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According to a new report published by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Americans who participate in the arts through the internet, television, radio, computers, and handheld devices are almost three times more likely to attend live arts events than nonmedia participants (59 percent versus 21 percent). Users of technology and electronic media also attend, on average, twice as many live arts events—six versus three in a single year—and see a wider variety of genres.

The report, called Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation, looks at who is participating in the arts through electronic media, what factors affect their participation, and the relationships among media-based arts activities, live attendance, and personal arts creation. Audience 2.0 has determined that media-based arts participation appears to encourage—rather than replace—attendance at live arts events. Among the conclusions:

  • Education continues to be the best predictor of arts participation among adults, both for live attendance and through electronic media. Survey respondents with at least some college education were more likely than respondents with a grade-school education to have used electronic media to participate in the arts
  • For many Americans—primarily older Americans, lower-income earners, and racial/ethnic minority groups—electronic media is the only way they participate in arts events
  • The 15.4 percent of US adults who use media only to engage with the arts are equally likely to be urban or rural
  • Twenty-one percent (47 million) of all US adults reported using the internet to view music, theater, or dance performances in the last twelve months. Twenty-four percent (55 million) obtained information about the arts online

Audience 2.0 expands on the research published in the NEA’s 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). This survey, conducted in partnership with the US Census Bureau and released last year, is the nation’s largest, most representative study of arts participation among American adults. Since 1982, SPPA has measured American adult participation in activities such as visits to art museums or galleries and attendance at jazz and classical music concerts, opera and ballet performances, and musical and nonmusical plays. SPPA categorizes these as “benchmark” activities, providing a standard group of arts activities for more than two decades of consistent trend analysis. Audience 2.0 takes a closer look at how audiences use electronic media to engage in these benchmark activities.

In an agency first, the new report is being released only in an electronic format that includes multimedia features. Chairman Rocco Landesman’s video greeting is accompanied by a video commentary on the report from Sunil Iyengar, NEA director of research and analysis. Additionally, each chapter will open with videos from arts organizations that represent each of the benchmark disciplines tracked by the report. Arts organizations can use findings from Audience 2.0 to better understand their audiences’ uses of technology and electronic media.

As part of its ongoing analysis of SPPA data, the NEA is making raw data and detailed statistical tables available to researchers and the public. The tables highlight demographic factors affecting adult participation in a variety of art forms.