abatt

NEA Study Finds a Drop in Arts Attendance

47 posts in this topic

I thought this might be an interesting topic for discussion. A new study finds a drop in most sectors of arts attendance, including ballet.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/26/arts/a-new-survey-finds-a-drop-in-arts-attendance.html?ref=arts

The reasons are surely complex, but I think part of the decline can be attributed to ticket prices and the fact that consumers need more of their household income for basic living expenses, so have less left over to spend on cultural events. Any thoughts?

Share this post


Link to post

Here is the link to the NEA's own summary.

http://arts.gov/sites/default/files/highlights-from-2012-SPPA.pdf

Besides the a decline in live attendence, which the NEA characterizes as statistically insignificant, what's also important is how many people are relying on electronic media for their arts consumption. (Is YouTube helping or hurting?)

I find the "real" numbers on p. 12 helpful.

20.7 million American adults attended at least one classical music concert in 2012

19 million went to a jazz concert

13.2 million saw a non-ballet dance performance

12 million attended a Latin music concert

6.3 million went to the ballet

4.9 million attended the opera

Share this post


Link to post

Data, numbers, assumptions used in calculations, statistics, and their interpretation, are subject to manipulation, for political or financial purposes.

The significance or meaning of lower attendance is open to interpretation and debate. We have seen efforts to charge higher prices and sell fewer seats as an economic model, for example, Fourth Ring NYCB closure.

Society also debates the value of widespread, universal, or limited access to items of value (perks, money, arts, knowledge, different levels of healthcare....) so the significance of the amount of people sitting in a chair in a theater remains open to debate, as well.

How the numbers will be used seems more significant, sadly.

Share this post


Link to post

I don't think it's any different from what has happened in the film world:
Cinema attendance in North America was at an all time high in 1939, I believe, but the advent of TV, and these days, all the online options, and cable TV options, continue to keep attendance low.

Humans in general defnitely prefer to not move a muscle over actually moving their bodies in space and time to participate in an event. ;)

Share this post


Link to post

I'm not so sure it's a matter of not wanting to move a muscle. People work long hours and have long commutes. Sometimes at the end of the day the last thing I feel like doing is going to a performance, but once I drag myself to the theater I am usually glad that I went.

Share this post


Link to post

I don't think it's any different from what has happened in the film world:

Cinema attendance in North America was at an all time high in 1939, I believe, but the advent of TV, and these days, all the online options, and cable TV options, continue to keep attendance low.

Humans in general defnitely prefer to not move a muscle over actually moving their bodies in space and time to participate in an event. ;)

Hence, as I always assumed, ballet dancers cannot possibly be human beings.

Share this post


Link to post

I'm not so sure it's a matter of not wanting to move a muscle. People work long hours and have long commutes. Sometimes at the end of the day the last thing I feel like doing is going to a performance, but once I drag myself to the theater I am usually glad that I went.

I agree. My exhaustion is a key reason for lack of attendance. (and my pocketbook).

Share this post


Link to post

Humans in general defnitely prefer to not move a muscle over actually moving their bodies in space and time to participate in an event. ;)

I had the same thought, but it's more like they represent a last vestige of the "old world", when very few humans could afford to be sendentary. But technology makes it so. I believe that was the original promise of machines: that they would free us up to do more things we wanted to do. Of course that was just marketing.

Share this post


Link to post

Another factor is changing demographic composition, as the U.S. population becomes progressively less white. This was already discussed by those who looked into the numbers of the last audience participation survey in 2008. The NEA credits the uptick in jazz attendance to an increase in its non-white and non-Hispanic audience. Purveyors of European and Euro-American art forms like ballet undoubtedly need to increase their non-white and non-Asian audiences.

Share this post


Link to post

Purveyors of European and Euro-American art forms like ballet undoubtedly need to increase their non-white and non-Asian audiences.

Racial demographics get awfully tricky though because of the enormous number of sub-groups within a culture. Class distinctions, for instance, mess things up further. As an example, upper class Asian Americans sometimes have more in common with upper class Euro-Americans than they do with the urban poor Asian Americans.

