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Alternate ROOTS (Ignite Arts Dallas), photo by Kim Leeson, 2016 Alternate ROOTS (Ignite Arts Dallas), photo by Kim Leeson, 2016

COVID-19 and the Performing Arts – Six Months After Closure

The following is an excerpt from an insight report published on September 30, 2020, "COVID-19 and the Performing Arts - Six Months After Closure," that is part of a larger project, the COVID-19 Sector Benchmark Dashboard conducted by TRG Arts, which is helping arts organizations in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. understand how the COVID-19 virus has affected their operations.

Key Findings

  • Data from 288 CRMs shows that the impact on ticket sales from COVID-19 not only continues but worsens.
  • During the six months since venue closure in North America, ticket revenues have fallen by 84% and in the U.K. by 91% compared to the same period in 2019.
  • Despite strong performance at the start of the pandemic, funds raised from individual giving have declined by 24% in North America and 63% in the U.K. from the equivalent 2019 period.
  • If venues were to be able to fully re-open around Christmas and the new year, many would struggle to make up for current low advance sales for these months.
  • The picture for March 2021 and beyond looks brighter, but this will only remain the case if organizations can confidently invest in marketing activities to build on strong long-term advance sales.

 

North America

  • In the period from March 16 to September 15, 2020, the number of tickets sold fell 83% and box office income fell 84% compared to the same period in 2019.
  • Across the six-month period, the trend has worsened. Comparative sales in August and September were only a third of what was achieved in March and April.
  • While the number of gifts made has risen compared with the same period in 2019, individual giving income has fallen by almost a quarter.
  • The largest comparative decreases are in June, July, and August.
  • Compared to last year, advance tickets are 67% and revenues 89% of 2019 levels for the period from December 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021. Strong long-term advances are being fuelled by the rescheduling of shows from 2020 to 2021.

U.K.

  • In the period from March 16 to September 15, 2020, the number of tickets sold fell 92% and box office income fell 91% compared to the same period in 2019.
  • Comparative sales increased throughout July and to the middle of August. This initial recovery has not been sustained and recent weeks sales reflect the average for the period.
  • The number of gifts given has fallen by 46% and cumulative philanthropic revenue has reduced by 63%, principally due to a fall in gifts of over £10,000.
  • Compared to last year, advance tickets are 75% and revenues 85% of 2019 levels for the period from December 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021. Strong long-term advances are being fuelled by the rescheduling of shows from 2020 to 2021.

 

Download the Full Report

ABOUT THE PROJECT

The COVID-19 Sector Benchmark Dashboard, developed by TRG Arts in collaboration with U.K.-based audience analytics company Purple Seven, launched in early April 2020. The dashboard, which is free, provides near real-time intelligence and advice to help arts leaders see results as they respond to the pandemic. The project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to SMU DataArts, TRG Arts' longtime partner in advancing the arts and cultural sector. 

 

When an organization signs up for the dashboard, an automated data feed is set up between the organization’s box office and the dashboard’s secure server. The automated feed provides a daily update on ticket sales, refunds and donations for the organization. In addition, data from all other organizations participating in the dashboard is aggregated in an anonymous format to create a national benchmark, which shows up on the dashboard and allows an organization to see how it compares with a large group of its peers. The dashboard is entirely anonymous, so no one else’s sales figures or customer data are identifiable to an organization. The dashboard provides daily insights for individual organizations that they can share with constituents and stakeholders; reveals sector trends in almost real-time, which can assist in short- and long-term planning; allows arts leaders and policy makers to track daily sales data across entire sectors; and by data gathering and benchmarking across the U.K., Canada and the U.S., gives a clearer picture of the effects of the virus on the arts sector and the recovery in each country. Monthly Insight Reports will be posted on the SMU DataArts and TRG Arts websites. Read more in the press release.

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