This snapshot report updates key findings using the October 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.
of those who experienced live in-person indoor performances in the past two weeks say they were ‘comfortable’ or ‘very comfortable’ with the experience
purchased tickets, subscriptions or memberships for live music events in mid-October
are already attending in-person programs
of vaccinated respondents are waiting to attend until infection rates drop
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 is increasing, with resulting current attendance and purchases on the rise. A marked increase in current attendance has resulted in more than half of audiences saying they are currently attending in-person programming. Comfort levels with the health and safety experience at attended programs also remain high, though some believe that enforcement of health policies, including masking and distancing, could be better.
Though confidence in the vaccine is increasing and concerns about gathering in large numbers have dropped significantly, the overall enthusiasm about vaccinated-only admittance has reached a plateau, with about half of audiences saying they are more likely to attend and another 22% saying they would only attend given the policy.
BACK TO THE SHOW
Up from 33% in September, 41% say they would attend outdoors under any circumstances. Also, compared to 19% in September, 25% would now attend indoors under any circumstances.
The northeast continues to drive attendance stipulations around masks and proof of vaccination for current attendance; nearly three quarters of audiences in the northeast expect masking and proof of vaccination indoors this week.
Meanwhile, purchase continue to increase, with 46% of audiences purchasing tickets, subscriptions, and / or memberships in October.
As we have observed in recent months, patrons with a strong bond are more inclined to buy; 54% of strongly bonded audiences made purchases in the past two weeks of October.
Whereas only 38% reported in-person attendance in September, now over half (52%) of patrons are attending in person events. Also, the turnaround continues for a 2022 attendance horizon: only 29% now plan to wait until the new year to attend.
Older patrons are still the most cautious. About one third over the age of 65 plan to delay their attendance to 2022, and 43% are currently attending, versus 65% under age 35.
When it comes to trust in the institution, overall figures are consistent with recent months: about 7 in 10 continue to trust their institution to enforce health and safety rules for audience members. Institutional trust remains strongest among those with the strongest self-reported bond; now 87% of strongly bonded patrons trust the institution, whereas only 41% of those with a weak bond say the same.
IT'S GETTING COZY
79% of indoor attendees, and 84% of outdoor attendees rated their experience as comfortable or very comfortable.
Meanwhile, the remaining 20% felt only somewhat comfortable or not comfortable in the theater, due primarily to a lack of rule enforcement:
Should have provided social distancing between the people in front of me and behind me, they were at arm’s length and weren’t wearing masks. As a result, I left the performance early.
Make proof of vaccination mandatory, make masks mandatory and check that people are complying.
Enforce mask wearing in the theater.
Most people were not wearing a mask and there was no social distancing. Without social distancing, masks would have made me much more comfortable. I wore one. Sort of one or the other…distance or mask.
IT'S GETTING COZY
Confidence continues to rise, with two thirds of vaccinated respondents claiming that they are confident in the protection of the vaccine.
Positive feelings about current conditions are also rising, with 57% saying they are ready to attend now or as soon as permitted.
While overall concerns are dropping, feelings about attending still vary across certain patron segments; 69% of patrons possessing a strong bond with their organization are prepared to attend right now, versus only 49% of weakly bonded patrons. Also, 37% of patrons over the age of 65 say they will wait to attend until infection rates drop, whereas 28% or less under age 54 say the same.
While all concerns expressed by patrons have seen declines since September, the steepest decline has come among those who believe it is not safe to gather in large numbers. Whereas 35% said they were very concerned that it was not safe to gather in large numbers in September, now only 26% say the same. Lower levels of concern are presumably motivated by patrons’ positive experiences with larger crowds in recent months.
are very concerned that it is not safe to gather in large numbers (Sept: 35%)
Prerequisites for attendance are holding steady: 51% consider proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to be a prerequisite, and 48% expect masks at indoor events.
Proof of vaccination or a negative test remains a prerequisite for more than 70% of patrons in the Northeastern states, whereas less than half of those in the Southern or Midwestern states consider the policy a prerequisite to attend.
The drive for vaccinated-only admittance is leveling out. Down from 74% in September, now 69% of patrons say they would be more likely to attend given vaccinated-only policies; this 69% includes about one in five who say they would only visit the venues with a vaccination policy in place.
Older patrons continue to drive required vaccinated-only admittance, with 31% over age 65 saying they would require the policy to attend.
The positive perception of vaccinated policies is also leveling out. When asked about overall feelings regarding organizations who implement vaccinated-only policies, 66% say they hold a positive view of the policies; in September, the figure was 71%.
Strongly bonded patrons drive this perception, with nearly three quarters of those with a strong bond viewing their organization positively given vaccine policies; meanwhile, only 51% of those with a weak bond feel the same way.
Also, the positive perception among younger audiences has dropped steeply since last month. In September, 70% under age 35 said they view vaccine policies, and the organizations who employ them, positively. In October, that figure dropped to 58% among those under age 35.