An apparent growth in younger audiences could be a "silver lining" for the sector as fewer older people patronise the arts.
Millennials are buying more tickets to arts events and activities since lockdown started, new survey data shows.
Consultancy TRG Arts and arts data specialist Purple Seven cautioned that this doesn't mean post-Covid patronage is improving. From June 1 to August 24, the 206 UK organisations surveyed generated £16.5m from about 584,000 ticket sales compared to £171m from six million tickets over the same period in 2019.
But data for the current season highlights "a surprising trend," a survey report released this week says.
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Younger patrons are contributing income at higher rates "and across all dimensions of activity – single ticket, subscription, and donation."
Older patrons' spending – including on donations – has dropped off during lockdown.
Before coronavirus, 21% of arts ticket buyers were 65 or older; now they are 18% of audiences, according to the research.
Audiences aged 55 to 64 have also declined by 1% to 25% of buyers.
The increases have been in 25 to 44 year old buyers. Those aged 16 to 34 now comprise about 10% of arts ticket buyers, while 34 to 44 year olds have made up about 19% of audiences since March (up 2%).
The 44 to 54 age group has grown by 1% to become the majority of post-Covid audiences (27%).
The report notes that these changes are most likely "organic shifts in patron purchase behaviour" rather organisations' doing.
TRG and Purple Seven say these shifts are "equally sobering and heartening": While many organisations would welcome more young audience members, this cohort generally spend less than older patrons.
"With ticket sales down 90% from the same period last year, it is too early to celebrate a younger and more diverse audience," the report says.
"However, if this trend continues as the market recovers, it will be a silver lining for the sector."
There is an opportunity for arts and culture to respond to these shifts by updating their products and pricing to attract a younger audience.
But organisations will need to consider the loss of income from the diminishing older demographics.
"Organisations who balance growing the number of younger patrons engaging with alternative artistic product while also retaining older generations’ philanthropic support seems to be an emerging best practice for finding resiliency through Covid-19."