Report reveals impact of digital technology on performing arts organisations

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Around a third of performing arts organisations in England are seeing a major boost to audience levels as a result of using digital technology, a report has claimed.

Figures from Nesta, which co-commissioned the report along with Arts Council England, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, show that around 50% of venues and 30% of groups said they are seeing higher audience numbers due to their digital activities. These can include activities such as live streaming, online archives of work, use of social media, newsletters via email and selling products through websites.

The survey, called Digital Culture: How arts and cultural organisations in England use technology, also found that 31% of performing arts venues had seen a significant positive impact on revenues, compared to just 7% of performance groups.

Meanwhile, nearly 40% of venues claimed their use of digital technology meant they were reaching a more diverse audience and around the same proportion said they were attracting a younger audience.

However only 20% said that digital technology was having a major impact on reaching more international audience members.

The survey also noted that around 17% of theatre organisations believe digital technology has had a major positive effect on how they distribute their work. However, this is a lower figure than other art forms, which the report suggests is due to the complexity involved in recording, editing and distributing a show.

Around 35% of larger performing groups are live-streaming their work, while only 14% of smaller performance groups report this activity.

In the report’s conclusion, it said: “The survey findings paint a picture of an arts and cultural sector on a digital journey. A clear majority of organisations report that new technologies are already essential to their marketing, archiving and preservation, and operations.

“Different parts of the sector are experiencing different levels of impact from digital technology. Museums report lower levels of impact in many areas. In contrast, performing arts venues are much more likely to report major positive impacts, including on their revenues (almost a third compared with just 3% of museums).”

The survey is the first of three annual reports looking at how arts and cultural organisations in England are making use of digital technologies.