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Americans are increasingly less likely to go out for a dose of the arts, and more likely to stay home and enjoy performances in front of their home entertainment centers. The share of adults who report viewing or listening via broadcast and recorded media remains higher than live attendance, according to findings in the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.

This is the fifth study of arts participation by the National Endowment for the Arts over the past 20 years. The reviews in 1992 and 1982, also conducted by the Census Bureau, are the primary points of comparison. Approximately 17,000 adults participated in this survey, which was collected as a supplement to the Current Population Survey. Adults were polled on their participation in the arts between August 2001 and 2002 and the findings were released in July 2003.

To get their fix of the performing arts, most adults watched or listened to music or dance on television, the radio, via audio recordings or the Internet. Over half of adults (51.8 percent) say they have viewed some type of performing arts media in the previous 12 months. A significantly smaller share of adults attended live events (31.7 percent).

The disparity is most noticeable among adults who enjoy music. Almost half (47.9 percent) enjoyed their music by watching a performance on TV, tuning into a radio station, clicking on to the Internet or watching recorded media with their DVD players or VCRs. Less than 1 in 5 adults (18.8 percent) actually bothered to attend a live concert. The data on Internet usage includes visiting Web sites, interacting in chat rooms, Usenet groups and discussion forums, but excludes sending e-mail or downloading large music, video or data files. Along similar lines, dance fans are more likely to watch performances via some media than attend a live performance (13.7 percent versus 8.7 percent).

The visual arts fared somewhat better. A larger percentage of adults visited museums and galleries or arts and crafts fairs or festivals than experienced them through various media (41.9 percent versus 26.3 percent). Both musical and non-musical plays were almost tied: 22.3 percent of respondents attend live performances compared with 21.0 percent who watched through various media.

Given Americans' preference to experience some forms of the arts through media rather than actual performances, arts organizations may want to consider which channel would better reach or expand their audience. For many consumers of culture, it's a lot easier to pop a videocassette into the VCR, listen to a CD or watch a performance on TV. Advances in technology have narrowed the gap between live performances and recordings. And with options as primitive as videotape or advanced as TiVo, one no longer has to tie up ones schedule to catch a performance. High-speed Internet access means streaming audio or video need not be as jerky as it was in the early years. A person can go online and access over 2,000 radio stations, listen to music clips or check out featured songs from the latest music videos without leaving home. Why bother to go out and pay a premium to attend a live concert when you can see it in the comfort of your home for a lot less?

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