Snapshot Report
All Cohorts
October 2020
The Audience Outlook Monitor is a joint project between AMS Analytics and WolfBrown
About this study
This snapshot report updates key findings using the September and October deployments of the Audience Outlook Monitor (AOM) in the United States, a study that is tracking how audiences feel about attending arts and culture events in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a specific look at shifting demand for live events, comfort in venues, anticipated future support for centers, centers’ communication with patrons, and the impact of health and safety measures. This report reflects data collected by all participants in the AOM study, as indicated in the following pages.
Overview of results
Are at least somewhat eager to return to their Centers
Plan to attend as much or more than they did before the pandemic
Will resume attendance as soon as restrictions are lifted
Anticipate spending for subscriptions or tickets will be the same as before the health crisis began
Would be ‘encouraged’ to attend by the presence of venue safety measures ( 3%)
Will attend if required to wear a mask and adhere to social distancing
Survey responses
Participating performing arts centers + producing organizations
Total responses
Changes in demand for live programming
Two in ten made firm plans to attend cultural events in September and October.
Confidence in returning to cultural and live events continues to trend upward since the summer months. Half of respondents report having eaten at a local restaurant in September and October, and 23% report being comfortable going out once restrictions are lifted—the most since the study began. Planned attendance has increased, driven by visits to museums and galleries, fairs and festivals, and live performances.
Younger respondents are planning to attend live events: 25% of those under age 35 made plans to attend events in September, while only 15% of respondents over age 65 did the same.

Increases in planned attendance also correspond with a strong bond to one’s organization. One in four respondents who claim to have a strong bond with their organization made plans to attend in September and/or October, up from about 15% in August.

Notably, the northeast region has seen significant growth in planned attendance at galleries and museums between August and October, while other regions including the Midwest and South have grown attendance at live performances and festivals, presumably due to lifted restrictions and increased offerings.

Nearly one in four will resume attending arts and cultural events as soon as legally allowed.
Respondents who tell us they plan to resume attending arts and cultural events have increased in frequency since the month of August, leveling at about 25%. In August, no more than one in five would return as soon as legal restrictions on gathering were lifted. Despite new confidence, most are still waiting for epidemiological conditions to change before resuming attendance.
What venues make audiences feel most comfortable
Respondent comfort with theaters remains inversely correlates to venue capacity.
Relative levels of comfort at different venue capacities have stayed consistent since August. About six in ten respondents have expressed at least some level of comfort attending venues with up to 50 seats, while comfort levels remain much lower in larger venues.

Those who do not have a serious health vulnerability in their household are consistently more comfortable in any setting, regardless of space type or capacity. In October, 35% of respondents with no health vulnerability at home said they would be very comfortable in a venue of up to 50 seats, while only 15% of those who do have a serious vulnerability at home say they would be very comfortable in a venue of the same capacity. Patrons also indicate that they remain least comfortable in flexible-seat venues.
Nearly eight in ten would be at least somewhat comfortable walking around a museum or gallery currently
By far, respondents are more comfortable with outdoor venues; they indicate that botanical gardens and zoos offer the most comfortable environments, presumably due to natural social distancing and primarily outdoor environments. That said, comfort with attending indoor cultural events has increased slightly across the board, with respondents indicating higher levels of comfort primarily in community art spaces and museums/galleries.
How audiences supporting Centers during COVID-19
Nearly nine in ten anticipate at least the same or more overall spending upon return.
Overall, these anticipated spending levels represent an encouraging projection for attendance and paid engagement. While over nine in ten who report a strong bond with their organization plan to spend the same or more on subscriptions and tickets, less than four in five of those with a weak bond will spend the same or more.
Those who have experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic indicated slightly lowered levels of future spending and giving, though not as extreme as might be expected considering loss of household income.
Eight in ten existing donors continue to project similar or higher levels of giving to their organizations.
While most existing donors anticipate maintaining their level of giving, three in ten with a strong bond to the organization report that they will increase giving beyond pre-pandemic levels. As would be expected, a much lower number (only one tenth) of donors who report a low level of bond to the organization plan to increase their giving.
How centers are communicating with their patrons
Over eight in ten believe their center has done a good or excellent job staying in touch with patrons.
Satisfaction with organization communications has also held steady since August. Respondents also feel that the frequency of communication is ‘about right’.

Nearly nine in ten who are eager to return believe that their organization has done a good or excellent job of staying in touch, while only six in ten of those who are not at all eager to return say the same.
Organizational commitment similarly correlates with the perception of quality of communication; strongly committed respondents more commonly consider organizational communications good or excellent.
The impact of health practices being employed to protect patrons
Aggregate numbers in every category of health and safety have remained steady since August.
Consistent responses related to the impact of health and safety measures over time suggests that audiences have come to expect basic cleaning and sanitization to fight the spread of infection, and many venues are meeting these standards.

The data show a different distribution when filtered by respondents’ level of trust in public officials. For example, three in four of those who trust public officials to make decisions regarding safety feel comfortable attending performances that require masks and distancing.  Conversely, for those audience members who distrust public officials, only slightly more than half indicate that they will attend performances with masks and distancing.