In San Francisco, you will actually see a fairly big turnout from the Asian American community at the ballet. I can't say whether it is commensurate with the percentage of Asian Americans in the SF population (33.3%), but it is far beyond what we see from the African American community, for instance. But again, wealthy African Americans, or ones that grew up in a mixed-ethnicity community seem much more willing to attend arts like ballet, or classical symphony. And, I should add, educated Whites/Euro-Americans seem more likely to leave their comfort zones and explore other culture's arts because they are educated, or because they have money to spend on extra things. Both economics and education play into this.

Share this post


Link to post

Of course, and that's why the NEA survey also analyzes audiences on the basis of educational level, though apparently it does not ask about income. But I think we can ask ourselves whether we see enough "people of color" at the ballet in, say, New York, and generally speaking I think we'd have to admit that the answer is no.

Share this post


Link to post

To me, there simply isn't enough exposure in all communities. SF Ballet gives a free performance in the park each summer, but that's one single event. And most regional companies are extremely limited in the amount of community 'outreach' they can do. NYCB and ABT do a pretty good job of saying, "we're here!", but most of the companies in the US have a really difficult time even getting on the average person's radar. But football - that's another matter. Way too much coverage for football which is often not provding a good 'product'.

Share this post


Link to post

. But football - that's another matter. Way too much coverage for football which is often not provding a good 'product'.

I'm not a sports fan, but I wouldn't say that football or other sports are not good "products". Sports play a significant role in American culture, especially football and our American passtime, baseball.

Also, with regard to the racial questions raised, you are right that the audiences for ballet are overwhelmingly caucasian. However, this circumstance does not translate to other types of dance performances. At Alvin Ailey performances that I've been to, the audience is at least 50 percent African American. What's the explanation? Do African Americans only come out to support dance companies whose membership is predominantly African American? Is it that Ailey presents modern dance that uses contemporary music rather than "classical" music?

Share this post


Link to post

Incidentally, I remember a playbill for a fairly recent Ailey run at BAM that included an ad for New York City Ballet's season, which was running concurrently. I'd be genuinely curious to find out whether the advertising was effective in attracting Ailey patrons that hadn't been to City Ballet before. As far as I can recall, ABT did not try to target that audience.

Share this post


Link to post

with regard to the racial questions raised, you are right that the audiences for ballet are overwhelmingly caucasian. However, this circumstance does not translate to other types of dance performances. At Alvin Ailey performances that I've been to, the audience is at least 50 percent African American. What's the explanation? Do African Americans only come out to support dance companies whose membership is predominantly African American? Is it that Ailey presents modern dance that uses contemporary music rather than "classical" music?

If we think of people attending performances for their own pleasure and enrichment rather than to support the presenting organizations, I don't think it's surprising that African American's would focus on a troupe largely focused on their own history and heritage.

What fascinates and encourages me is the finding that in 2012 African Americans attended jazz at higher rates than did whites. Of course that stat refers to rates, and whites greatly outnumber African Americans in the general population, but I don’t think I’ve ever attended a jazz performance in which African-Americans were the majority, not even free performances in Grant Park in Chicago in the 70’s and 80’s. In any case, this is great news for this art form, and for this community.

Share this post


Link to post

. But football - that's another matter. Way too much coverage for football which is often not provding a good 'product'.

I'm not a sports fan, but I wouldn't say that football or other sports are not good "products".

Not to stray down another path, but what I am referring to here is in fact a great big discussion in sports land: NFL games suffer from many 'quality' problems due to overwork of the players, and the unquestionable violence of the sport. Some of the problems facing the NFL these days that effect quality and people's perceptions of the sport:

  1. Use of performance enhancing drugs and illegal drugs (if players are caught it does mean suspension) has been difficult to control.
  2. An inordinate number of off-field criminal offenses by NFL players (and the numbers keep rising).
  3. Concussions are proving to be a big long-term health issue for the sport, and there will continue to be expensive legal issues around this. The sport is dangerous, and there is simply little the NFL can do to prove otherwise, yet many people like football...
  4. The general greed of the NFL league and owners has created longer seasons with pre-season games and now both Monday and Thursday night games that cut down on recovery time for players. There are currently 4 preseason games and 16 regular games, and if the team is 'lucky' they play in the post-season too. From 1947 through 1960, each NFL team played 12 games per season, which would have been easier on the body. But the number of games played has only grown. And then there's this crazy thing about teams being allowed 53 players on their roster, but on game day, they can only choose from 45 to play, and if there are significant injuries during the game the teams can actually run out of players at a particular position, but they are not allowed to pull from the 'extra' players. So what happens? The injured continue to play...

