The coming crisis of cultural engagement? Measurement, methods, and the nuances of niche activities

Laurie Hanquinet, Dave O'Brien, Mark Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Do ticketing data and national survey data on attendance tell the same story? This question is particularly important in the context of debates over the power of new forms of data to supplant the “traditional” survey methods that have underpinned our understanding of the social stratification of culture. This paper compares three data sources on attendance: the Active Lives Survey, the Taking Part Survey, and Audience Finder. We first compare self-reported attendance at events in each English local authority from the Active Lives survey with ticket sales data, finding a close relationship. We follow up by comparing the distributions of ticket buyers across the Indices of Multiple Deprivation with those from Taking Part, finding that for widely-ticketed and widely-attended art forms they track closely together, providing support for existing trends. Ticketing data does not seem to offer more information on social stratification than traditional social science sources. However, we extend the comparison through more detailed analysis of subcategories within less well-researched forms – literature and dance events – where numbers of attendees are lower, with accompanying uncertainty in survey sources. We find that the audiences for dance vary widely, with ballet attendance being heavily socially stratified but attendance at contemporary dance much more similar to the general population. However, we find that audiences for literature events are more heavily socially stratified than almost any other art form, almost regardless of the subcategory. The power of new datasets is in offering specificity about artforms, rather than overturning what we know about culture and inequality.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCultural Trends
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2019


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