Hill Strategies reports on performing arts finances, attendance and participation

Performing arts finances, attendance and participation
In this issue: A focus on the performing arts, including a statistical summary of the situation of Canadian performing arts organizations, statistics on Canadian consumer spending on live performances, as well as Canadian and American reports on audience engagement and development.
Performing Arts 2008
Statistics Canada, June 7, 2010

Statistics Canada’s annual performing arts survey provides information about non-profit and for-profit theatre, musical theatre, dinner theatre, opera, dance, musical groups (e.g., orchestras, chamber music and popular music groups) and other organizations (e.g., circus, ice skating shows). Statistics Canada provided brief text highlights and preliminary data of the situation of performing arts organizations in 2008. Hill Strategies has analyzed this data, with a particular focus on non-profit organizations, for this issue of the Arts Research Monitor.

In even-numbered years, the data is quite detailed, including, for example, attendance data and breakdowns of revenue sources (earned, public or private sector). In odd-numbered years, only summary data is provided. The detailed data for 2008 is analyzed here.
Operating revenues were $1.38 billion for all performing arts groups in 2008, a 3.2% increase from 2007. (All change statistics have been adjusted for inflation by Hill Strategies Research.)
In 2008, non-profit performing arts organizations in Canada had operating revenues of $668 million, representing 48% of the $1.38 billion sector total and a 1.4% increase from 2007.
Operating expenses equalled operating revenues ($668 million), leaving no collective surplus or deficit in 2008. Salaries, wages and benefits (excluding fees paid to contract workers) accounted for 35% of non-profit performing arts organizations’ expenses.
Total attendance was 13.7 million at nearly 43,000 performances, for an average of 318 attendees per performance.
Earned revenues accounted for one-half of operating revenues (49%), while public sector grants and private sector contributions each accounted for about one-quarter of total revenues (25% and 24%, respectively). Other revenues represented 3% of the total.
The detailed data on revenue sources (based on a survey representing most, but not all, non-profit organizations) shows that: 
  • Single-ticket sales accounted for almost twice as much revenue as subscription tickets ($142 million vs. $75 million).
  • Single-ticket sales ($142 million) were only 12% less than all public sector grants ($161 million) and 7% less than all private sector revenues ($153 million).
  • Provincial grants ($74 million) accounted for nearly one-half (46%) of all public sector grants ($161 million), greater than federal ($59 million, or 37%) and municipal grants ($29 million, or 18%).
  • Of the $153 million in private sector revenues, individual donations accounted for the largest share ($50 million, or 33%), followed by corporate sponsorships ($36 million, or 24%), fundraising events ($29 million, or 19%), foundations ($20 million, or 13%), corporate donations ($10 million, or 6%), and other private revenues ($8 million, or 5%). 
For each discipline, the key statistics on non-profit organizations in 2008 are as follows:
  • Theatre: Operating revenues were $325 million, a 4.0% increase from 2007. Collectively, theatre companies reported a $1.8 million deficit (0.6% of revenues). Total theatre attendance was over 7.5 million at 30,000 performances, for an average of 251 attendees per performance.
  • Music organizations: Operating revenues were $159 million, a 1.9% decrease from 2007. Collectively, music organizations registered a surplus of $461,000 (0.3% of revenues). Music organizations reached 2.9 million people at 4,900 performances, for an average of 599 people per performance.
  • Opera, musical theatre and dinner theatre organizations: Operating revenues were $88 million, a 2.9% increase from 2007. Opera, musical theatre and dinner theatre companies reported a $283,000 deficit (0.3% of revenues). Opera, musical theatre and dinner theatre organizations reached 1.0 million people at over 2,300 performances, for an average attendance of 432.
  • Dance companies: The financial statistics for non-profit dance organizations were suppressed to protect confidentiality. Total dance attendance was 1.3 million at 2,400 performances, for an average of 541 attendees per performance.
  • “Other” performing organizations: The financial statistics for other non-profit organizations were suppressed to protect confidentiality. Total attendance at other performing arts organizations was 932,000 at nearly 3,500 performances, for an average of 269 attendees per performance. 
On a provincial basis, Ontario-based non-profit organizations accounted for $282 million in revenues (42% of the Canadian total). The revenues of Quebec-based organizations totalled $165 million in 2008 (25% of the Canadian total). Alberta-based non-profit performing arts organizations had operating revenues of $83 million (12% of national revenues), while their British Columbia counterparts accounted for $80 million (also 12%). The Statistics Canada tables also contain information about the revenues of organizations in other provinces, as well as expense, surplus, attendance and other data for organizations in all provinces.
The operating revenues of for-profit performing arts organizations were $714 million in 2008, 52% of the sector total and a 5.0% increase from 2007. Before-tax profits amounted to $94 million, for a profit margin of 13.2%. Quebec’s for-profit performing arts sector is quite large, possibly due to the presence of for-profit circus groups based in the province. The province’s for-profit performing arts groups accounted for $322 million, or 45% of the operating revenues all for-profit performing arts organizations in Canada.

