We are again working with Patternmakers and WolfBrown in 2023 to understand changes in the behaviours and sentiments of arts-goers.
Since 2020, the Audience Outlook Monitor tracking study has provided the arts and cultural sector with crucial insights regarding behaviours and sentiments of arts audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study continues to bring timely and essential data on audience sentiment and trends to support planning and decision-making for arts and creative organisations.
Results from the April 2023 phase of data collection are now available, and key insights are outlined in a new snapshot report. The data suggests that audiences are enjoying the buzz of more arts and cultural events. Returning to cultural events has enabled recent attendees to feel connected, inspired and enriched.
However, economic uncertainty is taking root in the post-pandemic context, with the heightened cost-of-living pressures impacting consumer confidence around the country. Other factors, such as shifting priorities and energy levels, continue to impact one-quarter (24%) of audiences.
All data is available in the Audience Outlook Monitor dashboard, with results from over 95,150 responses across phases 1–8, the ‘Pulse Check’ 2022 and the ‘Pulse Check’ 2023.
Key findings from the April 2023 phase include:
- Nationally, audiences in all age groups are citing financial barriers, with certain audience segments being more negatively affected than others. Rising housing costs are affecting families more than households without children (61%). Young audiences are attending at slightly lower rates than other adults right now (67% vs 76%). Audiences over 55 are the most likely age group to experience no barriers to attending right now (27%).
- Most audiences continue to attend events amid cost–of-living pressures, but the profile of those attending and their attendance preferences are changing. In April 2023, three quarters of past attendees (76%) attended a cultural activity, which is consistent with October 2022 and August 2022. Older audiences (those aged 55+) are the most likely to be attending right now (78%). Younger audiences (those under 35) are least likely to have attended a cultural activity recently (67%) – a notable decline since October 2022 (77%).
- Half of audiences indicate that both the price they are willing to pay to attend and their frequency of attendance have decreased. Price sensitivities are affecting 6 in 10 (59%) of those attending, down slightly from August (63%) and October 2022 (63%). Around half are looking for ‘free and cheap’ things to attend (54%) and discounts and pricing offers are factoring into a high number of decisions, particularly among families and young people.
- Audiences from various socioeconomic backgrounds are both ‘saving’ and ‘splurging’ on cultural activities. A significant portion of audiences earning $650-$999 per week (27%), as well as those earning $3,000+ (29%), agree that they have found things to ‘splurge’ on in the past 6 months, given their financial situation. Similarly, audiences in all categories are looking for ‘free/cheap things to do’ – a sign that there is universal demand for affordable arts experiences.
- Other factors such as shifting priorities and energy levels are impacting attendance. A quarter (24%) of respondents are prioritising other things in their life right now, consistent with findings in October 2022 (24%). However, the long-term effects of the pandemic continue to affect some audiences’ stamina for attending. Around 2 in 10 (18%) say they lack energy to go out, consistent with October 2022 (19%).
- Uplifting content has been identified as attractive to audiences over the coming year – while last-minute ticket buying is likely to remain a trend. In April 2023, 95% of audiences are most interested in attending fun, uplifting performances in the coming year – and 85% want to try new things they haven’t experienced before. One quarter (26%) of audience members suggested they would be likely to book events within the next seven days; over two fifths of audience participants would be likely to book events in the next 2-3 weeks (43%).
Karina Utomo performs in the 2019 Perth Festival production of Cat Hope’s Speechless, produced by Tura New Music. Credit: Toni Wilkinson
List of participating organisations
Adelaide Festival Centre
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Art Gallery of Ballarat
ART ON THE MOVE
Arts Centre Melbourne
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
Australian Theatre for Young People
Bangarra Dance Theatre
Bendigo Venues & Events
Black Swan State Theatre Company
Campbelltown Arts Centre
Canberra Theatre Centre
Centre for Contemporary Photography
Circa Contemporary Circus
City Of Newcastle/Civic Theatre
Corrugated Iron Youth Arts
Country Arts Sa
Empire Theatres Pty Ltd
Forge Theatre and Arts Hub
Frankston Arts Centre
Geelong Arts Centre
Hayes Theatre Co
HOTA, Home of the Arts
Information + Cultural Exchange
Ipswich Civic Centre
Mackay Entertainment & Convention Centre
Melbourne Recital Centre
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Mildura Arts Centre
National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
National Museum of Australia
Penrith Performing & Visual Arts
Perth Theatre Trust
Albany Entertainment Centre
Perth Theatre Trust
Queensland Art Gallery
Queensland Museum Network
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Red Chair Pty Ltd
SALA (South Australian Living Artists) Festival
Science Gallery Melbourne
South Australian Museum
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
State Library of Queensland
State Opera South Australia
State Theatre Company
Sydney Dance Company
Sydney Living Museums
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Philharmonia Choirs
Sydney Theatre Company
The Australian Ballet
The Events Centre, Caloundra
The Street Theatre
The Sydney Fringe Inc
The Wheeler Centre
Victorian Music Development Office
Wangaratta Performing Arts & Convention Centre
West Australian Ballet
West Australian Opera
West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Windmill Theatre Company
Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company
Webinar: How rising inflation is impacting audiences: Audience Outlook Monitor, 2023
Tandi Palmer Williams, Managing Director – Patternmakers, and Ella Huisman, Executive Director, Audience – Adelaide Fringe, discuss the main findings and results from the April 2023 phase of data collection.
Discover more about how various audience segments are responding to rising cost-of-living pressures and hear suggestions for how arts organisations can augment their marketing, programming and ticketing initiatives to best engage audiences at this time.
About the series
The Audience Outlook Monitor tracking study supports decision-making and forward planning across the arts and cultural sector in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baseline data was collected in May 2020 in a cross-sector collaborative survey process involving 159 arts and cultural organisations, including museums, galleries, performing arts organisations and festivals.
Launched in 2020, the Audience Outlook Monitor webinar series explores different topics within the data and digs deeper into the results with industry experts. Fact sheets on specific topics are available from 2020, 2021, 2022 and January 2023. New fact sheets will be available in August 2023.
The Audience Outlook Monitor tracking study was extended for a further three phases in 2023, with a new focus on cost-of-living pressures and other factors impacting on audience behaviour. The first two phases of data collection will occur in April 2023 and August 2023, and the final data will be collected in October 2023.