Info You Can Use: CultureTrack Survey Results

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I just got around to reviewing the results of the recent Culture Track Survey. As always with surveys, there were a couple interest tidbits to be gleaned. I looked at the Cultural Track report and then the longer research report. Both are pretty easy to read since the bulk of the pages consist of a graph and a few sentences reflecting on the findings.

One result that caught my eye was in regard to corporate sponsorship. I don’t often see audience perceptions surveyed on this subject.


Perceptions of Corporate Sponsorship

If you are making an economic argument for the value of the arts, you should probably be pitching it to businesses as well as governments as a way to enlist corporate support both in your lobbying and fund raising efforts. Just be careful not to make the case so strongly that you start to encourage people to use your organization to charity-wash their reputation lest you become a little tainted by association.

The report talks about barriers to attendance, what motivates people to be subscribers, how influential social media is on the attendance decision (not as much as you might think, though growing). The finding that didn’t jibe with my experience at all was that people plan their attendance well in advance.

“Both visual and performing arts audiences have become significantly less spontaneous and are planning their attendance much farther in advance.

· Only 5% of 2011 respondents visit a museum or exhibition on the same day they make the decision to attend, compared to 17% in 2007.
· Just 3% of respondents attend a performing arts event on the same day of their decision, down from 9% in 2007.”

The only way I can reconcile these numbers is if these reflect planning only and not acting to purchase tickets. Even broken down by subgroups, both infrequent attendees and young seasoned omnivores are planning well ahead in the 50% range and a few days in advance in the 37% and 44% range, respectively. I suspect people may plan in advance, but purchase later.

If there is truth in this, then I am feeling a little more secure in how early I start to promote events. I have often wondered if I am wasting time and money by not just concentrating most of the efforts to the last 5 days before a performance. The results say being able to access information well in advance of an event is highly valued.

The research report had more detailed results about the survey. If you are particularly interested in specific data about the ways different groups are using social media and technology to learn about events, you may want to take the time to study the results (PDF pages 20-33, 37-41).

Some results not related to social media/technology that you may know about, but bear repeating-

-Watching and listening to the visual and performing arts often occurs outside the exhibition / performance hall

-Enjoyment, spending time with or supporting loved ones, and interest in programming play roles in decisions

-Cost, lack of interest, and inconvenience are all barriers to entry

-No one factor contributes to the subscription buying process more than others, but exclusive events are less important than other benefits (last bit is interesting to know-Joe)

-For those that visit cultural organizations less, the reduction is focused on cutting expenses rather than a loss of relevance

-Frequency of attendance is a better indicator than income in terms of determining likelihood of contributions

-On site information helps enrich visits to cultural organizations

One response that interested me was: “Respondents from cities were significantly more likely to indicate that their home city should be considered a cultural center.”  I am intrigued by the idea that city dwellers more than suburban and rural residents place a high level of importance on being perceived as living in a cultural center. If you live in a rural area, you probably have priorities that don’t emphasize a cultural life. I guess the same is true of the suburban experience. Perhaps suburbanites value having their homes within easy commuting distance of work and great culture and don’t have a high expectation of a great cultural life in their town.


About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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