Creative Trust's Audience Engagement Survey: Results by Discipline
Creative Trust, 2010
This report examines the engagement preferences of Toronto-area performing arts attendees before, during and after performances. The report is based on nearly 3,700 responses to a survey distributed by 20 performing arts organizations that are members of the Creative Trust. The survey was conducted by WolfBrown and Hill Strategies Research. The report highlights discipline-based results for dance (436 respondents), music (1,008 respondents), opera (142 respondents) and theatre (2,076 respondents).
Women comprise 69% of all survey respondents and a substantial majority of respondents in all disciplines. The average age of survey respondents is 49. Among the disciplines, music audiences are the oldest (average of 57 years of age), followed by opera (53), theatre (48) and dance (46).
Many audience members attended the programs of several of the 20 mid-sized performing organizations over the past two years. The report indicates that “the most avid performing arts goers attended the programs of 15 of the 20 organizations in the past two years.” On average, respondents attended the programs of 3.5 different organizations.
The report outlines different ways in which individuals participate in the performing arts, including attending performances, dancing, singing or playing instruments themselves, taking lessons, creating works, listening or watching on the internet, reading or writing blogs, and watching TV competitions.
Reinforcing research into the social aspect of live performances, the report indicates that “friends are the most common attendance companions in all four disciplines, followed by spouses or partners. [However,] a substantial minority of audiences in all disciplines attend alone.”
Data in the report indicates that the most common reasons for attending performances are “to be inspired or uplifted”, “to engage intellectually with the art”, and to discover new works. The report notes that the most common motivations for attending performances vary between the disciplines.
Over one-half of survey respondents indicated that they prefer to do “just a bit” of preparation before attending performances, and about one-quarter prefer to do “a moderate amount” of preparation. Some audience members suggested that they “would like to get more of a glimpse at the ‘process’ behind the performance, be it videos posted online or actually attending rehearsals or hearing interviews from the creative team, performers and crew”.
Short introductions from the stage were the most commonly-desired engagement activity during performances. Regarding audience participation, the survey results show that “music and opera audiences are strongest in agreement that audiences should just sit quietly and watch or listen during performances”, while “dance and theatre audiences are strongest in agreement that audiences should be allowed participate, react and interact during performances”.
Regarding potential activities after performances, “the strongest preference in all disciplines is ‘both’ reflecting privately [on performances] and discussing [them] vigorously”. Among specific activities, “discussions with friends and family are very popular among audiences in all four disciplines”. In addition, the report finds that “interest in reviews by professional critics is quite high among attendees in all four disciplines” and that facilitated Q&A and informal discussion sessions are also quite popular.
Research into action: Pathways to new opportunities
Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, September 2009
“In May 2008, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance announced an ambitious goal to double the region’s cultural participation in a dozen years.” This report works toward this goal of the “Engage 2020” project by providing research into how Philadelphia area residents engage with the arts. The strategies for audience engagement and development outlined in the report provide a “springboard to action to adopt a consumer-focused, organization-wide approach to product and market development”.
The report synthesizes the findings of five qualitative and quantitative studies conducted over a two-year period: Cultural Engagement Index; Demographic Trends and Forecasts in the Philadelphia Region Study; Culture & the Arts Survey; Paid Patronage Study; and Engage 2020 Focus Groups.
Ten key findings are presented:
  1. Philadelphia’s cultural attendance rates are above the national averages in 18 of 20 measurements, but “there’s still room to grow”.
  2. The “bucket is leaking”: the cultural sector was found to be “good at attracting customers, but not so good at keeping them”. In fact, two-thirds of new patrons did not participate in any activity of 17 cultural organizations in the year following the original activity. The report suggests that “there is a major opportunity to increase engagement simply by increasing our retention rate”.
  3. Personal practice of an art form is a gateway to attendance.
  4. “People of color are more engaged & growing in population”. In fact, both African Americans and Hispanics were found to be more culturally active than white respondents, based on a broad definition of cultural engagement (encompassing 57 cultural activities covering “a wide range of curatorial, personal creative practice and audience-based activities”).
  5. “Families with children have the highest engagement index of any life-stage cohort.” A large majority of respondents indicated that the arts are important to children, but less than one-half of respondents felt that most cultural organizations are child-friendly.
  6. Role models are very important: “Adults who report having had mentors both inside and outside their family who introduced them to culture when they were children are more than twice as culturally engaged as those who had no role model.”
  7. A variety of marketing channels are needed to reach consumers, including newspapers, word of mouth, emails and social media.
  8. “Product matters”: Personal interest in the particular exhibition or performance and interest in the genre, period or style were the top two reasons for attending a cultural event, ahead of a convenient time or location and the cost of admission. However, “many people did not feel that the arts were consistently relevant to them personally, or felt that the experience was a letdown”.