Last year, the NFL had an unprecedented amount of significant injuries, and also off-field criminal problems to deal with, and it definitely affected people's perceptions of the game. Fans want more football, but they are also complaining constantly about the quality of the games they see. This preseason and practice period seemed to end with more players injured than at any other time before. And that seems to be a general perception in NFL land. Fans want to see their favorite star players face off against one another, but what they see a lot these days are the replacements. And then they get to see the replacments get hurt...

Share this post


Link to post

It's interesting to compare the arts in terms of the

'PERCENTAGE OF ADULTS ATTENDING THE PERFORMING ARTS EVENTS."

The rate of decline in arts participation for adults in the United States was most pronounced in theater attendance...

-- BALLET: -- 2008: 2.9%. -- 2012: 2.7%.

-- DANCE -- 2008: 5.2% -- 2012: 5.6%

-- OPERA: -- 2008: 2.1% -- 2012: 2.1%

-- CLASSICAL MUSIC. -- 2008: 9.3% -- 2012: 8.8%

-- JAZZ -- 2008: 7.8% -- 2012: 8.1%

-- MUSICAL THEATER -- 2008: 16.7% --2012: 15.2%

-- MOVIES -- 2008: 53.3% -- 2012 59.3%

Some surprises for me:

-- ballet is bigger than opera. Possibly "theater attendance" includes all those ballet school recitals

-- only jazz, dance (non-ballet), and movies are growing. (I thought movies weren't doing well.)

This period (2008-12) coincides with what is now being called the Great Recession by many, I suspect that the biggest factors behind this decline (all of which have been mentioned already on this thread) might be (a) lack of funds, (b) lack of genuinely free time, © the disappearance of quite a few local companies, and possibly (d) stress levels that make chilling out in front of the tv, or at a popular movie, especially appealing.

The study was conducted by the Census Bureau, which interviewed 37,000 people, quite a large sample as these things go.

Share this post


Link to post
-- ballet is bigger than opera. Possibly "theater attendance" includes all those ballet school recitals

It shouldn't. The survey questions were prefaced with the statement "With the exception of elementary or high school performances..." I would guess this was intended to exclude school recitals in the respondent's mind.

http://arts.gov/sites/default/files/SPPA-Questionnaire-2012.pdf

It's entirely possible that ballet is more readily available, or more frequently available than opera. In many cities it's not unusual for opera companies to stage only three or four productions a year. If the local ballet company presents, let's say, five or six programs, this provides locals with more potential opportunities to attend. And opera tickets are frequently significantly more expensive than ballet tickets, which would also work against opera's popularity. Many cities with no opera or ballet company will nevertheless have a local symphony orchestra, making classical music concerts that much more available.

The reports on the audience survey of 2008 did not mention data on movie-going or general live music attendance. Perhaps the information is intended to provide context. For example, 15% attendance at musicals may not seem like much, but only 59% of Americans go to the movies, despite them being readily available nationwide. Fewer than 9% of Americans go to classical music concerts, but then only 31.6 % of adults go to see live music of any kind.

Share this post


Link to post

Ballet - 2008 2.9%, 2012 2.7%. (2.7percent, or 6.3 million adults.) -- This quite surprised me!

The population of Great Los Angeles area is about 18 million, 2.7% is 488,200. Almost a half of million people go to see ballet?! The NEA Study probably just asked New Yorkers?

Few years ago, when I lived in L.A., it was very hard to find someone around me who's interested in ballet. I had pushed some of my friends to go to see ABT's Giselle. They loved it! "Its so beautiful!" But, they have never gone to another ballet since then. One day, one of my colleagues told me: "My wife would play cello for a ballet performance by Joffrey Ballet this Friday night, so I have got a free ticket. I am not interested in going. I would like to give it to you!"

yahoo.gif

Share this post


Link to post

What is the population that attends ballet performances in Great Britain? Is it really higher than the US? Russia has a long term love affair with ballet, but part of that is the feel-good PR that they have been spoonfed their whole lives, for multiple generations: Russian ballet is the *best*, it is our national *pride*, (enter related phrases of exceptionalism - are you listening Vladimir Putin?)

Americans weren't very interested in elite road racing until Greg Lemond came along, and even then it was just a tiny percentage. But then Lance (Ph)Armstrong began winning, and he had a feel good cancer recovery story. The same sense of pride and puffed up exceptionalism blinded most of us to the drug use. This rah-rah nationalism also made ballet more popular in the 1970's. ABT attracted the *best* defectors from the Kirov. Balanchine preferred America over the Soviet Union.

Europeans in general get to see more ballet on broadcast television than Americans, and those broadcasts are often subsidized by government funds. I think this exposes the population to the ballet from cradle to grave, and so they are more likely to see ballet as normal and part of the local culture. If you grow up African American, and you practically never see a "star" ballet dancer of the same skin color in the media, why would you be interested in the artform? Particularly if most of the popular media portrays ballet dancers as snooty skinny white girls who need some rock and roll to shake them up?

BET should broadcast performances of DToH, Lines Ballet and Alvin Ailey. That would be a great platform to make ballet seem viable and part of the American arts fabric to a population that is historically underrepresented. I'd also like to see the Spanish language TV companies broadcast performances of Latino American dancers. Sadly the programming directors are not returning my phone calls.

Share this post


Link to post

Incidentally, I remember a playbill for a fairly recent Ailey run at BAM that included an ad for New York City Ballet's season, which was running concurrently. I'd be genuinely curious to find out whether the advertising was effective in attracting Ailey patrons that hadn't been to City Ballet before. As far as I can recall, ABT did not try to target that audience.

I always encourage presenters to "co-promote" their events -- list other organizations in their programs, offer discounts to ticket holders from other performances, circulate joint promotional material to their mailing lists. I haven't looked at the NEA study yet, but I know that the demographics of audiences are shifting much more than they have in the past -- artists and arts organizations need to be equally flexible. This doesn't mean you have to change the art you make -- it means you have to change how you bring it to the attention of you audience.

Share this post


Link to post

African-Americans, like other oppressed groups, tend to be in the avant-garde. They usually set trends, they don't follow them, and mainstream white audiences, chronically behind the curve, catch up later. By the time the whites are interested in large enough numbers, they've already moved on.

The reasons are surely complex, but I think part of the decline can be attributed to ticket prices and the fact that consumers need more of their household income for basic living expenses, so have less left over to spend on cultural events. Any thoughts?

Without having delved into the material, I'd guess that part of it is the non-recovery recovery. That wouldn't necessarily be too bad for orchestras, opera and ballet, heavily attended by the 1%, but I'd think other performing arts would be hurt. People working mandatory overtime and two jobs are pooped. And there are more attractive entertainment options at home and on your phone than ever before.

Share this post


Link to post
-- ballet is bigger than opera. Possibly "theater attendance" includes all those ballet school recitals

It shouldn't. The survey questions were prefaced with the statement "With the exception of elementary or high school performances..." I would guess this was intended to exclude school recitals in the respondent's mind.

http://arts.gov/sites/default/files/SPPA-Questionnaire-2012.pdf

I would imagine that most of the difference between opera and ballet is made up of Christmas trips to the Nutcracker.

Share this post


Link to post

More data to mine:

http://arts.gov/news/2015/surprising-findings-three-new-nea-reports-arts

Apparently, 63% of arts attendees are there to experience "high-quality art" (only 63%?), while 73% go to socialize with their near and dear ones. 22% of non-attendees are put off by the prospect of going solo.

What do you think? Are arts organizations blind to the social aspects of arts participation?

Share this post


Link to post

What do you think? Are arts organizations blind to the social aspects of arts participation?

I think they are keenly aware of this. Ballet companies (and art museums) around the country all seem to be starting groups for the under-40 set. Along with performances, they have various social activities at local restaurants and bars that sound like mixers. I don't know how successful any of them are, but the companies are certainly trying.

Share this post


Link to post