By Kay Rollinson
JCA Arts Marketing, a division of JCA that helps arts and cultural organizations leverage data-driven insights to grow audiences and revenue, recently released a new study on Trends in Audience Behavior: What’s New in 2023?
Coming out of the 2022-23 season, the headlines have many performing arts administrators concerned. Several performing arts companies around the country have cancelled seasons or closed their doors because of smaller audiences and higher costs.
In the study, JCA Arts Marketing provides a glimmer of hope. While ticket sales across the industry have not reached pre-pandemic levels, the study shows that ticket sales and income trend lines are rising and there are marked signs of improvement. While some performing arts genres are having a more difficult time than others—and subscriptions continue to drop—the bleak picture from the headlines does not come across in the data.
Data for the Subscription Sales Study was gathered from 21 major organizations in different regions of the U.S., including eight regional theatre companies, six music organizations, four opera companies, and three performing arts centers (PACs). The analysis compares subscription sales for 2022-23 to past seasons in 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2021-22.
Key findings include:
On average, ticket sales are trending up. Across all genres, tickets sales and ticket income have increased since the reopening 2021-22 season.
Music organizations are leading the way in audience rebound. While music organizations have not seen a complete rebound in pre-pandemic ticket sales, they are closer to pre-pandemic sales levels than theatre and opera.
Theatre audiences returned in greater numbers in Spring 2023. The audience decline for theatres since the pandemic is more pronounced than other genres, but sales showed signs of improvement in Spring 2023.
The decrease in ticket sales post-pandemic is not a pricing problem. There isn’t data to suggest that the audience is any more price sensitive than the pre-pandemic audience, and prices have not kept pace with inflation.
Single ticket sales are increasing since 2021-22, but not enough to replace subscriber decline. Where we see that single ticket sales continue to represent a large proportion of the audience, single ticket sales are not making up for lost subscribers since the pandemic.
We can’t expect late sales any more than we could pre-pandemic. The timing of when people buy tickets has not changed since the pandemic.
“We are encouraged by the positive trend in ticket sales we’ve seen since last year,” said Jamie Alexander, Director of JCA Arts Marketing and co-author of the study. “While we aren’t out of the post-pandemic woods quite yet, there is light coming in—but we must keep focused on what inspires audiences in today’s world.”
View the full study by clicking here.
Kay Rollinson is Operations Administrator for JCA.