In May, research organisations Patternmakers from Sydney and WolfBrown from the US released the first part of the Audience Outlook Monitor, a cross-sector collaborative survey being conducted across six months to investigate how Australian audiences feel about returning to performing arts events, museums, galleries and festivals.

The data collected in May found that nine out of 10 respondents intended to return to arts and cultural events. However, safety measures affected when that would be. Twenty-two per cent of respondents said they were comfortable with returning as soon as restrictions were lifted, 67 per cent said they would attend when they deemed the risk of transmission to be minimal, while 11 per cent said they wouldn’t consider returning until there is no risk at all.

The Audience Outlook Monitor is tracking audience sentiment about returning to live arts and cultural events. Photograph courtesy of Patternmakers

Phase 2 of the Audience Outlook Monitor was conducted in July. The results based on feedback from over 15,000 respondents from 152 organisations, have now been collated and released.

The new data shows that audiences are starting to embrace the various opportunities to return to arts and cultural events, with 24 per cent nationally saying that they attended a museum, gallery, cinema or cultural event in the past fortnight. Readiness to attend arts and cultural events has grown nationally from 22 per cent in May to 28 per cent in July.

Confidence is currently highest in the Northern Territory (39 per cent, stable since May), Western Australia (37 per cent, up from 25 per cent), Tasmania (34 per cent, up from 17 per cent), Queensland (33 per cent, up from 25 per cent) and Western Australian (37 per cent, up from 25 per cent) – all places where there had been no recent cases of community transmission at the time of the data collection.

Understandably, given the second wave of community transmission in Victoria and New South Wales, audiences there are more cautious, with 25 per cent in NSW and 20 per cent in Victoria expressing confidence about returning.

Feedback from people who have attended recent events suggests that safety measures are working well, and that attendees were satisfied with the way social distancing was applied.

The outlook for increased activity is encouraging with 42 per cent of respondents saying they are making firm plans to return in the future, while 10 percent recently bought a ticket to a live show or performance.

However, the news is not all good. The number of people saying that their long-term attendance of arts and cultural events will be negatively affected by the implications of the coronavirus has increased nationally from 15 per cent in May to 22 per cent in July.

Online participation has grown strongly, with 73 per cent reporting that they have recently consumed live streamed events and virtual exhibitions. More than half of them (54 per cent) said they are now engaging online more frequently and 72 per cent said that they plan to continue to engage with arts and culture digitally after the pandemic ends.

Adrian Collette, CEO of the Australia Council (one of seven government agencies involved with the Audience Outlook Monitor) said: “Arts and culture continue to be significant in the lives of all Australians. Many of us engage with arts and culture online, and 42 per cent are already actively planning to return to cultural events. These trends are encouraging and highlight the importance of supporting the cultural sector to survive and thrive, so we can all reap the significant benefits to our wellbeing and our recovery.”

The Audience Outlook Monitor will collect data again in September 2020.

For more information visit the Audience Outlook Monitor website