Attendance at cultural venues and events

Data sources

ABS Multi-Purpose Household Survey

The ABS conducts a monthly Australia-wide Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS) as a supplement to its Labour Force Survey (LFS). The survey is conducted each financial year from July to June. It consists of a number of special-purpose surveys including, every four years or so, a survey of persons attending cultural venues and events (Catalogue 4114.0 - Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events). The survey is restricted to persons aged 15 years and over. Three collections through the MPHS have been implemented to date (2005-06, 2009-10 and 2013-14).

National sample sizes achieved for each collection are as follows:

  • 2005-06 – 14,219 persons
  • 2009-10 – 14,205 persons
  • 2013-14 – 13,630 persons

Reasonably low relative standard errors (RSEs) have been reported across state and territory level data for the surveys, however, some RSEs greater than 20% have been reported for data related to the NT in 2005-06, making it less reliable as a basis for drawing conclusions. The data presented below is from collections in 2005-06, 2009-10 and 2013-14. This report will primarily focus on attendances at popular music concerts; classical music concerts; and musicals and operas. Other performing arts categories will occasionally be discussed for comparison purposes.

Live Performance Australia - 2015 Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey

Live Performance Australia (LPA) is the peak body for Australia’s live entertainment and performing arts industry. Since 2004, it has been conducting a survey that provides ticketing and revenue information for ten different live performance categories, of which six are reasonably comparable with the ABS categories used in the MPHS.

The Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey captures ticket attendance and revenue data from ticketing companies, self-ticketing venues, event promoters and Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) companies. In 2015, there were 19 ticketing companies, self-ticketing venues, event promoters included and 28 AMPAG companies included.

A complementary analysis for the MPHS categories has been provided below, drawing from the final report on the 2015 Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey.

Overall results

Australia-wide: Latest results and recent trends

The most recent collection of attendance data was conducted in 2013-14. The chart below shows that, for this twelve month period, attendance was by far the greatest at Popular music concerts (32.6 percent), with the next most popular category of performing arts being Other performing arts (17.2 percent). Musicals and operas reported 14.8 percent attendance, whilst Classical music concerts reported 8.9 percent attendance.

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The relative popularity of the different performing arts categories has remained stable over the course of the three surveys. With the exception of popular music concerts, no significant changes in attendance rates have been reported during this time.

  • Attendances at popular music concerts have grown considerably over the course of the three surveys, up by 7.4 percentage points since 2005-06.
  • Classical music concert attendance was stable between 2009-10 and 2013-14 at 8.9 percent, and only down marginally on attendance in 2005-06 (9.4 percent).
  • Attendance at musicals and operas has declined slightly since 2009-10 to 14.8 percent.

Geographical differences

Across the states and territories, the relative popularity of the different performing arts categories is fairly consistent, however, the data highlights a few points of interest. Based on 2013-14 results:

  • Attendance at the performing arts venues and events was highest across the board in the ACT and lowest in QLD.
  • Attendance at popular music concerts was greatest in the ACT and NT at 35.6 percent, followed by SA at 35.0 percent. Attendance was lowest in QLD (29.9 percent).
  • Attendance at classical music concerts was greatest in the ACT (15.2 percent) and NT (10.1 percent). Attendance was lowest in SA (6.9 percent).
  • Attendance at musicals and operas was greatest in the ACT (18.9 percent) and WA (16.7 percent). Attendance was lowest in the NT (10.0 percent).

Further analysis of state and territory differences is presented in the sections below.

Comment – Factors influencing access to performing arts events

The ACT is the most highly urbanised state in Australia, being essentially a single city in which the national university and its facilities is a major presence. It therefore may have the greatest per capita provision of performing arts venues in Australia. In addition to this, there is the suggestion that the classical music results for the ACT are likely to correlate with education and income levels. Queensland has the largest proportion of residents living in regional areas and outside the main metropolitan area of any state and therefore may have the lowest per capita provision of venues.

The high attendance result for the NT (for classical music concerts) is perhaps surprising given its small population and low population density; lower education levels generally; and the fact that it has only an amateur orchestra. Furthermore, given that SA has many venues, major festivals and a very dominant metropolitan area, it could be considered surprising that they produced the lowest attendance rate for classical music concerts.

Population size and density, along with factors of education and income are also likely to impact the financial viability of bringing major tours of musicals to some states and territories.

Age and Gender differences

  • In 2013-14, females were more inclined than males to attend performing arts venues and events across the three categories of interest, with the most stark difference occurring for musicals and operas.
  • Those aged 15-17 years of age are leading the way in patronising dance performances (15.8 percent), whilst popular music concerts are most heavily patronised by those aged 18-24 years (44.5 percent).
  • Other performing arts are most heavily patronised by those aged 25-34 years (22.2 percent), whilst theatre performances are most heavily patronised by those aged 45-54 years (18.9 percent).
  • Classical music concerts are most heavily patronised by those aged 65-74 years (13.9 percent), musicals and operas by those aged 55-64 years (18.3 percent).

Comment – resurgence in dance?

It is perhaps surprising that those aged 15-17 years are reporting high attendance at dance performances. A resurgence in dance as an extra-curricular activity for school aged children may be a factor, as could be a growth in dance-inspired television shows over the past decade.

