“Admission Tickets Are Not Bought. They Are sold.”

Colleen Dilenschneider made a post today providing data that shows people’s tendency to stay home rather than seek cultural and entertainment experiences has increased over the last decade. This has been a topic of conversation in the arts community for quite awhile now so it won’t come as a big surprise.  However, I think this perception has been based largely on observation, assumptions, and anecdotes rather than the hard data that Colleen provides.

Perhaps most significant to the arts and cultural community, Colleen provides a graphic in her post that shows this tendency among people with a high propensity to visit live and exhibit based experiences parallels the general US population as a whole. She comments that:

These are the people who have the demographic, psychographic, and behavioral attributes that indicate a heightened interest in visiting museums and/or performing arts institutions. It includes folks who indicate that they actively visit these kinds of organizations, as well as people like them or who have an interest in attending, but have not visited recently. For these most likely audiences, their preference to stay home over the weekend has grown a staggering 60.1% since 2011.

Right off the bat, this isn’t great news. A top indicator of a person willing to attend a cultural organization is that they are willing to leave their homes in the first place! As you can see, even the people who like to go out are more interested in staying in than they were in the past.

Now you may say, wait a minute Joe, I was just over at the Adaptistration blog where Drew McManus posted today about another study which reported “96% of ticket buyers plan to come back to your venues after the pandemic.”

That actually tracks pretty closely with Colleen’s graph which shows that between 2020-2021, the number of high propensity visitors who said they would stay home increased about 1.7%. Between 2019 and 2020, it went up a little under 6%, but people were obviously forced to stay home due to Covid. Between 2018-2019 the numbers increased about 2.4%. So 96% of ticket buyers planning to return is about right. What I am hoping is that Colleen’s graphic flattens out a bit in 2022 -2023 indicating some of that 6% drop off has come back or that new audiences are obtained.

Toward the end of her post, Colleen says that cultural organizations need to step up efforts to engage people and create enough interest to fight the inertia of staying home.

“As the most successful cultural institutions already know, admission tickets are not bought. They are sold.”

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

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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