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February 9, 2011

Patterns in Performing Arts Spending in Canada in 2008, the 33rd report in the Statistical Insights on the Arts series from Hill Strategies Research, provides a detailed analysis of Canadians who spend money on live performing arts. The report looks at variations in performing arts spending between households based on factors such as education, income, age, sex, the presence (or absence) of children in the household, household size, disability, rural and urban households, as well as province.
The data is drawn from Statistics Canada’s Survey of Household Spending, a yearly questionnaire on Canadians’ spending habits. Statistics Canada surveyed 9,787 Canadian households regarding their spending in 2008, including the following question regarding live performing arts: “In 2008, how much did your household spend on admissions to live performing arts events, for example, plays, concerts, dance performances?”
Because it is a broad survey of overall spending habits, the Survey of Household Spending does not provide all of the details that might be desired regarding cultural spending items. For example, the live performing arts category includes a range of for-profit and non-profit arts activities, including pop concerts, classical music, musical theatre, plays, opera, dance, and others.
The survey asked respondents about their spending on live performing arts, not their overall attendance. Free performances, by definition, are excluded from the survey.
While higher spending on the performing arts might often be considered a “good” thing in the cultural sector, high ticket prices (which could lead to higher spending levels) could push the live performing arts experience out of reach of too many individuals. This report examines which households do or do not spend any money on live performing arts, in addition to differences in average spending between households.
Performing arts spending: $108 per Canadian household
In 2008, consumer spending on live performing arts was $1.426 billion, or an average of $108 for each of the 13.2 million households in the country.
In 37% of Canadian households, some money was spent on live performing arts in 2008. In households with some spending on live performing arts, the average amount spent was $293. Examined differently, this equals 31 cents out of every $100 in household income spent on live performing arts (in households with some performing arts spending).

49% increase in performing arts spending between 2001 and 2008

After adjusting for inflation, consumer spending on live performing arts increased by 49% between 2001 and 2008. In 2001, for those households with some spending on live performing arts, 25 cents out of every $100 in household income was spent on live performing arts. This figure had increased substantially by 2008 (an average of 31 cents out of every $100 in household income).
It is clear that, between 2001 and 2008, there was a substantial increase in the number of high spenders on live performing arts. In 2001, about 2.2 million households spent at least $120 on live performing arts. In 2008, even with an increase in the minimum spending threshold, over 2.7 million households spent at least $200 on live performing arts. This represents a 26% increase in the number of high spending households, compared with an 11% increase in the total number of households in Canada between 2001 and 2008.

Other performing arts spending statistics held steady between 2001 and 2008

In 2001, 36% of Canadian households reported spending any money on live performing arts, a figure that is very similar to the 37% of households reporting any spending in 2008.
While many analytical categories were revised between the 2001 and 2008 data years, it is clear that at least the same percentage of households in each income group spent at least some money on live performing arts in 2008 as in 2001.