The chart below tracks attendance in each of these categories across the age groups.

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Further analysis of each performing arts category of interest is provided below.

Classical music concerts

2013-14 results from the MPHS

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Classical music concerts were predominantly patronised by those aged 45 years and over, with the 65-74 years age group most inclined to attend (13.9 percent).

Females were more inclined than males to attend classical music concerts (10.0 percent versus 7.7 percent respectively).

Trends:

  • Nationally, overall attendance at classical music concerts declined marginally (down 0.5 percentage points between 2005-06 and 2013-14).
  • The greatest declines during this period were reported in SA (down 2.8 percentage points).
  • Growth in attendance was most substantial in the NT (up by 2.2 percentage points) and ACT (up by 1.9 percentage points).

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Age group attendance patterns over the course of the three surveys are shown in the chart below.

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Comment – Audiences of the future

For many years, it has been said that people come to classical music later in life. The earlier age graph showed classical attendees increasing by age and it could be assumed that low attendances by the young would work its way through to older brackets.  However, if audience is recruited not from the young but the old than we don’t really know to what extent low attendance by the young will work through to older brackets. There is some broad data to suggest that it does, but not to the extent suggested by these data.


2015 results from LPA

Classical music attendance and revenue has experienced two consecutive years of decline since 2013. Between 2013 and 2015, attendance fell by 15.0 percent from approximately 1.17 million to 994,000 whilst revenue fell by 20.0 percent from approximately $70.48 million to $56.40 million. The average ticket price reported between 2013 and 2015 was $73, $10 higher than that for the preceding three years.

The figures are volatile from year to year, with the revenue peaking in 2008 and attendance in 2006 and 2008. In 2008, revenue peaked at $107.05 million (70 percent greater than the average revenue generated for the 12 reported years). In 2006, attendance peaked at 1.57 million (35 percent greater than average attendance reported for the period).

In 2015, Victoria reported greatest attendance at classical music performances followed by New South Wales (at 34.7 and 31.8 percent respectively), however New South Wales reported the greatest revenue generation (at 40.5 percent) followed by Victoria (only 29.9 percent). Western Australia and Queensland also reported significant contributions to attendance and revenue (in the order of 10-12 percent for both states).

Popular music concerts

2013-14 results from the MPHS

Popular music concerts were quite clearly the domain of those under 45 years, with the 18-24 years age group most inclined to attend (44.5 percent). Females were more inclined than males to attend popular music concerts (33.9 percent versus 31.3 percent respectively).

Trends:

  • Attendance-cultural-06.png
    Significant growth in attendance at popular music concerts was reported nationally (up 7.4 percentage points between 2005-06 and 2013-14).
  • Between 2005-06 and 2013-14, attendance grew most substantially in Tasmania (up by 10.2 percentage points), NSW (up by 9.0 percentage points) and VIC (up by 8.9 percentage points).
  • Slight declines in attendance were reported in the ACT and WA between 2009-10 and 2013-14 (-0.3 and -1.8 percentage points respectively).

Attendance-cultural-07.png

  • A review of attendance by age group between the 2009-10 and 2013-14 surveys, highlights an interesting change, that being an increase in attendance at popular music concerts by those aged 35-74 as follows:
    • 35-44 years – up 5.3 percent
    • 45-54 years – up 4.4 percent
    • 55-64 years – up 5.5 percent
    • 65-74 years – up 5.9 percent

Age group attendance patterns over the course of the three surveys are shown in the chart below.

Attendance-cultural-08.png

2015 results from LPA

LPA’s contemporary music category is the category with most correspondence to the popular music category from the MPHS.

Attendance and revenue at contemporary music performances reported a decline between 2014 and 2015 of 13.0 percent (to 5.55 million) and 21.0 percent (to $477.9 million) respectively. The average ticket price also fell between 2014 and 2015 by 10.4 percent (to $96.38), down approximately $8 on the average ticket prices recorded over the preceding seven years.

Attendance at, and revenue generated by contemporary music performances peaked in 2010. In this year, revenue peaked at $569.1 million (39 percent greater than the average revenue generated for the 12 reported years), whilst attendance peaked at 7.03 million (33 percent greater than average attendance reported for the period).

In 2015, New South Wales reported greatest attendance at classical music performances followed by Victoria (at 31.4 and 27.5 percent respectively). In line with this, New South Wales reported the greatest revenue generation (at 32.1 percent) followed by Victoria (only 29.0 percent). Western Australia and Queensland also reported significant contributions to attendance and revenue (in the order of 15 percent for both states).

Musicals and operas

The grouping of musical and opera into one category is unfortunate because they are quite distinct forms of performance and the audience for musicals is much larger than that for opera. The drivers of attendance for each are most likely quite different and this grouping masks any trends occurring for each genre. The annual Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey published for 2015 by Live Performing Arts (http://reports.liveperformance.com.au/ticket-survey-2015/) does distinguish between Music Theatre and Opera. A brief review of results from LPA is also provided in this section.

