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AusCo Covid-19 audience outlook monitor

Karina Utomo performs in the 2019 Perth Festival production of Cat Hope’s Speechless, produced by Tura New Music. Credit: Toni Wilkinson.

COVID-19 Audience Outlook Monitor, Australia Council for the Arts, 18 May 2020

The Australia Council is working with Patternmakers and WolfBrown to understand changes in behaviours and sentiments of arts-goers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, to support decision-making and forward planning across the sector.

Click the image to download the report.

Restrictions on public gatherings and travel have forced many in the arts community to shut their doors and cancel programs and activities. This tracking study is designed to support important decision-making in the coming months about when to open again and resume programming in spaces where people physically gather.

Results will be published progressively starting in May, providing artists, cultural organisations and the broader arts sector with valuable information as changes occur.

Results from the first phase of the study are now available, with the key insights outlined in this Snapshot Report. Future data collection phases are planned for July and September 2020.

All data is available in the Audience Outlook Monitor dashboard, with results from over 23,000 respondents.

Key findings from the first phase include:

  • Overwhelmingly, audiences plan to return to arts and culture events in future, with 85% planning to attend just as they did in the past (78%), or even more often (7%).
  • On average, 22% of audiences are comfortable attending as soon as restrictions are lifted. 67% will attend when they deem the risk of transmissions to be minimal, while 11% won’t be back until there is no risk at all.
  • However right now, there are mixed views about attending large venues, as there are with all kinds of public places. Most audiences are not comfortable attending performance venues seating large groups of 100 people (56%).
  • Three quarters of audiences (75%) are also participating in online arts and culture activities, like watching arts video content (52%), watching live-streamed events (42%), or doing online classes or tutorials (36%).
  • Online participation is also allowing audiences to discover new works. Confirming the audience development potential of this time, a sizeable proportion (29%) have discovered a new artist, artwork or performance online, or they know someone who has (13%).

About the study

Baseline data for this tracking study was collected in a cross-sector collaborative survey process involving 159 arts and culture organisations, including museums, galleries, performing arts organisations and festivals. These organisations simultaneously sent a survey to a random sample of their audiences, who had attended a cultural event since January 2018.

The responses span a diverse range of event types and encompass people who attend all types of events. The large sample provides detailed insights about different art forms, types of events, demographic groups and parts of Australia.

Read more about the methodology and the types of events which are included.

How do results compare to other studies about response to the pandemic?

The Audience Outlook Monitor captures ‘active’ arts audiences – those who are on the contact database of at least one of the 159 participating organisations and have attended a cultural event since January 2018 – rather than the general population. The results will be most relevant for activities that rely on people being in public spaces, similar to those of the 159 participating museums, galleries, festivals and organisations.

However results from the Audience Outlook Monitor broadly align with results of other studies capturing Australians’ readiness to be out in public again. A large proportion of audiences are still hesitant to attend large events, and people are still worried about being in crowds.