With an abundance of spending options, many Canadians choose live performing arts
Canadians have many ways in which to spend their disposable income. As a comparator to live performing arts, the report also examines some indicators of spending on three other attendance-related activities: movie theatres, museums, and live sports events. The results of these comparisons show that a substantial proportion of the Canadian public spends a considerable amount of money on live performing arts.
The $1.426 billion spent on live performing arts was slightly higher than spending on movie theatre admissions ($1.216 billion) and more than double the spending on live sports events ($0.645 billion) or admissions to museums and heritage-related activities ($0.519 billion) in 2008.
In 2008, 37% of all Canadian households spent any money on live performing arts. In comparison, 55% spent any money on movie theatre admissions, 29% on museum admissions, and 17% on live sports events.
Many lower-income Canadians choose live performing arts
A considerable percentage of lower-income households choose to spend some money on live performing arts. Households with incomes of $25,000 or less are more likely to spend any money on live performing arts (15%) than on museum admissions (12%) and live sports (4%). On the other hand, many more households with incomes of $25,000 or less spent some money on movie theatre admissions in 2008 (29%).
Attendance at each of these activities increases substantially with income. Households with incomes of $25,000 or less are four times less likely to spend any money on live performing arts than households with incomes over $150,000 (15% vs. 60%). The equivalent ratio for movie theatre admissions is slightly lower (just under three: 29% of lower-income households spending any money vs. 80% of higher-income households). The ratio for museum admissions is slightly higher than for live performing arts (over four: 12% of lower-income households spent any money vs. 50% of higher-income households). The equivalent ratio for live sports events is ten. That is, households with incomes of $25,000 or less are almost ten times less likely to spend any money on live sports events (4%) than households with incomes over $150,000 (36%).
Those lower-income households that did spend money on live performing arts in 2008 spent an average of $166, compared with an average of $124 for those lower-income households that spent money on live sports events, $106 for lower-income households with some spending on movies, and $66 for lower-income households that spent money on museum admissions.
While there are clear differences in performing arts spending by income, these statistics indicate that there is a core group of performing arts spenders across income groups.
Education, province, municipal size and disability: factors in performing arts spending
Education is an important factor in performing arts spending. The percentage of households spending any money on live performing arts increases substantially with the education of the survey respondent, from 14% of those without a secondary school diploma to over 50% of households where the respondent has a university education. The average spending per household is also highest for respondents with a university education.
There are some differences in performing arts spending between the provinces. Residents of Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island are most likely to spend money on live performing arts, with over 40% of households in these provinces reporting any spending. Residents of three Atlantic provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) are least likely to spend any money on live performing arts, with 33% or less of households reporting any spending. For those households with any spending on live performing arts, the average amount spent is highest in Ontario ($330) and Alberta ($309). The average spending per household is lowest in Prince Edward Island ($202), Nova Scotia ($208) and New Brunswick ($215).
Regarding municipal size, residents of larger cities are most likely to spend money on live performing arts: 39% of residents of cities with populations of 100,000 or more reported spending any money on live performing arts in 2008, compared with 35% of the residents of smaller cities (less than 100,000 population) and 28% of the residents of rural areas. The average amount spent is also highest in larger cities ($316), compared with smaller cities ($224) and rural areas ($212).
There are also differences in performing arts spending between households where the survey respondent has a disability and those where the respondent does not. The percentage of households spending any money on live performing arts is much lower in households where the respondent has a disability (24%) than in households where the respondent does not (39%).
While households with incomes of $25,000 or less are four times less likely to spend any money on live performing arts than households with incomes over $150,000 (15% vs. 60%), those lower income households that do spend some money on live performances allocate much higher proportions of their household incomes to the performing arts (93 cents per $100 of income for households with incomes of $25,000 or less, compared with only 22 cents per $100 for households with incomes of more than $150,000). In other words, the financial commitment toward the performing arts is much more significant for low-income households than for high-income households.
Demographic factors that do not have a substantial impact on performing arts spending include the presence of children in the household, household size, and the age or sex of the survey respondent.
Performing arts marketing insights
Statistics in this report indicate that there are strong overlaps between households with high spending on live performing arts, museums, art, books and movies. The report compares the expenditures of the 2.7 million households that spent $200 or more on live performing arts in 2008 with the 10 million households that spent less than $200 or no money at all on live performing arts. High spenders on the performing arts have 69% higher total household expenditures than low or non-spenders on the performing arts, but the difference in expenditures on other cultural goods and services is much higher than 69%:
  • 3.5 times higher average spending on admission to museums and other heritage-related activities.
  • Nearly three times higher average spending on art, antiques and decorative ware.
  • Over 2.5 times higher average spending on books.
  • Nearly 2.5 times higher average spending on movie theatre admissions.
  • Over two times higher average spending on photographic goods and services.
  • Over two times higher average spending on magazines and periodicals.
  • Two times higher spending on newspapers.
Based on these statistics, performing arts marketing strategies could target other cultural participants, especially museum goers, art buyers and book readers. Some specific marketing strategies could include:
  • Customizing performing arts marketing messages for museum and art gallery visitors.
  • Ensuring that performance information is available at museums, galleries, festivals, historic sites, and other cultural sites.
  • Ensuring that brochures and other materials are available in libraries and at reading series.
  • Presenting performances in museums, galleries or other cultural venues.
  • Collaborating with other types of arts organizations, possibly through co-location, co-productions and shared creations.
Interestingly, data in the report shows that high spenders on the performing arts spend over four times more on live sports events than low or non-spenders on the performing arts. This data indicates that many households that purchase tickets for events do so for a range of different events, rather than sticking to one type of activity. Based on these statistics, performing arts marketing could also target sports attendees.
Performing arts sponsorship possibilities
In order to obtain sponsorships, it is helpful for arts organizations to have reliable data on the non-cultural spending habits of those who spend significant amounts on live performing arts. Again comparing the expenditures of the 2.7 million households that spent $200 or more on live performing arts in 2008 with the 10 million households that spent less than $200 or no money at all on live performing arts, the report provides data regarding various consumer expenditures. High spenders on the performing arts have 69% higher total household expenditures than low or non-spenders on the performing arts but even higher average spending than low or non-spenders on:
  • Hotels and other travel accommodations (nearly triple) and inter-city transportation (more than double).
  • Financial services (over twice as much) and contributions to retirement savings and pension funds (nearly twice as much).
  • Garden supplies (more than double).
  • Restaurants (85% higher average spending on restaurant food and more than double the average spending on restaurant alcohol).
  • Bicycles (more than double).
  • Clothing (88% higher).
  • Furniture (86% higher).
  • Computer equipment and supplies (81% higher).
  • Pet expenses (72% higher).
For potential sponsors, these statistics mean that high spenders on the performing arts are key customers. Through performing arts organizations, sponsors in these sectors can reach interested buyers of their goods and services.
The full report also highlights some demographic and other characteristics of the highest-spending households.
Performing arts spending and taxes
High spenders on the performing arts pay more than twice as much in personal taxes and 57% more in property taxes than low or non-spenders on the performing arts.
Full report also available
The full report contains much more detail about the variations in performing arts spending between households based on factors such as education, income, age, sex, the presence (or absence) of children in the household, household size, disability, rural and urban households, as well as province. Funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, the report is available free of charge on the Hill Strategies Research website (http://www.hillstrategies.com) and the websites of the funding organizations.
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