1 in 4 audience members have returned to cultural events as confidence grows

Performers-photo-by Kyle-Head on UnsplashNew data shows that audiences are embracing opportunities to return to arts and cultural events, with 24% nationally saying they attended a museum, gallery, cinema or cultural event in the past fortnight.

Nationally, most audiences say that they would be somewhat or very comfortable to visit museums and galleries (93%) and botanic gardens and zoos (98%) today, along with community art spaces (87%) and outdoor events (70%). However, full recovery remains some way off, with significant variations from state to state.

“Arts and culture continue to be significant in the lives of all Australians. Many of us engage with arts and culture online, and 42 per cent are already actively planning to return to cultural events.,” said Australia Council CEO, Adrian Collette AM. “These trends are encouraging and highlight the importance of supporting the cultural sector to survive and thrive, so we can all reap the significant benefits to our wellbeing and our recovery.”

Since data was first collected in May 2020, audience readiness to attend has increased from 22% to 28% nationally, with audiences in five states/territories reporting particularly strong increases. Confidence is currently highest in the Northern Territory (NT) (39%, stable since May 2020), Queensland (QLD) (33%, up from 25%), South Australia (SA) (33%, up from 24%), Tasmania (TAS) (34%, up from 17%) and Western Australia (WA) (37%, up from 25%), where there were no recent cases of community transmission at the time of data collection.

Audiences are more cautious in Victoria (VIC) (20%), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) (20%) and New South Wales (NSW) (25%), in line with current concerns about community transmission. Nationally, the outlook for increasing activity in the sector is strong. A significant proportion of audiences (42%) are making firm plans to attend in future and 10% have bought a ticket to a live show or performance recently, for events spanning from July 2020 into 2021.

However, as of July 2020, there has now been more time for people to process the implications of the pandemic, including its associated health and financial risks. The proportion saying their future, long-term attendance will be negatively affected has increased to 22% nationally from 15% in May. Some audience members expect to spend less than they did before (17%), though the majority say they will spend the same (72%) or more (11%) when they return to arts and culture events.

Feedback from returning attendees on their recent experiences suggests that safety procedures are working well, and most people are satisfied with the way social distancing has been applied. However, some respondents would like to receive more communication by cultural venues about what to expect in different spaces and how audience members can play a part in keeping others safe.

Audiences are continuing to participate in arts and culture at home, with 73% recently consuming online experiences like live streamed events and virtual exhibitions. More than half (54%) say they are engaging online more frequently, and most of these people expect to continue after the pandemic ends (72%).

“Provision of high-quality cultural experiences online has given audiences a way to stay creative, connected and well during the pandemic,” said Managing Director of research agency Patternmakers, Tandi Palmer Williams. “The level of creative output and strong rates of participation mean that artists and cultural organisations are also driving economic activity right now. The proportion paying for experiences online has even increased slightly to 36%, with 38% of those spending over $50 in the past fortnight.”

The Audience Outlook Monitor is being delivered in Australia in an Australian-first partnership between seven government agencies and two research organisations Patternmakers (Sydney) and WolfBrown (USA). The agencies involved include the Australian Government through its arts funding and advisory body, the Australia Council for the Arts, along with Creative Victoria, Create NSW, Arts Queensland, The Department of Premier and Cabinet (South Australia), the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (Western Australia) and the ACT Government.

Baseline data was collected in May 2020 in a cross-sector collaborative survey involving museums, galleries, performing arts organisations and festivals from the country’s largest to micro companies in regional Australia. Over 15,000 respondents from 152 organisations contributed to the second phase of data collection in July 2020. From today, these latest results are available to explore in the freely accessible dashboard.

“The scale of this collaboration makes it one of the most innovative research partnerships ever seen in this field,” said Director Research and Knowledge Management, Rebecca Mostyn. “Aggregating data in this way is mutually beneficial for all parties and gives us an accurate and timely read on audience sentiment – exactly the kind of thinking needed to fuel innovation and realise more of the benefits of arts and creativity for our society during the pandemic.”

The Audience Outlook Monitor will collect data again in September 2020, to track how audience sentiment changes as conditions change. For more information, visit: www.thepatternmakers.com.au for details.

Image: photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash