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December 5 - Executive Briefing with Alan Brown "What Happened to Audiences?"

Update for December 5 2022: Two years and nine months since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, audiences have largely adapted to the new normal in which Covid-19 is an ongoing risk alongside other health risks, old and new. In this final briefing on the Covid-19 study, Alan Brown will take stock of findings from the last phase of the Audience Outlook Monitor study, July-Nov. 2022, including new questions about programming preferences and pre-/post-pandemic shifts in consumption behaviors. Against the backdrop of sobering box office data, Alan will provide an overview of factors affecting demand and reflect on forward-looking strategies for navigating the next few years. (30 minutes)


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Several questions were asked during the session. Alan has provided responses:

"Does the recession also impact behavior?" -David Alan: Yes, cost concerns have nearly doubled over the past year in terms of prevalence as a reason for not returning. This disproportionately affects younger patrons. "Hi there! Of those who have returned to the audience, are they attending less frequently? If so, how much less frequently? Thanks!" -Wiley Hausam Alan: Wiley, we do not measure average frequency of attendance in the survey, as that data would come from box office data. What we DO have is a lot of people say that they’re being more selective in what they attend due to cost concerns, and more people saying that they’re watching more entertainment at home. "My question: sometimes the most passionate people are the younger and, sadly, broker group--they can't afford a subscription. How do we address this?" -Christian Krenek Alan: Historically, younger arts consumers are less interested in subscription than their older counterparts. And it’s not only because of the price. In short, we need to offer different kinds of sales relationships that facilitate and reward attendance in small social groups and don’t require advance purchase on a long-time horizon. "Second question: how do you "read" the drop in attendance these past four or six months? is it temporary? Or is there a fundamental reduction in the audience's passion for live performance?" -Wiley Hausam Alan: I don’t think people are less passionate about live performance, but I do think there’s been a displacement of demand due to competitive factors, including at-home consumption. I also think that the kinds of experiences that arts consumers idealize are shifting towards more participatory, more interactive, more intimate, and more immersive kinds of experiences. This is a very slow, generational shift that was greatly accelerated by the pandemic. This has really scary, long-term implications for the kinds of venues we need to serve the public (i.e., a shift away from conventional theaters), and, of course, the kinds of artistic experiences we offer. "How much of a role do you think the "noise" of the midterm election played a role in people not turning out for performances." - Jennifer Morris Alan: I am aware that some organizations intentionally avoid scheduling programs over the weeks leading up to major elections, but I’ve only heard about this in connection with presidential elections, not mid-terms. In any case, I would think the negative effect would be limited to several weeks before the election. "Any recommendations for how to budget revenue during this period of recalibration, competition from immersive experiences?" - Lenore Naxon Alan: This is going to be very individualized to your organization and your market. What I see is a lot of organizations programming a lot of big titles/repertoire, and not making their sales goals. Methinks some were intoxicated with that big shot of “Shuttered Venues Tequila” and made some overly optimistic program plans. In reality, I think a lot of organizations need to dramatically reduce costs/shrink their public program offerings by about 20% to 30%, and then build back from there. Many have done this already.

Formal art tends to be so serious... lots of expectations of the consumer. How do we make it "easy and fun"? Especially post-pandemic... Where is the social engagement? Need more intermissions (engage socially) -- add interactivity (connectivity). -Hamal

Alan: Yes, for sure, we need to think in terms of format diversification – offering different programs in different formats, including less formal/more educational formats, family-friendly formats, and social formats. And we have to come to grips with embracing augmented experiences as part of the format diversification program.

Finally, in case you missed it, WolfBrown just announced a brand and mission to meet the moment. WolfBrown’s commitment to a more equitable and more sustainable future for the arts and culture sector is reflected in our newly refreshed brand, our all-new website, and our reconfigured communications channels. Join one of our communities of practice to stay in touch:

There is also an upcoming seminar opportunity that WolfBrown will offer January 23-24. The seminar, Making Sense of the Landscape of Immersive Experiences, is designed for performing arts administrators who wish to strengthen their understanding of the range of new programming opportunities in the augmented, immersive and virtual reality programming spaces. Our ultimate goal is to support nonprofit arts organizations in making smart investments in innovative new programs that attract new and diverse audiences. For more information, see:

For the full chat log, visit the Crowdcast page at

(Free registration required).


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