This snapshot report updates key findings using the July 2021 deployment 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. The study includes analysis of shifting demand for live events and comfort in venues, perspectives on vaccination and resuming attendance, and experience with digital content. This report reflects data collected by all participants in the AOM study, as indicated in the following pages.
would attend an outdoor cultural event this week under any circumstances
purchased single tickets for live music events in mid-July
expect to attend in January 2022 or thereafter
have confidence in the vaccine’s ability to protect them from the virus
say they would be more likely to attend or would only attend given vaccinated-only admittance policies.
say that online programs will play a significant role in their cultural life once facilities reopen
Performing Arts Centers and Producers
Overall comfort with attending has decreased in July with the growth of the Delta variant. Concerns around increasing infection rates are driving more audiences to hesitate regarding current attendance. These concerns are also pushing the horizon of return into 2022 for nearly one quarter of respondents. Despite the concern, ticket sales for future events remain strong.
Confidence in the immunity provided by the vaccine is also wavering. Specific concerns about gathering in large numbers, personal vulnerability, and virus transmission, which have increased since June, are prompting greater interest in vaccinated-only admittance.
NOT THE CHANGE WE WANTED
Less say they would attend this week under any circumstances, and a greater number project a longer horizon for return which extends into 2022
Overall comfort is leveling out, and caution is growing slightly, presumably due to the advent of the Delta variant. More audiences are calling for distancing and mask requirements for both indoor and outdoor events compared to mid-June.
31% of respondents say they would attend indoor events this week, but only given masking and social distancing requirements, while an increased 17% would not attend indoors this week.
That said, those who report having attended in person in 2021 are still more likely to attend under any circumstances. 68% of those who have attended in 2021 say they would attend an outdoor event under any circumstances, while only 56% of those who haven’t yet returned to in-person attendance would attend an outdoor event this week no matter the circumstances.
Younger respondents are also driving current attendance. 75% under age 35 would attend outdoor events under any circumstances, versus on 44% of those over age 65 who would do the same.
Midwestern respondents remain the least concerned about health safety protocols, with nearly three quarters of respondents from the region claiming that they would attend outdoor events this week under any circumstances, and 45% attending indoors under any circumstances.
Along with these declining comforts in attendance timelines, comfort levels in larger venues and interactive exhibits has dropped since mid-June.
That said, purchases for events sometime in the future have essentially remained steady since mid-June, with just under half of respondents purchasing tickets, subscriptions or memberships in the past two weeks. Though some have pulled back on their eagerness and expected attendance in the shorter term, other patrons continue to attend regardless of pandemic conditions.
Northeastern respondents continue to make cultural purchases at the highest levels of any region: 52% of Northeastern respondents have purchased tickets, subscriptions or memberships in the past two weeks. Meanwhile, other regions do not exceed 46% having made a purchase in the same period.
Current attendees and younger audiences also continue to purchase for future events at higher levels: 55% of current attenders have made future purchases, versus 46% who haven’t yet attended their organization in person. Also, more than a quarter of all respondents under age 64 have purchased live music tickets, versus on 16% of those over age 65.
While current attendance continues to rise for some, a notable decrease in comfort has also driven the horizon of attending back for more cautious attendees. Up from only 12% as of mid-June, now 23% of arts audiences expect to resume attendance sometime in 2022.
While the extending horizon for return is driven by attendees of all ages, the oldest patrons are most cautious. Up from 15% in June, now 25% of respondents over age 65 say they will wait until 2022 to resume attendance at live performing arts programs.
Personal assessment of the infection rate is also a key factor in determining attendance horizons. 28% of those who perceive that infection rates in their community are currently increasing will only plan to attend after January 2022, while only 10% of those who perceive a decreasing infection rate in their community will wait until January to attend.
Along with the drop in comfort comes a slight decrease in confidence in organizations’ abilities to enforce health and safety measures. Although overall trust in organizations hasn’t waivered significantly, mid-July sees a drop in trust pertaining to the ability of organizations to enforce health and safety regulations (a 7-point drop in trust from mid-June to mid-July).
TICKETS AREN'T EVERYTHING
40% now say they will wait for infection rates to drop before attending
Confidence in the protection provided by the vaccine has decreased: down from 86% in mid-June, in July only 74% of vaccinated respondents say they are very confident or confident that they are protected enough by the vaccine to resume normal activities.
Down since mid-June’s high of 64%, only 55% of vaccinated respondents say they would attend immediately. Also, 40% now say they will wait to attend until infection rates are lower (the highest in this category since April).
With these concerns has come a drop in confidence in the success of the vaccination effort within one year. As of mid-July, only 32% remain fully confident that normal activities will resume within a year, down from 55% in mid-June.
Concerns about gathering in large numbers, personal and household vulnerability, and virus transmission have increased since June. 51% of respondents now say that they are very concerned that it is not safe to gather in large numbers; 47% are very concerned about personal or household vulnerability; and 39% are very concerned about transmitting the virus in spite of vaccination.
Those who are waiting to resume attendance in person cite several rationales for their hesitancy, mostly regarding the perception that the pandemic is ongoing, and concerns around youth and child vaccination and COVID variants:
Prerequisites have also seen notable increases since June, including ‘proof of vaccination’ and required masking, especially at indoor events (up to 40% in July from 34% in June). Meanwhile, deal breakers have held steady.
With the increasing concern has come an increase in positive perception of vaccinated-only admittance policies. 70% of audiences say they would be more likely to attend or would only attend given a vaccinated-only admittance policy at their organization. Also, up from 57% in June, 64% now say they would view their organization positively should they employ such a policy.
A significant 54% of Northeastern respondents would require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in order to attend this week, versus no more than 36% of respondents in any other region. 75% of respondents in the Northeast also say that a vaccinated-only admittance policy would positively impact their perception of their organization.