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NEA Study Finds a Drop in Arts Attendance


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#1 abatt

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 05:36 AM

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.c...e.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?



#2 volcanohunter

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 08:07 AM

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

 

http://arts.gov/site...m-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



#3 puppytreats

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 09:10 AM

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.



#4 pherank

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 10:50 AM

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.  ;)



#5 abatt

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 11:09 AM

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. 



#6 puppytreats

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 11:14 AM

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. 



#7 puppytreats

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 11:15 AM

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).



#8 pherank

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 11:44 AM

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.



#9 volcanohunter

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 11:45 AM

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.



#10 pherank

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 12:09 PM

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.



#11 volcanohunter

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 12:27 PM

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.



#12 pherank

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 12:37 PM

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'.



#13 abatt

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 01:05 PM

. 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? 



#14 volcanohunter

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 01:32 PM

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.



#15 kfw

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 01:47 PM

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.



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