Arts & Culture

Cost-of-living crisis reveals disparity among audiences

A recent survey conducted among 38 theatres across the UK has shown that the concerns and repercussions of the cost-of-living crisis are not spread evenly across audiences. 

Some 20% of theatre-goers that said they are more likely to purchase the best available seats said they expect their disposable income to reduce a lot, or have little to no disposable income over the next six months.

A further 41% of respondents who state they look for the most affordable seats expect their disposable income to reduce a lot or to have little to no disposable income. In October, only 6% of respondents overall expected their attendance at live performances to decrease compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The figure was higher for respondents that attended London venues (10%); those who pay less than £15 for a ticket on average (8%); those that purchase the most affordable tickets (8%) and those that have their day-to-day activities limited because of health problems or disability (8%).

The findings come from October’s 2022 UK Performing Arts Survey and the sample of over 1,000 responses comes from the audiences of 38 participating venues around the UK.

The survey was managed by TRG Arts/Purple Seven on behalf of participating venues, while the questionnaire was designed by Morris Hargreaves Macintyre and Data Culture Change. Analysis and reporting writing was also led by Data Culture Change.

TRG Arts UK managing director Tony Followell said: “It is heartening that in every one of our last six monthly surveys a greater number of respondents have consistently stated that they expect to attend more in the next year than those who say they expect to attend less. It is concerning to see the numbers who are unsure about their future attendance is growing.

“Venue managers should be acting now to ensure their pricing strategies are fit for purpose in the challenging times ahead.”

David Brownlee, Data Culture Change chief executive, said: “While it is unsurprising that there is a correlation between expected reduction in disposable income and expected reduction in attendance, it is those who were already most price-sensitive that most expect their income to fall.

“While most of those who expect a little reduction in disposable income will look to reduce the overall cost of their nights out, more than half of those who expect to have little or no disposable income state they will simply stop going to live performances.”