Colorado arts audiences are somewhat open to taking risks, survey shows

Photo: Newman Center audience
Audience members before a concert at the University of Denver's Newman Center for the Performing Arts

When it comes to buying tickets to attend arts events, Colorado audiences are somewhat open to taking a risk.

But many also have reservations about trying something new, according to the results of a new survey conducted by CPR’s Arts Bureau.

Around 150 people participated in the survey, ranging in ages from 23 to 72. Responses came in mostly from the Denver metro area, but people in cities like Fort Collins, Boulder and Golden also chimed in.

CPR’s survey was inspired by a recent study of audience habits at the University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts. They found that 70 percent of their ticket buyers say they would pick familiarity over something new.

Yet, a percentage of the center’s audience, particularly subscribers and theater and dance audiences, simultaneously expressed a higher appetite for new or experimental work.

So the Arts Bureau explored this contradiction in its own survey.

Cost can keep arts goers at bay

CPR's survey shows the greatest impediment to taking a chance on art is related to money.

More than 60 percent of respondents say they would not invest in a new or unfamiliar arts experience if the cost was too high.

Multiple people told CPR they are more likely to take a cultural gamble if the price tag is less than $30.

Distance also a factor

Distance to the venue is the second most significant factor, with 18 percent saying a long commute time would deter them from buying a ticket.

“All of my 'risks' are relatively low cost,” one respondent says. “We are very prone to going to 'new' plays if they are less than $30 and less than 15 minutes away.”

Familiarity with an artist is somewhat important

The Arts Bureau also asked people to rate how important it is to have prior knowledge of an artist or arts experience when it comes to buying tickets.

The sample group is fairly split over this -- 38 percent said familiarity with an artist is important, followed closely by 36 percent of respondents who feel ambivalent about knowing the artist. The rest, 26 percent, said knowledge of the artist was not a significant factor.

However, some ticket-buyers say they can be swayed to invest in a cultural experience about which they had previously known little or nothing if it comes with a recommendation from a trusted friend, colleague or media outlet.

"When it comes to deciding how I want to spend my money on arts events, I really lean on my colleagues for their 'best-bets,'" 23-year-old Jackson Stevens of Denver says. "It's really the same way I approach going to new restaurants."

Colorado audiences do still have some appetite for risk

Despite some reluctance to invest in the unfamiliar, nearly half of the survey respondents say they would consider buying tickets to a new or unfamiliar arts event.

Many of survey respondents who shared stories about a time they took a risk on an arts event say they were glad they had had the experience, even if they didn’t much like it.

Carly Jerome, 25, of Fort Collins says she had “no idea what I was getting into” when a friend invited her to an opening at a Denver gallery.

“Even if I don't like the art, I can still appreciate it,” Jerome says. “At the end of the day, it'll make a great story.”

CPR posted the survey online and reached out to Colorado audiences over the air and through social media.