Green Shoots in April 2021?

Tracking the beginnings of a revival in some parts of North America and the United Kingdom

May 19, 2021
TRG Arts and Purple Seven by David Brownlee

A new study released by TRG Arts and UK arts data specialists Purple Seven, “Green Shoots in April 2021?”, is based on data collected from the COVID-19 Sector Benchmark, an initiative led by TRG Arts and Purple Seven, which has grown into the largest global arts and cultural consumer dataset in the industry. Data from venues in the US, Canada, the UK and the Republic of Ireland are presented in the study.

Executive Summary – Key Findings

  • Data from 357 CRMs of arts venues show strong signs of recovery in parts of the U.K. and U.S., but ticket sales in some other territories show no sign of an upturn.
  • The green shoots of recovery are not spread evenly, with great diversity in performance in different regions and venue types.

North America:

  • Ticket sales and revenue in North America continue to be far below the equivalent levels in 2019.
  • Canada recorded a partial revival in November and December 2020, but this was not sustained.
  • The picture is more positive in the U.S. where aggregate daily revenue has been trending upward throughout March and April 2021. April saw the best comparative sales and revenues since May 2020.
  • The revival appears faster in traditionally smaller markets with April 2021 aggregate revenues in New England at 62% of what was achieved in April 2019.
  • Currently the sales revival is uneven across venue types, with aggregate sales for symphonies and concert halls the lowest compared to the equivalent month in 2019.
  • Almost half (48%) of total advance revenue held by U.S. venues and 41% of advance tickets are for performances due to take place in 2022.
  • 34% of advance revenue in Canada relates to events in just three months: September to November 2021. This is the same amount as for all performances due to take place in all of 2022, which is positive in the short term, but concerning for the longer term.
  • Compared with the pre-pandemic period of January to April 2019, in January to April 2021 the majority of U.S. organizations reported a significant reduction (20%+) in numbers of gifts and gift revenue they had received.

United Kingdom and Ireland:

  • Ticket sales and revenue in the U.K. and Republic of Ireland continue to be far below the equivalent levels in 2019.
  • The U.K. reported a partial revival in November and December 2020, but it was not sustained in January and February 2021. Sales picked up considerably in March and the U.K. recorded its best ticket sales and box office revenues for over a year in April 2021.
  • Ticket sales and revenues in Ireland have remained at less than 10% of their 2019 levels throughout the first four months of 2021.
  • The recovery in the U.K. is not being driven by its traditionally larger markets. The revival is currently far more advanced in many of the traditionally smaller markets, with aggregate revenues in the South West at 52% of what was achieved in April 2019, double the U.K. average.
  • In the U.K. the revival is most pronounced in venues that largely present touring work, with the largest (over 1,000 seats) at up to 45% of their sales in 2019.
  • In the U.K. 31% of advance ticket sales and 31% of revenue are for events due to take place in September to December 2021. Almost half of total advance revenue (46%) and 44% of advance tickets are for performances due to take place in 2022.
  • In Ireland 66% of the advance revenue is for events programmed for May to October 2021. Only 26% of revenues are for performances due to take place in 2022.
  • Most U.K. organizations (53%) reported gift revenue in January to April 2021 at least 20% higher than they achieved for the same period in 2019.

”While this analysis does give some grounds for optimism, the recovery so far in the U.S. is partial and uneven. Some organizations that have worked consistently to deepen their relationships with their customers during the pandemic are now being rewarded with record subscription sales. At the same time, organizations that have effectively hibernated for the past year will find re-engaging with their audiences far more challenging.“

Jill Robinson, Chief Executive Officer, TRG Arts Jill Robinson.

About the COVID-19 Benchmark Dashboard

Purple Seven and TRG Arts continue to offer free access to the free COVID-19 Benchmark Dashboard to organizations in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. Register here.

Expansion of the COVID-19 Benchmark Dashboard is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to SMU DataArts, a national center for arts research and TRG Arts’ long-time partner in advancing the arts and culture sector.

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