- Overall, we saw a decrease in ticket sales of 12% across a consistent cohort of venues: i.e. 2022 sales were at 88% of the average of 2017-2019 sales.
- Of course, alongside these broad patterns, there is a huge amount of individual variation between venues; indeed, more than 1/3 venues have seen their sales change by more than a third.
- Only 1 in 4 venues dropped between 10% and 33%, despite this being the range with the highest number of venues and reflecting the overall change.
- As a result, the picture is best seen as an overall disruption to sales levels (with some patterns in the aggregate picture) rather than of sales moving in lockstep, driven consistently by particular factors.
Areas of Investigation
Sales levels varied by timing, in various ways:
- There was substantial variation by month, with the second half of the year being better than the first (averaging an 8% decrease, rather than the 12% overall).
There were also greater sales reductions for evening than matinee performances (defined as start times of 12.00-2.30 and 6.00-8.30):
- with reductions of c.12% for evening shows, compared to c.6% for matinees.
- although there was a substantial increase in the number of matinee performances, meaning that, in real terms, each performance was emptier than for evening performances: down 24%/18% for weekdays/weekends, compared to 7% and 10%.
The visible decrease in sales of course also depends on which figures you use, e.g. the number of tickets sold, the total income, the number of bookers or the number of bookings, etc:
- The number of tickets and bookings fell 12% and 11% respectively, but income (-2%) and the number of bookers (-3%) fell much less (and the number of performances grew 5% overall).
- As a result, income per ticket rose (by 11%), even as the number of tickets per performance (-16%) and bookings per booker (-8%) fell.
- One implication of this is that, despite the widespread concern about ‘which audiences are returning [or not]’, drops in frequency of attendance are having a greater effect on attendance levels.
Audiences behaviour is perhaps better understood in terms of a higher threshold to engagement, rather than some groups ‘turning off’ attending.
- People have told us via the Cultural Participation Monitor that they are more likely to stay local, and the sales data from Audience Finder backs that up.
- The smallest venues (with <15,000 tickets per year and +2% sales) have seen an increase in sales, the others (especially in the mid-scale 50-100,000 tick range and -17% sales) have seen decreases.
The regional variation seems to have been influenced by the length of lockdowns (and the application of local lockdowns).
- Scotland and Wales saw the largest drops in sales, with some restrictions still in place in early 2022, but the North West and East & West Midlands also had above-average decreases (although the former may also have been affected by problems with public transport).
- Venues based in London and Core Cities (the largest 11 cities outside London) saw above average drops in sales in terms of both tickets and income.
Sales have also fallen different amounts for different types of audience, with middle- and lower-engaged groups with higher than average proportions of families now above pre-pandemic levels, but older groups with more traditional tastes substantially down:
- Higher engaged groups = Metroculturals (MC), Commuterland Culturebuffs (CC), Experience Seekers (ES).
- Middle engaged groups = Dormitory Dependables (DD), Trips & Treats (T&T), Home & Heritage (H&H).
- Lower engaged groups = Up Our Street (US), Frontline Families (FF), Kaleidoscope Creativity (KC), Supported Communities (SC).
The drop in sales varied by art form:
- Some of the more commercial types and those aimed at families are doing better than those aimed at older and more traditional audiences.
- In particular, Musicals and Christmas Shows are back at pre-Covid levels; Play/Dram and Classical Orchestral music are falling around a third short.
- In some cases, this is associated with reduced programming (e.g. Plays/Drama programming is down even more than sales).
- In others, even increased programming has resulted in lower sales (e.g. Dance).
Drops for individual art forms are compounded by drops for specific audience types.
- For example, Home & Heritage have dropped even more for Orchestral/Classical and Plays/Drama than either they do for other art forms, or than other segments do for Orchestral/Classical and Plays/Drama:
Sales were particularly down for mid-priced tickets (i.e. those that weren’t either free or over £30). Similarly, ‘comp’ tickets were the only category of ticket issued in greater numbers:
However, people are booking later (a finding backed up by the Cultural Participation Monitor), particularly in the last fortnight. Sales on the day were in fact down. Single and pairs of tickets and group sales of 7+ ticket transactions were also down further than other party sizes.
Appendix 1: Method
We took Audience Finder data for a consistent cohort of venues from the 2017-2019 calendar years, average them and then compared them to 2022. The ‘consistent cohort’ was made up of organisations that had data in all years, collected in the same way (e.g. that hadn’t changed their data feed to Audience Finder, or merged with another organisation or changed in one of many other ways). This created an overall set of 193 comparable organisations.
When looking at data by art form, we added some further constraints. Organisations needed to have at least 90% of their data coded for each year and also needed more than 10% of their data within the art form in question. This resulted in between 11 and 21 venues included in comparisons by art form.