As museums begin to open across New York City (albeit with reduced capacity, hours and, in many cases, staff), the performing arts industry faces a much more uncertain timeline. Continuing its analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic on arts organizations, the consulting firm TRG Arts released a new report that asks: “Who is buying tickets to future performances when the future is so unknown?”
The study, conducted in partnership with the United Kingdom analytics group Purple Seven, found that while ticket sales and revenue are down 90%, those who are purchasing skew younger, based on data collected from 260 organizations surveyed in the U.K. and the United States. The report also notes an increase in racial diversity among ticket buyers in the U.S., with a decrease of 2.9% in white audiences when compared to last year. (No significant change was found in the U.K.)
“These changing demographic trends are not necessarily purposeful by organizations; indeed, they are likely organic shifts in patron purchase behavior,” Purple Seven CEO Stuart Nicolle said in a statement. “The opportunity for arts and culture organizations is to acknowledge this shift in buying trends and to consider how the product, messaging and pricing along with the whole purchase experience and customer service meet the needs and expectations of this younger and evolving audience.”
According to the study, younger audience members made transactions at higher levels than their older counterparts across single ticket sales, subscriptions and donations. Stateside, Millennials have upped their share of single ticket purchases by 14%, while those in Generation X have increased by 9%.
The data also determined that though donations from the Silent Generation have fallen, contributions from Gen X and Millennials have grown, with Millennials tripling their proportion of donor income in the fiscal year 2021 among the organizations surveyed.
“With ticket sales down 90% from the same period last year, it is too early to tell, but if this trend continues as the market recovers, it will be a silver lining for the sector,” Jill Robinson, TRG chief executive officer, said in a statement. “The cautionary tale to arts organizations is not to let relationships lapse with patrons that have seen diminishing participation. The combined average value of ticket purchases and donations is far higher for older patrons, so organizations will need to balance growing younger and diverse patrons while also retaining older generations’ philanthropic support.”
The report, released at the end of August, arrived days after an update from the nonprofit Americans for the Arts, which estimated financial losses at nonprofits and cultural organizations in the U.S. at $12.5 billion, with 701,000 jobs no longer supported. Culling data from 24,200 survey responses, the study found that 63% of artists and creatives have become fully unemployed, with Black, Indigenous and artists of color representing higher rates of unemployment as a result of the health crisis.