Friday, July 17, 2009

Live and online audiences

Buying tickets to be in an audience is just not happening as often, whether you're 18, in your 20s or middle-aged.

Yes, one in three American adults went to at least one performance or art museum over the course of a year, according to a 2008 survey done by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Yet that's a big decline since 2002. Audience numbers are down a third or more for jazz, classical music, opera, plays, galleries and especially ballet. Only musicals have sold fairly steadily.

Sure, blame economic recession and high gas prices. But online media entertainment is also a big factor. While fewer people go out to live shows, millions are downloading art, photography, music and theater. Now about as many Americans experience the arts by computer as they do through attendance.

Bottom line: Your enthusiasm and patronage have a direct effect on performers, production professionals and the experiences of a community. Downloads are a great way to sample, learn or follow at a distance. But don't miss the energy, acoustics and close observation of being present at the creation in the room where performance happens.

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