Post image for Culture Track 2014

(Culture Track 2014 was created by LaPlaca Cohen, the only strategy, design, and full-service advertising firm in the US that exclusively serves the creative and cultural sector)

Summer in New York has come to an end, and that means one thing for theatre-lovers: these are the final days to catch Shakespeare in the Park at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, marking the conclusion of a season that brought widespread excitement, gargantuan ticket lines, and even its own economies of scale (want a chair while you wait in line? It’ll cost you five dollars).  

Joseph Papp was far ahead of his time when he began the Shakespeare in the Park program fifty-two years ago. But this summer, King Lear was far from New York’s only production held en plein air. There was Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Shakespeare at Sunset in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Broadway in Bryant Park…the list goes on and on.

It’s clear that the relationship between performance and public space is as strong ever. 

But what is behind this fruitful partnership between parks and theaters, and how are similar interdisciplinary collaborations going to define the future of the performing arts and of culture at large? 

This was but one of many questions that we at LaPlaca Cohen asked in this year’s iteration of Culture Track, the largest national tracking study focused exclusively on the attitudes and behaviors of U.S. cultural consumers. The results of our study can be downloaded here, and you can find a video of the panel discussion at our release event in New York City, featuring Julie Taymor, Jordan Roth of Jujamcyn Theatres, Rebecca Eaton, the Executive Producer of Masterpiece (aka Downton Abbey), and more.

We were thrilled, however, to have the opportunity to present Culture Track 2014 again at this year’s TCG Conference—especially given the inspiring “Crossing Borders” theme, which had such great synergy with this year’s findings about the expanding definition of culture and its implications for collaboration. For those who were not able to attend, here are a few of the key findings from this year’s study (scroll down to watch the full presentation).

Why the love between theatres and parks? Because boundaries are blurring.

While frequency of participation for traditional cultural institutions—including visual arts, performing arts, science and history museums, opera, and classical music—has decreased, the definition of “culture” is evolving to include a wider variety of activities, and people are very active in this broader landscape. This represents enormous opportunity for theatres to think about collaboration, innovation, and the development of new cross-disciplinary models. 

Over half of audiences define the following as “cultural experiences”:

·       Visiting national, state, and municipal parks (79%);

·       Watching a live broadcast of a performance in a movie theater (66%);

·       Exploring online collections or exhibitions (66%);

·       Food and drink experiences (64%);

·       Viewing street art (64%);

·       Watching non-commercial television (51%).

People aren’t turning to culture to be “in-the-know” or to experience the next “big thing”: it’s still deeper than that.

When asked why they choose to make cultural activities a part of their lives, audiences responded:

·       Spending time with friends and family (83%);

·       Expanding knowledge and understanding (79%);

·       Expose or introduce myself to something new (73%).

These greater, emotional drivers far outweigh more “me-focused” influencers such as:

·       Enhancing sense of self or identity (45%);

·       Being in-the-know about the latest trends (23%).

Visual content reigns—a.k.a., it’s a “selfie” world. Theatres, take note.

The top two mobile activities participated in during a cultural experience include:

·       Taking photographs (68%)

·       And sharing photographs (47%).

The obsession with visual content, however, isn’t limited to still photography:

·       A whopping 79% of participants have used YouTube to watch a performing art institution’s performances

New models of institutional loyalty are desperately needed.

Subscriptions continue on a harrowing decline.

·       90% of performing arts audiences do not own any subscriptions (vs. 78% in 2011)

Traditional models of loyalty were created to provide economic value, but today’s changing audiences require more—they want personal value that addresses their unique needs and desires.

Sure, subscriptions make it easier to plan out your social calendar. But that’s not what today’s self-curating, hyper-informed audiences want:

·      29% of audiences in 2011 purchased subscriptions because it “simplified their planning”. Today that number is only 11%.

What do you think—are you seeing these trends playing out at your theatres? Tweet at us @laplacacohen, using the hashtag #CultureTrack.

Watch the full presentation here:

Watch live streaming video from newplay at

Hill-Moss_headshotHil Moss is a member of the Strategy & Branding team at LaPlaca Cohen, the only strategy, design, and full-service advertising firm in the US that exclusively serves the creative and cultural sector.

She is a graduate of Princeton University and sits on the Board of Trustees of the Princeton Triangle Club, the oldest touring collegiate musical-comedy troupe in the United States, in which she previously performed as an actress and served as the organization’s President.