Art Works Blog

Taking Note: The Remarkable Growth in Consumer Spending on Musical Theater and Opera Performances

"And now, on with the opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor." —Groucho Marx as Otis B. Driftwood, Night at the Opera

If there is concern in the arts community that audiences for the performing arts are shrinking, that concern is not founded in data from the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA). On the contrary, despite dips during economic recessions, Americans are spending increasingly more to attend performing arts events.

In 2014, for example, personal consumption expenditures (PCE) on admissions to performing arts events reached $28 billion—more than double the amount spent in 2000, after adjusting for inflation.

Table showing consumer spending on admission to performing arts events

Consumers spent $778 million to see dance performances and $2.2 billion on admissions to concerts by symphony orchestras and chamber groups. In 2014, U.S. consumers spent upwards of $15 billion to attend non-musical plays.

Each of these outlays represented gains in consumer spending, particularly PCE on non-musical theater performances, which clocked an inflation-adjusted (i.e., “real”) gain of $9 billion since 2000.

But of the detailed performing arts events tracked by the ACPSA, none witnessed real gains in consumer spending as large as outlays for musical theater and opera performances. In 2014, consumers spent nearly $3.2 billion to attend these two music disciplines. After adjusting for inflation, that spending was 3.5 times greater than it was in 2000.

Looked at another way, between 2000 and 2014, real consumer spending on musical theater and opera performances increased by an average annual rate of 8.7 percent—more than growth in spending to see non-musical plays, concerts, or dance performances.

Consumer spending on admissions to the performing arts is discretionary—it drops when the economy contracts, and it rises when the economy expands. Cyclical fluctuations aside, PCE on performing arts events is trending up. And its most striking trend is the remarkable growth in spending to attend musical theater and opera performances.

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