  9. “Social connection [at events] is a huge, undermarketed benefit”. Three social reasons ranked among the top four motivations for attending an event. The report argues that “connection is central both to the experience itself (the way we share it with others) and to the way we learn about it (word of mouth)”.
  10. “Service is central” in many respects, including logistics, welcome, information-gathering, ticket purchasing, customer service, transportation, parking, safety, and social activities before or after an event. 
The study highlights “four principles of change for programming”, including relevance, quality, the “power of the personal”, as well as participation and interactivity. In terms of relevance, the focus group and survey work revealed that “there are four key values that drive how people spend their leisure time. People want to de-stress, recharge, connect and become (i.e., advance personal growth.).” The report argues that “quality is a combination of both product artistry and logistics competence” and that there is “a strong connection between personal identity and arts interest”. Participation and interactivity are seen to enhance the arts experience: “when the barrier between artist and audience, between professional and amateur, between performer and observer breaks down, people get excited, they want to participate more and they feel more engaged”.
The report indicates that, for potential audience members, “being aware of a cultural event is different than feeling invited”. Marketing information in the report includes an analysis of demographic trends in the Philadelphia area, retention of first-time attendees, as well as online and offline marketing. Women are found to be “the key to leveraging a family’s or couple’s attendance and to building audiences for the future through their role as mentors to their children”.
In order to improve access, the report highlights seven areas to work on: “1) Varied performance, show and exhibition schedules; 2) Socializing opportunities; 3) Planning made simple; 4) Cultural role models; 5) Family-friendly options; 6) Friendly and welcoming service; [and] 7) Diversity”. In terms of barriers to access, many focus group respondents emphasized “the sometimes intimidating nature of arts and culture venues (not knowing the standards for how to behave, the need to sit still and be quiet)”.
Patterns in Performing Arts Spending in Canada in 2008
Hill Strategies Research, February 9, 2011
Based on a Statistics Canada survey of the spending habits of nearly 10,000 Canadian households in 2008, this report examines variations in performing arts spending between households, including differences in average spending and the percentage of households spending any money on live performing arts. The report examines “factors such as education, income, age, sex, the presence (or absence) of children in the household, household size, disability, rural and urban households, as well as province”.
The report found that total consumer spending on live performing arts was just over $1.4 billion in 2008, which is an average of $108 per Canadian household. Just over one-third of households (37%) spent some money on live performing arts in 2008.
Between 2001 and 2008, total consumer spending on live performances increased by 49% (after inflation). During the same timeframe, there was essentially no change in the percentage of Canadian households reporting spending money on live performing arts (36% in 2001 and 37% in 2008). The report indicates that “at least the same percentage of households in each income group spent at least some money on live performing arts in 2008 as in 2001”.
The report compares spending statistics on live performing arts to other attendance-related activities, including live sports events. In terms of overall spending, the $1.4 billion spent on live performing arts was more than double the amount spent on live sports events ($645 million) in 2008. While 37% of households spent money on live performing arts, 17% spent money on live sports. Among lower-income households, 15% spent money on live performances, while 4% spent money on live sports. For those lower-income households with some spending on either item, average spending on live performances was 34% higher than live sports ($166 vs. $124).
The report attempts to help performing arts organizations better target their marketing, by comparing the spending patterns of high spending households on the performing arts ($200 or more) to households that spent less than this amount or no money at all on live performances in 2008. The high spenders had particularly high spending on admissions to museums and other heritage-related activities, art, antiques and decorative ware, books, movie theatre admissions, photographic goods and services, magazines, periodicals and newspapers. Based on this information, the report suggests that performing arts organizations could customize their marketing strategies and messages to target other cultural participants, especially museum goers, art buyers and book readers.
Data in the report also shows that high spenders on the performing arts spent over four times more on live sports events than low or non-spenders on the performing arts. The report suggests that performing arts marketing could also target sports attendees.
The report also aims to help performing arts organizations pursue sponsorships, by providing information about the non-cultural spending habits of households that spend significant amounts on live performing arts. The report finds that, compared with low or non-spenders on live performing arts, households that spent at least $200 on live performances had much higher spending on non-cultural goods and services, including:
  • Financial services (over twice as much).
  • Contributions to retirement savings and pension funds (nearly twice as much).
  • Restaurants (85% higher average spending on restaurant food and more than double the average spending on restaurant alcohol).
  • Garden supplies (more than double).
  • Pet expenses (72% higher).
  • Hotels and other travel accommodations (nearly triple).
  • Inter-city transportation (more than double).
  • Bicycles (more than double).
  • Clothing (88% higher).
  • Furniture (86% higher).
  • Computer equipment and supplies (81% higher). 
The report also finds that education, province of residence, municipal size and disability are factors that have an impact on performing arts spending. On the other hand, “demographic factors that do not have a substantial impact on performing arts spending include the presence of children in the household, household size, and the age or sex of the survey respondent”.

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