News > Online cultural offerings satisfy audiences’ cravings… for now

Online cultural offerings satisfy audiences’ cravings… for now

Chronicle of a pandemic and the performing arts

Twin Flames performing at the Blacksheep Inn during the 2018 CAPACOA Conference.

In the United States, LaPlaca Cohen and Slover Linett recently published Culture + Community in a Time of Crisis, a special edition of the Culture Track study. The survey report offers many useful insights for performing arts organizations, notably on online engagement.

  • 53% of respondents did some online cultural activities during the early days of the crisis. Pre-recorded performances were the most frequent activity (17%), but it wasn’t deemed to be as valuable an experience as live-streamed performances and other digital activities.
  • Interestingly, a significant proportion of people who watched a performance online had not visited performing arts organizations in the last year. Based on these statistics and on qualitative feedback, authors consider that online cultural offerings have expanded access to culture.

A lasting trend or a temporary substitution activity?

Will demand for live-streamed performances continue when restrictions on gatherings are lifted? The Culture Track survey did not explore this question. But two Canadian surveys did.

In the New Experience Economy, of Albertans who did watch pre-recorded events during the confinement period, only 40% will consider watching again post-isolation. The proportion is slightly higher for live-streamed events. Authors observed a sense of fatigue about online experiences. They concluded that “substitutions alone are not satisfying the main motivations to engage in a sustainable way.”

In the Entertainment Barometer: Quebecers and online events, 93% of Quebecers who watched an event online consider that “online events are a temporary alternative while waiting for venues to reopen.” Only 3% would strongly agree that online events will remain a good alternative after venues reopen.

Bar chart on consumers who have attended an online event. 40% strongly agree that online events are temporary alternative. Another 53% somewhat agree.
Habo and LEPOINTDEVENTE.COM, Entertainment barometer: Quebecers and online events.

What will audiences look for when they go back to the performing arts?

Unsurprisingly, Culture Track respondents said they would want experiences that are fun and lighthearted, but also beautiful. Performing art goers were more likely than others to say they will look for experiences that are “emotionally powerful”, “thought provoking”, “world class quality”, and “culturally diverse”.

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Written by Frédéric Julien
Frédéric Julien has been leading research and development activities at the Canadian Association for the Performing Arts since 2010. In this capacity, he has directed or authored several key research initiatives such as The Value of Presenting, Vital Signs: Arts and Belonging, Digitizing the Performing Arts, as well as many analyses of Statistics Canada data series. Frédéric also leads the Linked Digital Future initiative, which seeks to enhance the discoverability of the performing arts.

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