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2022 NEA audience participation survey

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I hadn't seen coverage of the 2022 audience participation survey by the National Endowment for the Arts. I had even wondered whether the survey had been delayed post-pandemic. But the topic came up in conversation, so I took a look at the NEA website, and sure enough, the basic results were released a few weeks ago. Not surprisingly, the results of the first post-COVID survey are brutal. :speechless-smiley-003:

The survey seeks to find out how much of the adult U.S. population attends different kinds of performing arts events at least once a year. The survey also covers visits to visual arts museums, movie-going and reading, primarily of literature.

The percentage of American adults who attended:
- outdoor performing arts festivals of any kind fell from 24.2% (2017) to 18.7% (2022)
- musicals: down from 16.5% to 10.2%
- plays: down from 9.4% to 4.5%
- jazz concerts: down from 8.6% to 6.3%
- classical music concerts: down from 8.6% to 4.6%
- dance other than ballet: down from 6.3% to 3.3%
- Latin music concerts: down from 5.9% to 3.9%
- ballet: down from 3.1% to 2.0%
- opera: down from 2.2% to 0.7%

For that matter, movie-going was down from 58.6% to 43.1%.

Reading was also down across the board, and so were visits to museums and craft fairs.

All of these downturns were deemed "statistically significant." 

[Added]: The survey covered the period from August 2021 through July 2022, when all performing arts organizations had resumed performances, albeit initially with masking and vaccination requirements.


The charts don't indicate how often the average ballet- or jazz-goer attended these events. For now we can go by the results from 2017:

musicals - 2.1 shows annually
plays - 2.3 shows
jazz - 3.0 concerts
classical music - 2.4 concerts
"other" dance - 2.1 shows
Latin music - 2.3 concerts
ballet - 1.5 shows
opera - 1.5 shows

Edited by volcanohunter
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Thanks for posting...Since I don't follow these kinds of documents, I can't say I was or was not surprised by the numbers. The trend is depressing but I think 2023 will be more of a test of whether the performing arts can/will bounce back...I didn't return to live ballet-going until this year. And even now I'm squirrely. One problem may be that the audiences for the traditional classical arts skew older and older is likelier to be more cautious....(?)

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Unfortunately, there has been a downward trend all along. I notice that more recent NEA reports have not included data going back to the late 1970s. It's just too depressing to see the trajectory. 

To be honest, I'm surprised the powers at the NEA didn't delay the survey by a year, because the results were bound to be gruesome. Perhaps they did try to delay it.

Certainly for ballet the 65+ audience seems to have cratered. But for opera the audience was depleted across all age groups.

Plays appear to have lost half their audience, and opera lost two-thirds of it. If people became accustomed to streaming during the pandemic, it isn't encouraging to see how few digital ballet seasons remain. (And if streaming is the way of the future, it would probably mean the disappearance of many performing arts groups, with only the biggest guns remaining.)

I can only hope that the survey of 2027 will show the first-ever increase in audience participation. 

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On 11/7/2023 at 9:51 PM, Drew said:

…One problem may be that the audiences for the traditional classical arts skew older and older is likelier to be more cautious....(?)

This is definitely the case for my family.  We are streaming PNB because of COVID’s continuing spread.  My mom dealt with cancer last year and has an auto-immune disease to manage. We lost a cousin to Covid this year.  He caught it at a Seahawks indoor event.

 We are still being careful.  

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