The 10,834 responses gathered during the first wave of the Missing Audiences survey delivered by the Insights Alliance (Indigo, Baker Richards and One Further) reveal that:
- A significant proportion of previously frequent cultural attenders have not yet returned to any cultural venue and less than 1 in 3 of those have a future booking
- For those who have not yet returned, Covid safety concerns are the key factor holding them back, with 61% saying they are avoiding interacting with crowds and 23% saying they are waiting until they can attend as ‘normal’
- 74% of non-returners expect to attend less often in the next 12 months, while 47% of those who have returned will also attend less often
- Clear communication of Covid safety measures at venues remains an important confidence booster, with 75% of non-returners and 60% of those who have returned less likely to attend with masks not required
- However, those who are not returning to cultural venues are also less likely to be taking public transport, going on domestic holidays or taking part in other social and leisure activities
- Over a third of those who have returned in-person have continued to watch cultural content online and 73% of those who are engaging online and not yet returning say that they are engaging online because they don’t feel confident returning in person yet
Many previously frequent attenders still waiting to return
A significant proportion of respondents said they had not yet returned to any cultural venue. The main reasons cited for not returning relate to fears and uncertainty about Covid:
- 61% say they are ‘avoiding interacting with crowds of people’ and 53% are concerned that ‘other people won’t comply with Covid safety measures’. 23% are still waiting until they can attend ‘as normal’
- Around 1 in 3 of those who have not yet returned do have a future booking, but 39% say they are waiting until the risk is lower
- 74% of non-returners expect that if they do return, they’ll be attending less often than they used to
Whilst programming remains the most important factor when considering booking a ticket for both those who have returned and those who have not, for non-returners Covid safety measures in place at venues are almost as important a consideration.
Masks are a key confidence booster for all audience members, particularly those who haven’t yet returned.
- 75% of non-returners say they would be less like to attend if audiences were not required to wear masks and 60% of those who have already returned
- 71% of non-returners and 57% of returners – would be more likely to attend a venue with social distancing in place, where capacity is limited to maintain distance between parties
- 67% of non-returners and 60% of returners say they would be more likely to attend if there was a requirement to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test in place for all audience members
Caution around leisure and social activities
Whilst clear communication of the Covid safety measures in place at venues remains an important way to reassure audiences, the responses suggest this alone may have limited impact on the most cautious groups who are also less likely to be engaging in other leisure and social activities than those audiences who have returned.
- Non-attenders are less likely to be using public transport – 41% compared to 71% of those who have returned
- 60% of non-returners have gone on a domestic holiday since restrictions were lifted compared to 77% of returners
- 73% of non-returners say they are eating or drinking indoors at restaurants and pubs compared to 91% of returners
- Among non-attenders, seeing friends and family seems to be a priority, with 92% doing so outdoors and 85% doing so inside their houses
Digital culture and a hybrid future
Those who have already returned in person are more likely to have also been engaging with online content during lockdown, with nearly half saying they have paid for digital content and a further 23% have engaged for free.
Of those who have not returned and are continuing to engage online, 73% agree strongly that they are engaging online because they don’t feel confident returning in person yet.
- Over a third of those who have returned in person have also watched cultural content online compared to 26% of those who have not returned to anything
- Digital may not be simply a temporary substitute while cultural venues are closed as the majority of respondents who had some previous digital engagement agreed that they will enjoy a mixture of in-person and online cultural experiences in future
About Missing Audiences
The Missing Audiences survey is a free survey designed to help cultural organisations find out why some previously frequent audiences and visitors haven’t returned since Covid. It is delivered by the Insights Alliance – Indigo, Baker Richards and One Further – in collaboration with thrive for organisations in Northern Ireland.
During a six-week period in September and October, cultural organisations sent out the survey to a selection of their previously frequent bookers who had not yet returned to their organisation or booked any future tickets. There were 10,834 responses generated by 50 cultural organisations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.