Monday, November 25, 2013

Live Arts Attendance Falls—Maybe

Are the live arts in decline, or is the latest survey by the National Endowment for the Arts simply picking up on changes in arts preferences? The 2012 survey of arts participation reveals what may be a worrisome decline in attendance at live arts events, or it may reveal nothing more than shifting tastes.

Only 33 percent of adults attended at least one live arts performance in 2012, reports the NEA. This figure—the lowest ever recorded—was down from 35 percent in 2008 and a high of 41 percent in 1992. But the NEA counts only attendance at performances of classical music, opera, jazz, ballet, musical and non-musical plays, and visits to art museums and galleries. Rock concerts do not count, for example, and as musical tastes have shifted over the decades this omission may be wrongly skewing participation rates downward. Newly added to the survey in 2012 is a question about attendance at any live music performance. Over time, the answer to that question will help determine whether the live arts are in decline or preferences are simply shifting. Thirty-two percent of adults reported attending any live music event in 2012, with the percentage peaking at 41 percent among 18-to-24-year-olds.

Not all arts audiences are small or shrinking. The percentage of adults who went out to a movie grew from 53 to 59 percent between 2008 and 2012. The percentage who read at least one book for personal interest held steady at about 54 percent. Fully 71 percent of adults consumed art through electronic media such as television, radio, or the Internet.

Source: National Endowment for the Arts, How a Nation Engages with Art

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