This snapshot report updates key findings using the August 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-August
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 significant role in their cultural life once facilities reopen
Performing Arts Centers and Producers
Overall comfort with attending continued to decrease further through August with the prevalence of the Delta variant. Concerns around increasing infection rates are driving nearly half of audiences to hesitate regarding current attendance. These concerns are also pushing the horizon of return into 2022 for more than one third of respondents. In contrast to the continued growth of ticket and subscription sales observed in July, overall sales have leveled off in August.
Confidence in the immunity provided by the vaccine continues to drop. Increasing levels of concern are prompting greater interest in vaccinated-only admittance. Primary concerns include: the risk of gathering in large numbers; duration of immunity among the vaccinated; personal vulnerability to a breakthrough infection; and transmission of the virus to others.
NOT THE CHANGE WE WANTED
The rate of ticket and subscription purchase has turned down, and the horizon for attendance for one third of audiences is now pushed into 2022.
Down from 57% in July, only 36% of audiences now say they would attend outdoors under any circumstances as of August. Also down from July, only 20% would now attend indoors under any circumstances.
While as many as 54% of patrons under age 35 would attend outdoors under any circumstances, only 24% of those over age 65 say the same. The Midwest continues to be the most confident in current attendance: 26% in the region would attend indoors, and 48% outdoors, given any circumstances. Other regions are notably more cautious.
Cultural purchases have leveled off: slightly down from nearly half in July (47%), only 37% of patrons purchased tickets, subscriptions and / or memberships in August.
A patron’s organizational bond correlates with their propensity to purchase; 46% of those with a strong bond made cultural purchases in August, versus only 30% of those who report a weak bond with their organization. Regional results show a trend as the northeast continues to drive current sales, with 45% of respondents in the region purchasing tickets, subscriptions and / or memberships.
Comfort with all types of cultural facilities continues to decline since its peak in June. Whereas 44% said they were very comfortable at a large theater or concert hall in June, and 35% in July, now only 29% say the same.
Despite the lack of comfort, arts patrons remain just as eager to attend; more than half say they are already attending or that they are very eager to return. Future attendance volume projections have also held steady, with more than nine in ten claiming that they expect to attend the same or more than before.
Eagerness to return to the theater is driven by those claiming a strong bond with their organization. As of August, 71% of those with a strong bond said they were eager to return, versus only 14% with a weak bond. Additionally, older patrons tend to anticipate lesser future attendance than younger patrons; 26% under age 35 expect to attend more in the future, whereas only 12% over age 65 plan more future attendance relative to pre-pandemic levels.
The horizon of return continues to be pushed back for some; up from 23% in July, 34% now plan to attend in January 2022 or later; meanwhile, another third of respondents are currently attending.
Organizational bond impacts the horizon for attendance; while 26% of strong bonded individuals plan to push their attendance to the new year (2022), nearly half (46%) of those with a weak bond will do the same.
38% of patrons over age 65 will also wait until the new year to attend, versus only 26% under age 35. Only 27% of northeastern patrons are already attending programs, versus 33% or more in all other regions.
Organizational trust has seen a slight but noticeable decline since July. Given that more than 90% of respondents have consistently reported since late spring that their organization has been at least ‘good’ at communicating with patrons, the declining trust in organizations’ abilities to implement health safety rules presumably has more to do with unpredictable patrons than with the efforts of the organizations themselves.
Trust in an organization is tied strongly with organizational bond; only 45% of patrons claiming a weak bond trust their organization, versus 82% of strong bonded individuals who report that they trust their organization.ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.
TICKETS AREN'T EVERYTHING
Nearly three in four respondents would require or be encouraged by vaccinated only admittance policies.
Arts audiences are progressively less confident in the effectiveness of the vaccine. Down from 74% in July, now only 56% say they are confident or very confident that they are protected enough by the vaccine to resume normal activities.
Nearly half of audiences (47%) are now waiting for infection rates to drop before attending, despite being vaccinated.
Older patrons continue to be more cautious about the conditions created by the virus. While less than 46% of younger patrons say they are waiting for lower infection rates, over half (53%) of those over age 65 will wait for infection rates drop to generally low levels. Meanwhile, strongly bonded patrons tend to be more comfortable with attending cultural events now. 54% with a strong bond to their organization say they are ready to go out now, while only 32% of those claiming a weak bond with their organization are ready to attend now.
Audiences are increasingly very concerned about the safety of gathering in large numbers (41%), duration of their immunity (32%), the ability to transmit the virus (29%), and personal vulnerability to a breakthrough (31%). Concerns that an arts experience will not be enjoyable with health safety measures in place are primarily held by older patrons.
A bifurcated patron population is not attending for two primary reasons: the majority do not feel comfortable attending without knowing the vaccination status of other patrons and therefore desire a vaccine mandate, while others will not attend should venues implement mask or vaccine policies.
I will be more comfortable when proof of vaccination is required for attendance.
Concern about others not vaccinated.
It’s simply not worth it if masks are required. Also, I don’t believe in vaccine passport, or medical apartheid.
As of August, more than half (51%) consider indoor mask mandates and proof of vaccination (or negative test) to be a prerequisite for attendance.
Progressively more patrons indicate that they will only attend given vaccinated only policies. Up from 10% in July, now 19% as of August say they would consider such a policy a prerequisite to attend. An additional 53% say they would be more likely to attend given this policy.
Northeastern patrons remain much more likely to attend given vaccinated only policies. Up from 16% in July, now 31% in the northeast say they will only attend given vaccinated only policies, whereas less than 18% in other regions nationwide report the same perspective in August.
As of August, 70% of respondents say that vaccinated only policies would positively impact their perception of their organization.
79% over the age of 65 would view the organization positively, more than any other age group. Also, 81% of northeastern patrons say that the policies would positively impact their perception, versus no more than 68% in other regions nationwide.
Meanwhile, long-term confidence in the vaccine’s effectiveness has continued to drop. Down from 32% in July, only 22% are very confident that the vaccination effort will enable normal activity within a year.