This snapshot report updates key findings using the September 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-September
expect to attend in January 2022 or thereafter
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 small role or no role in their cultural life once facilities reopen
Performing Arts Centers and Producers
After declines in comfort, participation, and purchases in August, patron engagement is leveling out, and in some cases increasing in September. Audiences are more inclined to make purchases for the future than in August, and nearly four in ten are already attending in-person programs. The vast majority of those who have attended in-person performances in recent weeks say that they were comfortable with their experience in terms of health safety.
Along with an increase in willingness to attend comes the expectation of mask requirements and proof of vaccination. About half consider indoor mask requirements as a prerequisite, and three in four respondents are more likely to visit or would only visit a venue employing a vaccinated-only policy.
Compared to 20% in August, a steady 19% would now attend indoors under any circumstances. Also, down only slightly from 36% in August, now 33% of audiences say they would attend outdoors under any circumstances.
Those with a strong bond are more inclined to attend, given both mask requirements and proof of vaccination. Also, the oldest patrons continue to have the most stringent expectations for attending indoor events. Whereas 56% or less of younger patron cohorts expect masks and proof of vaccination at indoor events as a minimum requirement, 68% of those over age 65 expect at least masking and proof of vaccination mandates indoors.
Patrons in the northeast region have the highest expectations for health safety protocols; 73% in the northeast expect at least masking and proof of vaccination mandates indoors (and 52% expect the same outdoors).
After a notable decline in August, purchases of tickets, subscriptions, and memberships are holding steady: 42% of respondents made purchases in September.
Ticket purchases are driven by strongly bonded patrons; more than half of those with a strong bond have made purchases, versus only one third of weakly bonded patrons.
The timing of future attendance has shifted slightly earlier. 32% of respondents now expect to resume attendance in January 2022, while 38% are already attending.
Older respondents have a greater propensity to delay attending until next year: 34% of those over age 65 will delay their attendance to 2022, versus 25% under age 35.
Institutional trust has seen no change since August; 71% ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that they trust their institution to enforce health and safety rules among attendees. Institutional trust is strongest among the most strongly bonded patrons. 52% of those with a strong bond to their organization ‘strongly agree’ that they trust their institution, versus only 12% of those with a weak institutional bond. 81% of patrons with a strong bond also report that their organization’s communications have been ‘excellent’, versus only 12% with a weak bond.
HOW'S IT FEEL?
22% of all September respondents attended a live performance in the past two weeks. Of these attendees, 61% attended a performance at an indoor venue, and 39% at an outdoor venue.
81% of indoor attendees, and 83% of outdoor attendees rated their experience in terms of health safety as ‘comfortable’ or ‘very comfortable’.
Those who were not comfortable with their live performance experience commonly mentioned the lack of enforcement of social distancing and mask requirements both indoors and outdoors. Some others say they would have felt more comfortable if the venue had enforced a vaccinated-only admittance policy.
OVER THE NOSE
Positive feelings about attending among vaccinated patrons are regaining momentum. Emerging from a declining trend which bottomed out at 43% in August, 49% of vaccinated patrons now say they are ready to attend.
Strong organizational bonds continue to motivate preparedness to attend. 58% of strongly bonded patrons are prepared to attend now, versus only 40% of weakly bonded individuals. Meanwhile, older vaccinated patrons continue to drive hesitation due to perceived infection rates, with 47% over age 65 saying they will wait to attend until infection rates drop, compared to less than 41% in other age groups.
Specific concerns around in-person attendance are also dropping for the first time since June; down from 41% in August, 35% are now ‘very concerned’ about the safety of gathering in large numbers. Also, 26% are now concerned about the duration of immunity, and 28% are concerned about their vulnerability to breakthrough infection.
Older patrons are more concerned about health and safety rules disturbing their in-person experience; 16% over age 65 strongly believe that their experience at events won’t be enjoyable enough with health and safety rules in place, versus only 11% of those under 35.
Calls for proof of vaccination or a negative test as a prerequisite for attendance continue to increase; up from 51% in August, now 56% consider venue policies on proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to be prerequisites for their attendance. Also, just under half of patrons expect masks to be required for indoor events.
Interest in vaccinated-only admittance policies continues to grow; half of patrons now say they would be more likely to visit given this policy, and an additional quarter (24%) would only visit venues with this policy in place.
A greater portion (53%) of older patrons would be encouraged to attend venues with vaccinated-only admittance, and an additional 30% over age 65 say they would require this policy to be in place to attend.
With minimal change since August, 71% say that vaccinated-only admittance policies would have a positive impact on their perception of their organization. This includes 74% of strongly bonded individuals, while only 61% of weakly bonded individuals would view their organization positively given this policy. The oldest patrons also drive positive perception of vaccinated-only admittance policies; 81% over age 65 say they would view their organization more positively should they employ vaccinated-only policies, versus 70% or less of younger patrons.