data collected nationwide in October 2022 as part of the Audience Outlook Monitor study of arts audiences, in collaboration with WolfBrown
Comfort levels hold steady, while current attendance breaks 8 in 10 and more than half make purchases; still, personal budget concerns are real
Sentiments about current attendance are at their highest levels yet: in October, 80% reported that they are currently attending. While attendance for all age groups continues to climb, the youngest patrons are attending at record high rates compared to other age cohorts: more than 90% of patrons under age 54 are already attending in-person programs, compared to 76% of those over age 65. 24% of those over age 65 are still waiting to attend, including 8% who say they will wait into 2023. Black and African American patrons are more hesitant than any other patrons in October, with only 72% reporting that they are currently attending, compared to greater than 80% among patrons of other races.
Comfort levels in both indoor and outdoor venues are holding steady. As of October, 70% say they would feel ‘very comfortable’ at an outdoor festival or concert, and 44% say the same of a large theatre or concert hall. Preference for outdoor venues continues its softening trend since mid-July: only 34% say they would ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’ prefer outdoor venues in this moment (compared to 48% in July, 40% in August, and 37% in September). 45% currently have no preference regarding indoor or outdoor venues.
Expectations around current indoor attendance look similar to September. Half of responding patrons in October say they will attend indoors under any circumstances. Meanwhile, the other half (49%) still expect some safety regulation to be in place in order to attend indoors (at least masks). Mask wearing is still discretionary for half of patrons: when masks are optional, 49% say they may or may not wear a mask depending on the circumstances. Meanwhile, 36% of patrons say they will always wear a mask.
Recent single ticket, subscription and membership purchases are holding steady, with 57% of respondents having purchased tickets or subscriptions in late October. In October, 61% of audiences with a self-reported ‘strong’ organizational bond made purchases, compared to 51% with a weak bond. A greater percentage of young patrons (63% under age 35) also made recent purchases. Notably more inclined to buy month over month, 64% of Asian patrons made ticket or subscription purchase in late October. Still more than half of all patrons who bought single tickets in October purchased the tickets more than a month in advance of the event date.
For those who have yet to return to the theater, COVID concerns are up slightly, along with budget limitations, while program interest remains a dominant barrier to attendance:
52% have not yet found a program they want to attend. This barrier is pronounced among patrons under age 64, whereas fewer older patrons share this concern.
35% report concerns about contracting or transmitting COVID-19 in October, compared to 32% in September. Older patrons, and patrons with a stronger bond with the organization tend to be most concerned about COVID transmission.
An increasing 27% of patrons cite budget limitations. Younger patrons, and those with a weaker bond tend to be more limited by budget.
Current readiness to attend among vaccinated patrons continues to climb to record levels
Current readiness to attend among vaccinated patrons continues to climb. 88% say they are ready to attend as of October, which is new record high rate of current readiness to attend. Only 10% are still waiting for infection rates to drop.
Inflation impacts selectivity of some patrons; others remain interested in learning and investment in ‘high art’ like classical music and opera
Inflation continues its outsized impact on younger, non-white audiences. Overall, 43% of patrons say that they are more selective about their spending on live entertainment due to economic conditions, while the remaining 56% say they are no more or less selective. Despite purchasing at higher rates, younger patrons are still more selective, limited by inflation impacts: 54% under the age of 35 are more selective with entertainment options now, compared to only 45% or less over age 55. Also, white patrons are less inclined to be selective due to economic impacts (41%), while Hispanic patrons are feeling inflation impacts at higher rates than in prior months; 63% of Hispanic or Latinx audiences say they are more selective.
Those patrons who are attending events continue to attend outdoor music and dance: more than 10% say they have attended outdoor arts and cultural events more often, and an additional 64% say that their frequency at these events is about the same as before the pandemic.
Audience experience factors with the greatest positive bearing on attendance include a choice of seat types (50%), and stricter health safety protocols (52%). Audiences remain divided on the concept of allowing drinks in the auditorium, with about one third considering this a negative factor, and another third considering this a positive factor. Meanwhile, 63% say that they consider it a negative if a venue has ‘no health safety protocols’. ‘Longer intermissions’ are also a negative factor for more than half of patrons.
When asked about their interest in deepening knowledge of performing arts genres, responding patrons indicate the strongest interest in ‘high art’ forms including classical music and opera. Nearly 70% express significant interest in a better understanding of these art forms.
When those who expressed interest were asked how they might fulfill a personal interest in the respective performing art genres…
- Most theatergoers said they would entertain more theater attendance at their organization (61%), as well as attend greater variety of theatrical programming (63%)
- Opera attenders said they would entertain more opera attendance (60%) and greater variety (54%), but they are also interested in opera streaming services (47%)
- Classical music patrons said they would entertain more concert attendance (57%) and greater variety (58%), in addition to exploring composers (43%) and soloists (30%) and supporting young artists lacking access to musical instruction or instruments (26%)
- Patrons of dance said they would attend more dance events (76%) and a greater variety thereof (59%), as well as learn about familiar and new choreographers (47%) and watch recordings of dance programs (34%)