9 in 10 patrons will return to arts and culture events – but most aren’t ready yet

Audience genericSix government agencies are collaborating with an international team of researchers to track how Australian audiences feel about attending arts and culture events in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Audience Outlook Monitor is being delivered in Australia in an unprecedented collaboration by research agencies Patternmakers (Sydney) and WolfBrown (USA) in collaboration with the Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Victoria, Create NSW, Arts Queensland, Department of Premier and Cabinet (South Australia) and the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (Western Australia).

Over 23,000 respondents from 159 organisations contributed to the aggregated results that are freely available in an accessible dashboard to assist artists and cultural organisations of all kinds in understanding how audiences feel about attending events again.

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 companies to micro ones in regional Australia.

These organisations simultaneously sent a survey to a random sample of their audiences, who had attended a cultural event, such as a concert, exhibition, festival, author talk or art workshop since January 2018.

Key findings of the results include:
• Overwhelmingly, audiences plan to return to arts and cultural events in the future (85%), with 78% planning to attend just as they did in the past and 7% even more often.
• On average, 22% of audiences are comfortable attending as soon as restrictions are lifted. 67% will attend when they deem the risk of transmission to be minimal. 11% won’t be back until there is no risk at all.

The results show that the pandemic will affect who comes back when, and the size of events and the type of interactions with which audiences feel comfortable. With respect to artistic content, the vast majority agree they will be most interested in the same kinds of events they used to attend (93%).

“Creativity will be vital to our national recovery as we seek to bring life back into our cities and regions,” said Australia Council CEO, Adrian Collette AM. “This research provides valuable and promising insights into the future of the cultural and creative sector, while highlighting the initial challenges in encouraging audiences to return to live experiences.”

“It will be cultural experiences that will have people hitting the road for domestic tourism, and the shared experiences of live performances and public events that will draw us back into our urban and regional centres and their restaurants, bars and cafes. This will play a critical role in boosting consumer confidence overall.”

The Audience Outlook Monitor will collect data again in July and September, to track how audience sentiment changes as conditions change, and people are allowed to resume gathering in larger groups.

“By capturing this level of detail about changing attitudes, we can provide artists and cultural organisations with timely information to plan ahead and make the best possible decisions about re-opening,” said Managing Director of research agency Patternmakers, Tandi Palmer Williams.

For more information about the study, and to access the Snapshot Report, visit: www.thepatternmakers.com.au for details.