Chamber Music Magazine | Winter 2022 | 5 minute read

Keeping Track of An Evolving Culture

To read the full report, visit: sloverlinett.com/CCTT
For additional audience building resources,
visit: 
wallacefoundation.org

A far-reaching new study offers broad insights into what audiences want from arts organizations in our complex cultural moment.

In April and May of 2020, just as the long-term reality of the Covid-19 pandemic began to set in, the research firms Slover-Linett and LaPlaca Cohen undertook a massive research project examining the role of the arts and culture sector in communities across the United States. Entitled Culture and Community in a Time of Crisis, the study sought to provide insights that would guide arts organizations through—and beyond—the pandemic. More than 120,000 respondents, drawn from the audiences of over 650 cultural institutions across the United States, participated. The results of that research were released in July 2020, just as another seismic shift in American life was taking place: the mass protest movement and racial justice reckoning spurred by the murder of George Floyd.  

Building on the methodology and insights of the first wave of research, Slover Linett and LaPlaca Cohen began a second study in the spring of 2021, returning to many of the same audiences and seeking new ones. In this second wave, entitled Community & Culture in a Time of Transformation, special emphasis was given to BIPOC organizations, and matters of social justice and racial equity were brought to the fore. Among the study’s key interests were the degree to which Americans wanted arts and culture organizations to engage with the social issues of the moment; whether they perceived systemic racism in the arts and culture sector; the impact and reach of digital programming; and what organizations can and should do to support and welcome their local communities.  

Many of the results presented on the following pages compare the perceptions of audiences for classical, jazz, and world music with the general public. Broadly evident across this data is the heightened engagement among audiences for theses genres: they are both more interested in finding personal connection through their arts experiences than the public at large, and more interested in seeing their institutions evolve to be more actively engaged.  

The full report is available at sloverlinett.com/CCTT

Key Findings

More Americans came to consider the arts and culture sector important during the pandemic. Their expectations also evolved: Americans want arts organizations to engage more actively with their communities and with social issues.

56% of Americans overall said that arts and cultural organizations are important,  

compared to only 37% before the pandemic. 

96% of Americans engaged in personal creative activities of some kind during the pandemic. 

Change and Relevance

More than any other single issue, Americans want arts and culture organizations to address systemic racial injustice (41%). Income inequality and climate change were tied for second (31%). In general, white Americans were less likely than other groups to believe organizations should address social issues. 

76% of Americans believe arts or culture organizations should address social issues in their programming. 

53% hope arts and culture organizations will change to become relevant to more people.

61% want to see arts organizations collaborate with their communities on programming.

Classical, jazz, and world music audiences* want change in several key areas. 
  • Amplifying Accessibility and New Works 80%  

  • Embracing Equity and Social Change  67%  

  • Deepening Community Collaborations 58%  

  • Welcoming Diverse Audiences  53%  

 

*Defined as having attended an event in the last few years.  

A substantial minority of Americans believe that systemic racism is present in music organizations. For Black Americans, perceptions were significantly higher:

  • 43% saw it in orchestras

  • 43% in world music groups, and

  • 28% in jazz groups.

What Communities Need

Americans want arts and culture organizations to help their communities directly in a variety of ways.

83% Provide an Emotional Outlet

77%  Offer Connection and Learning Opportunities

54%  Give Practical Help

Only 27% of Americans had seen or heard about arts and culture organizations in their area helping their community.

Having a local venue reflective of one’s own cultural identity was important or highly important to the majority of Black Americans (57%)

14% of Americans cited a lack of affordable transportation as a barrier to in-person attendance.

This disproportionately affected many BIPOC groups:
33% of Native Americans, 27% of Black Americans, and 26% of Latinx Americans.  

Comparing Our Audiences* and Americans Overall

*Defined here as people who have attended a classical, jazz, or world music concert in the last few years.  

Engaged in a personal creative activity of some kind during the pandemic 

 

 

Our Audiences 98% 

Americans Overall 96% 

Engaged in a musical activity 

 

 

 

Our Audiences 44% 

Americans Overall 27% 

Engaged in online arts and culture programming 

Our Audiences 85%  

Americans Overall 64% 

Want to see arts organizations collaborate with communities on programming 

Our Audiences 68%  

Americans Overall 61%  

Ranked racial injustice as the top priority for change 

Our Audiences 49%  

Americans Overall 42% 

More than anything, audiences for classical, jazz, and world music said they wanted “connection with others” from their cultural experiences. Americans overall chose “fun.”

Activism or Protest  

Our Audiences:

30%  

Americans Overall 17% 

Direct Participation^    

Our Audiences:

36%  

Americans Overall 19% 

Financial Support  

Our Audiences:

54%  

Americans Overall 31% 

Active Participants

Audiences for classical, jazz, and world music were more likely to engage in arts and cultural organizations in ways other than consuming organizations’ offerings.  

^Includes volunteering, governance, and participation in community arts projects.

Streaming: A Complicated Calculus
Going Further

Digital offerings may be most effective when they are designed to reach new audiences, rather than retain existing ones.  

Digital offerings reached many Americans who had not attended a comparable in-person event in the last few years. This was especially true among Black and Latinx Americans.  

85%  of our audiences did some kind of arts or culture activity over the past year, but only...

30%  

used online offerings from a classical music group

12%  

used online offerings from a jazz group

8%  

used online offerings from a world music group 

37%  

paid for an online offering from an arts organization

70% of classical, jazz, and world music attenders said that they valued how online offerings allowed them to experience artists or organizations in other places, whereas only 36% said that they valued offerings from local artists and organizations.