Creative Australia is working with Patternmakers and WolfBrown in 2023 to understand changes in the behaviours and attitudes of arts-goers.
Launched in May 2020, the Audience Outlook Monitor was established to track audience sentiment in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, it continues to provide insight into the top trends shaping audiences today.
The latest findings from the 2023 Spring Pulse Check of the Audience Outlook Monitor show that attendance at cultural venues and events across Australia has been rebuilding, and has reached its highest point since the pandemic began. However, our cities, suburbs, and regions have undergone changes, and audiences are experiencing the impact of the housing crisis, evolving work and commuting patterns, weather events, and a shift in travel and leisure habits.
The ‘City Lights to Red Dirt’ report looks at differences in the experiences of audiences in big cities, outer suburbs, and regional areas.
All data is available in the Audience Outlook Monitor dashboard, with results from over 112,000 responses across phases 1–9, the ‘Pulse Check’ 2022, the ‘Pulse Check’ April 2023 and the ‘Spring Pulse Check’ 2023.
Key findings from the Spring Pulse Check 2023 phase include:
More audiences are attending arts events in big cities in 2023, but resident arts organisations are competing in a congested market.
- 85% of big city audiences said they attended at least one kind of cultural event in the fortnight before data collection. More people also visit arts venues regularly in urban areas, with 38% going to a gallery or museum at least once a month, compared to 27% in the outer suburbs and 29% in regional areas.
- Big city audiences are spending more on the arts, but with more options available, they’re more likely to tune in to reviews to choose the right event. 7 in 10 arts audiences spent more than $50 the fortnight before data collection, compared to 65% of outer suburb audiences and 57% of regional audiences.
- Arts audiences living in big cities are in the mood for fun events, though there is a stronger market for challenging works in cities relative to other areas. 58% are most attracted to trying new things they haven’t experienced before, slightly higher compared to outer suburbs audiences (54%) and audiences in the regions (53%). There is a greater appetite for challenging, topical content (52%), compared to audiences living in outer suburbs and regional areas (both 41%).
Audiences in outer suburban areas have slightly lower rates of attendance than big city audiences and are participating less frequently.
- Almost half of outer suburban audiences say they are financially worse-off than one year ago, and many are looking for free/cheap things closer to home. 39% spent more than $100 in the fortnight before data collection, compared to 44% in big cities and 31% in the regions. Over half (54%) of outer suburbs audiences are looking for things that are free or cheap to do. Almost half (45%) are finding events to ‘splash out’ or ‘splurge’ on.
- In the outer suburbs, both residents and visitors were highly inclined to go to a local cinema (59%), while audiences in big cities were relatively more inclined to attend a local live performance. In the regions, audiences were most likely to visit a local fair or festival (40%) or a museum or gallery (51%).
- Digital participation rates among outer suburban audiences are lower than in big cities and regional audiences surveyed. 37% had participated in an online or digital arts and cultural experience in the fortnight prior to data collection, compared to 40% of big city dwellers and 40% of regional audiences.
Audience participation rates in regional Australia are generally lower than big cities – but the picture varies widely between large towns, small villages, and rural properties.
- Audiences in the regions indicated feeling less stable financially and more selective about what they attend right now. More than half (57%) of regional audiences spent over $50 compared to 65% of audiences in outer suburbs and 69% of those in big cities. 56% have looked for free/cheap things to do and 51% are taking longer to make decisions about what to go to – trends that are similar in big cities and outer metropolitan areas.
- Regional audiences are showing interest in a wide range of art and sounds that reflect ‘our strong, beautiful and unique nation’. Four in ten (39%) regional audience members say that they’ll be most attracted to stories that are ‘about or from my local community’, which is slightly higher than the rate in big cities (32%) and outer suburbs (28%).
- Online channels are playing an important role across Australia to help connect arts and cultural activities to their audiences – but many regional audiences want to participate face-to-face. Three-quarters of big city (76%), outer suburbs (75%), and regional residents (75%) found out about a recent cultural activity or event they attended via a digital channel.
Karina Utomo performs in the 2019 Perth Festival production of Cat Hope’s Speechless, produced by Tura New Music. Credit: Toni Wilkinson
List of participating organisations
Adelaide Festival Centre
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Art Gallery of Ballarat
Arts & Cultural Exchange
Arts and Culture Trust
Arts Centre Melbourne
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
Australian Chamber Orchestra
Australian Theatre for Young People
Bangarra Dance Theatre
Belvoir Street Theatre
Bendigo Venues & Events
Biennale of Sydney
Black Swan State Theatre Company
Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre (BREC)
Canberra Theatre Centre
Castlemaine Art Museum
City Recital Hall
Civic Theatre Newcastle
Colac Otway Performing Arts and Cultural Centre (COPACC)
Country Arts SA
Darwin Entertainment Centre
Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention centre
Electronic Music Conference Pty Ltd
Footscray Community Arts
Forge Theatre and Arts Hub (East Gippsland Shire Council)
Frankston Arts Centre
Geelong Arts Centre
Glasshouse Arts Entertainment and Conference Centre
Hayes Theatre Co
Ipswich Civic Centre
Lighthouse Theatre Warrnambool
Mackay Entertainment & Convention Centre
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Melbourne International Jazz Festival
Melbourne Recital Centre
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Melbourne Theatre Company
Merrigong Theatre Company
Mildura Arts Centre
National Gallery of Australia
National Gallery of Victoria
National Museum of Australia
No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability Inc
Orange Civic Theatre
Penrith Performing & Visual Arts
Portland Arts Centre (Glenelg Shire Council)
Queensland Museum Network
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Queensland Symphony Orchestra
Red Chair Pty Ltd
Riverside Theatres & National Theatre of Parramatta | City of Parramatta
Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre
South Australian Museum
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre Inc
State Library of South Australia
State Opera South Australia
State Theatre Company South Australia
SWELL Sculpture Festival
Sydney Dance Company
Sydney Fringe Incorporated
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Philharmonia Choirs
Sydney Theatre Company
Sydney Writers’ Festival
The Australian Ballet
The Cube Wodonga
The Events Centre, Caloundra
The Street Theatre
The Wheeler Centre
Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts
Wangaratta Performing Arts & Convention Centre
West Australian Ballet
West Australian Opera
West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Windmill Theatre Company
Wyndham Cultural Centre
About the series
The Audience Outlook Monitor tracking study supports decision-making and forward planning across the arts and cultural sector.
Baseline data was collected in May 2020 in a cross-sector collaborative survey process involving 159 arts and cultural organisations, including museums, galleries, performing arts organisations and festivals.
Launched in 2020, the Audience Outlook Monitor webinar series explores different topics within the data and digs deeper into the results with industry experts. Fact sheets on specific topics are available from 2020, 2021, 2022 and January 2023.
The Audience Outlook Monitor tracking study was extended for a further three phases in 2023, with a new focus on cost-of-living pressures and other factors impacting on audience behaviour. The first two phases of data collection occurred in April 2023 and August 2023, and the final data focusing on different experiences of audiences in the city areas, outer suburban areas and regional areas, are released in the latest Spring Pulse Check 2023.