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Arts and Culture Comeback Planning: September 2020

September 17, 2020
TRG Arts by TRG Arts

Sharp Fall in Optimism Among U.S. Arts and Culture Organizations for Return to In-Person Performances in 2020


September Study Reveals Increase in U.K. and Decline in Canadian Organizations’ Optimism

TRG Arts published its findings to an initial study of 74 clients’ performance return plans in June 2020. The findings from that report can be found here. An update to that study, expanded to 133 arts and culture organizations across three countries and published in July, reflected waning optimism for an autumn return to in-person live performances and a formal turn to paid digital programming after shutdowns caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The study was refreshed and expanded on September 2, 2020, and represents 219 organizations’ current scenario plans for returning to in-person paid performance, as well as those same organizations’ plans for offering paid digital programming. Responses reflect arts and culture organizations across all disciplines of arts and culture in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The study does not contemplate howclient organizations will operationalize live in-person performances. TRG has learned the delivery method and specifics for returning to in-person performances are highly variable, and rely on national and local guidance.

Regional Outlooks Reflect Level of Viral Containment

As the number of Americans testing positive for COVID-19 continues to grow, optimism for a 2020 in-person return to performances sharply fell for U.S. arts and culture leaders. The September study reveals 23% of U.S. organizations expect to perform to in-person audiences in 2020, compared to 61% in the initial June study.

Positive containment and infection reduction in the U.K. reveal more optimism for a 2020 in-person return to performances, while flaring cases in some provinces of Canada decreased optimism as described in Table 1.

Table 1: Organizations Planning 2020 In-Person Performances, by Region

Organization Country % Expecting 2020

In-Person Performances,

June study
% Expecting 2020

In-Person Performances,

July study
% Expecting 2020

In-Person Performances,

September study
Canada 44% 50% 42%
United Kingdom 50% 64% 71%
United States 61% 41% 23%

Compared to the July study, 27% of TRG Arts clients have moved their in-person performance plans earlier in the calendar. 30% have delayed further in-person performances an average two additional months. 43% of clients have not changed the dates of their expected return to in-person performances.

Across the entire study, 30% of organizations plan in-person performances resuming prior to December 2020, with the vast majority (46%) planning an October season start. 20% plan to wait until December to perform, down from 44% in the July study. 15% of U.S. organizations expect to perform by October, while the number that plan to perform in-person by December has decreased from 41% in the July study to 23%.

Table 2a: Organizations Planning 2020 In-Person Performances, by Genre

Performance Genre % Expecting 2020 In-Person Performances
Multi-disciplinary 75%
Dance 71%
Theatre 43%
Orchestra 38%
Presenter 37%
Cinema 0%
Opera/Choral 0%
Other Music 0%

Table 2b: U.S. Organizations Planning 2020 In-Person Performances, by Genre

Performance Genre % Expecting 2020

In-Person Performances,

June study
% Expecting 2020

In-Person Performances,

July study
% Expecting 2020

In-Person Performances,

September study
Multi-disciplinary 100% 73% 26%
Dance 83% 67% 27%
Presenter 57% 37% 26%
Theatre 52% 37% 23%
Orchestra 50% 36% 19%

Chart 1a: In-Person Performance Plans – All genres, all regions



Chart 1b: In-Person Performance Plans – All genres, U.S. organizations



Declining Optimism in U.S.

One of the most surprising findings in the initial Comeback study is that regions hardest and earliest impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting shutdowns, were among the most optimistic for an autumn return. The September study reflects decreasing confidence in all regions for a 2020 return to in-person performances. Notably is the decrease of optimism in the Northeast to 16% (from 41% in July) and a sharp decline in 2020 performance plans in the South.

Table 3: U.S. client return expectations in 2020, by region

U.S. Client Region % Expecting 2020

In-Person Performances,

June study
% Expecting 2020

In-Person Performances,

July study
% Expecting 2020

In-Person Performances,

September study
South 100% 100% 33%
Southeast 75% 55% 33%
Northeast 71% 41% 16%
West 55% 32% 14%
Midwest 38% 36% 27%

Continued Reliance on In-Person over Digital

The July Comeback study added organizational responses about when paid digital content would be introduced to offset revenue losses from the cancellation of in-person performances. 48% of organizations plan to offer paid digital content in 2020 (up from 36% in July), a majority of which plan to introduce – or have already introduced – paid digital content in advance of paid in-person performances. 23% of organizations are introducing paid digital content earlier than originally reported in July, with a third delaying their digital plans.

52% of participating organizations do not have plans to offer paid digital content within the next 12 months.

59% of participating Canadian organizations plan to introduce paid digital programming, while 50% of U.S. and 26% of U.K. organizations articulated an initiation date for paid digital engagement.

Table 4: Paid digital engagement plans in next 12 months

Timing of Paid Digital Engagement % Organizations
Introduced before paid in-person performances 37%
Introduced in same month as paid in-person performances 4%
Introduced after paid in-person performances resume 7%
No plans for paid digital engagement 52%

Chart 2a: Paid Digital Plans – All genres, all regions

Chart 2b: Paid Digital Plans – All genres, U.S. organizations


Resources

TRG Arts is continually studying the impact of COVID-19 on the resiliency of the arts and culture field, and has made resources available to support you and your organization.

COVID-19 International Sector Benchmark is a free resource which studies live transactional data from across the globe. It allows you to compare your organization's patron purchase trends to geographic-specific benchmarks to support your recovery planning in short to medium-term. Over 400 participating organizations are learning how their recovery compares to other similar organizations.

Join The Benchmark Today

The COVID-19 Loyalty Planning Clinic is a 2-day remote session to support the joint efforts of your marketing and development staff in keeping patrons engaged.

Limited Availability: Book Now
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