2013-14 results from the MPHS

Attendance-cultural-09.png
Attendance at musicals and operas follows a similar pattern to that of classical music concerts, with those aged between 55 and 74 years most inclined to attend (at 18.3 and 17.6 percent each respectively). However, attendance from younger age groups is better in this category when compared to classical music concerts.

Females were more inclined than males to attend musicals and operas (18.6 percent versus 10.9 percent respectively), highlighting a stark difference in appeal.

Trends:

  • Overall attendance at musicals and operas declined nationally (down 1.5 percentage points between 2005-06 and 2013-14).
  • The greatest declines during this period were reported in VIC (down 2.4 percentage points) and NSW (down 2.1 percentage points).
  • Growth in attendance was most substantial in WA (up by 1.9 percentage points).

Attendance-cultural-10.png

Age group attendance patterns over the course of the three surveys are shown in the chart below.

Attendance-cultural-11.png

=2015 results from LPA

Musical Theatre

After two consecutive years of decline in both attendance and revenue since 2011, musical theatre experienced a resurgence in popularity in 2014 and 2015. Between 2013 and 2014, attendance and revenue grew by 52.6 percent and 65.6 percent respectively. Between 2014 and 2015 much smaller gains were made in, gross revenue grew by 4.5% from $320.34 million to $334.87 million, while total attendance grew by 2.4%. Growth in revenue coincided with an increase in average ticket price by 2.3% from $105.70 to $108.13.

The figures are volatile from year to year, with the revenue results for 2014-15 by far the highest over the reported period. In 2015, revenue peaked at $334.87 million (44 percent greater than the average revenue generated for the 12 reported years). The second highest attendance figures were also reported in this year, at 3.26 million (21 percent greater than average attendance reported for the period). Attendance results have been as high during the period (in 2007-08), so revenue growth has been driven by increasing average ticket prices in this category.

In 2015, Victoria reported greatest attendance at musical theatre (at 39.0 percent), followed by NSW (32.8 percent) and Queensland (17.7 percent).

Opera

Over the reported period, both revenue and attendance peaked in 2004 at $62.56 million and approximately 630,000 attendees respectively. Attendance at operas has experienced an upward trend over the years 2013-2015 (from approximately 345,000 to 433,000, or 26%), however, revenue has been declining gradually since 2012 (from $47.8 million to $41.5 million). Growth in attendance between 2014 and 2015 was 12 percent, while revenue fell by 2.6 percent in the same period. The revenue and attendance results in the latest three reporting years are well below the averages reported over the entire period.

The average ticket price spiked at approximately $145 in 2013 and appears to have coincided with a 20 percent drop in attendance. In the following years, average ticket prices were reported at a lower $121-124 (more consistent with prices in the two years preceding the spike).

In 2015, NSW generated the overwhelming majority of revenue at 73.2 percent and attendance at 57.7 percent. Victoria was the only other significant contributor at 21.9 percent attendance and 17.9 percent revenue. Comment - An incongruous category

Opera attendance in 2014 was 387k, or only 12.2% of the attendance for musicals that year. This was 12.2% (coincidentally) greater than attendance in 2013. 2004, the year in this period that showed the lowest attendances for musicals, was the highest for opera at 630k. Attendances were from 516k to 630k over the period 2004-2007, but in 2008 dropped to a new plateau around 400k. The range from 2008-2015 was 448k to 345k. There is volatility but not generally to the level shown in musicals.

There is some confusion in the data due to Opera Australia reporting its total attendances without differentiating between those for mainstage opera and its music theatre productions, for which the annual number of performances have greatly increased in recent years. Additional data is available from the Report of the National Opera Review (2016) and the earlier Discussion Paper for the Review, which had more data but does not extend to 2015. So while total attendance increased over those years, the mainstage opera attendances at Opera Australia dropped from 2009 (260,000) to 2015 (190,000). The National Review includes data for Opera Australia and the state opera companies but excludes the Victorian Opera, so apart from the fact that the source of its data is the companies and so differs in this aspect from the LPA, the LPA data includes the Victorian Opera. Still, Victorian Opera is a relatively small compared with Opera Australia and the trends for the sector would be similar as measured by either source.

These data demonstrate the initial point: when opera attendances are only one eighth those for musicals, combining the category of musicals and opera obscures important changes in opera data and since figures for the two show contrasting trends, opera data could marginally mislead conclusions about the situation for musicals.

Comment – A resurgence in musical theatre?

As with many musical performance categories, the performance of very well known or highly recognised shows is likely to have a large influence on attendance figures in any particular year. Moves by some companies to present older musicals (such as South Pacific) for longer seasons could be driving greater attendance amongst older generations.

There does appear to be a resurgence in musical theatre, in some part related to new grassroots professional activity.

References:

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue 4114.0 – Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events, Australia: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats%5Cabs@.nsf/0/39BCCBB0187DF4A5CA256DCD0081889A?Opendocument

Live Performance Australia - Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey: http://www.liveperformance.com.au/ticket_attendance_revenue_survey

National Opera Review – final report file:///C:/Users/Ozmusico/AppData/Local/Temp/national_opera_review_final_report-1.pdf

Author

Danielle Ranshaw

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