The Covid-19 period is an unprecedented moment in history where the physical cultural sector has been paused. After the WHO officially declared the Covid-19 virus outbreak as a pandemic, globally nations implemented lock-down and social distance measures in efforts to get the virus under control. For the live music sector, this meant complete halt of all events for an indefinite period. As the cultural sector is known for its swift innovative actions and dynamic adaption to external changes, increasingly artists and cultural organisations turned to online provision of concerts and musical performances.
Cultural operators rapidly provided live music content online, through social media, streaming platforms or their own websites. Indeed, Facebook reports for March 2020, an increase of almost 50% in the number of people who engage in live videos (Wong, 2020). The increased online consumption of music concerts, and the restrictions on physical attendance leaves a lot of uncertainties. It is uncertain how Covid-19 will affect the demand for live music or its supply.
For my thesis, I undertook an audience study to inform audience development strategies. I wanted to know how the online consumption of music impacts on the future physical attendance of various audience segments. An online survey was taken by a sample of 302 participants during the lockdown in May.
I tested the effect of eight different drivers and barriers to attendance on the expected physical concert attendance (post Covid-19), and how these effects are mediated through various online music consumption characteristics. For doing so, I applied a statistical mediation model (Hayes, 2012) that revealed that only two drivers and barriers matter: social and economic. Social drivers relate well to the Covid-19 crisis, because during the lockdown, people were deprived of social contacts. My analysis shows that online music consumption impacted highest on people who are socially motivated to attend concerts and their expected future participation of live music. The economic drivers and barriers bring forward an interesting point of discussion. My findings suggest that audiences re-evaluated their willingness-to-pay for concerts during Covid-19. On the one hand, as most concerts were provided free, audiences can get used to not paying. On the other hand, an audience group that would usually not attend concerts, because of a price barrier, actually got to experience online concerts, potentially cultivating their taste and that could increase their willingness-to-pay in the future.
I wanted to understand the impact of various types of online consumption on both expected post-Covid-19 attendance and what audiences anticipated consuming. The results of a statistical analysis were then used to inform audience development strategies, specifically, those developed by Kawashima, (2000).
First, Kawashima recognizes an ‘Extended marketing’ strategy, which encompasses marketing efforts to get audiences to actually physically attend. One way of doing so, is by means of digitally transmitted performances. In the literature on this technique of promotion, the question is asked: are these a substitute for or a complement to physical attendance and consumption (eg. Bakshi & Throsby, 2014; Mueser & Vlachos, 2018; Handke et al., 2013)? Our results indicate that the frequency of watching online concerts, firstly, has a positive effect on how audiences are planning to increase their future attendance, and secondly, that it increases the anticipation towards physical concerts. We show that the consumption of online concerts is effective in increasing future participation and the importance of providing online music performances for promotional reasons.
Second, Kawashima writes about ‘Audience engagement’ – the involvement and participation of audiences, especially in the artistic exchange. Through various strategies, organisations and artists can interact with audiences and make them feel more part of their practice. Our analysis shows that online audience engagement strategies are an effective way of increasing the anticipation of and future attendance of post Covid-19, physical, concerts. Through engaging in live chats, commenting sections and participatory actions between artists and audience, cultural organisations can enhance their future demand.
Third, in ‘Taste cultivation’ strategies, audiences are introduced to new art forms, genres and artists (Kawashima, 2000). Our analysis provides evidence that the more audiences informed themselves about new artists, genres and art forms, the more they were anticipating attending physical concerts again. Accordingly, this also holds true for when audiences discovered new artists and genres during the lockdown period. Thus, statistical evidence holds that taste cultivation actions and facilitating new discoveries, help increase future physical demand for cultural organisations. Consequently, cultural venues should provide educational content around the music genres or artists they program. In practice, that could take the form of providing informational video material on their future program. Through interviews, documentaries, online Q&A’s and general information, the more they cultivate their audiences, the better the chances for high demand in the future.
Finally, we see that the more audiences are able to access concerts online that they were not able to physically access, the higher their anticipation. This relates well to Kawashima’s (2000) ‘Cultural inclusion’ strategy where venues can reach audience segments that they were not able to reach before. Most organizations have data on the socio-demographics of their audiences. These times provide an opportunity to direct online strategies towards new audience segments. The online environment allows better reach with the potential to stimulate future attendance.
This research informed various audience development strategies around online concert and performance provision. Cultural organisations should not only focus on promoting videos, but also facilitate new discoveries, taste cultivation, audience education and cultural inclusion. This way, cultural organisations can develop online audience development strategies that enhance the future demand for physical concerts and become more resilient for the post Covid-19 period.
This is a summary of Jacques Kayser’s master thesis. Read his full thesis here.
Geschreven door Jacques Kayser (september 2020)
Bakhshi H., Mateos-Garcia, J. & Throsby, D. (2010). Beyond Live: Digital Innovation in the Performing Arts. Geraadpleegd van https://media.nesta.org.uk/documents/beyond_live.pdf
Hayes, A. F. (2012). PROCESS: A versatile computational tool for observed variable mediation, moderation, and conditional process modeling [White paper]. Geraadpleegd van http://www.afhayes.com/public/process2012.pdf\
Kawashima, N. (2000). Beyond the division of attenders vs. non-attenders: a study into audience development in policy and practice. Geraadpleegd van https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/scapvc/ccmps/research/publications/centrepubs/ccps_paper_6.pdf
Mueser, D., & Vlachos, P. (2018). Almost like being there? A conceptualisation of livestreaming theatre. International Journal of Event and Festival Management, 9(2), 183- 203.
Wong, Q. (2020). Facebook says more people are watching live videos amid coronavirus crisis. Geraadpleegd van https://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-says-more-peopleare-viewing-live-videos-after-the-coronavirus-outbreak/