Cost of Living

June 2024

Cultural Participation Monitor Wave 9 | Summer 2023

This research is from The Audience Agency's nationwide longitudinal (ongoing) panel survey of changing views about participating in creative and cultural activities through the recent and ongoing crises, and beyond, the Cultural Participation Monitor.


It’s no surprise that the UK population feel worse off than they did last year (33% feeling worse off, 49% about the same and only 18% better off, a net 15% reduction).

Indeed, 71% agree they are ‘worried about the cost-of-living crisis and its effect on [them/their] family’ and 49% say that their disposable income has decreased in the last five years (19% ‘a lot’ and 30% ‘a little’, only 27% saying it has increased). 

Financial constraints appear to lead directly to reduced cultural attendance. Indeed, 61% agreed (23% strongly agreed, 38% agreed) that ‘the cost-of-living crisis means that I expect to do fewer paid-for entertainment and leisure activities over the next year’. Similar proportions (63%, made up of 24% strongly agree and 39% agree) also said that ‘the cost-of-living crisis means that I expect to look for more free entertainment and leisure activities over the next year’. 

Moreover, there’s a direct link between those who are feeling better off (or worse off) financially than 12 months ago and those who are attending more (or less) compared to 12 months ago. Only 7% of those feeling better off are attending less; only 4% of those attending worse off are attending more. Conversely, 32% of those feeling better off are attending more and 47% of those feeling worse off are attending less. 

Financially Feeling Better Same Worse vs Attending Less Same More
Attendance vs. financial status

In all three groups, the largest proportion of respondents were attending about as much as before, but this was only narrowly the case (within the margin of error) for those who were feeling worse off. Given that this group is a third of the overall population, the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on cultural engagement is clear.

When looking at which groups are attending more or less, compared to how they are feeling financially, there is a split between three groups of Audience Spectrum segments:

  • Urban / metropolitan groups (Metroculturals, Experience Seekers and Kaleidoscope Creativity) which are feeling a little less well off (net -10% and -7% respectively for the first two, with Kaleidoscope Creativity only slightly down on -2%) but are attending about the same (+/-1%, or net 11% more, for Metroculturals)
  • Older medium-higher engaged groups (Commuterland Culturebuffs and Home & Heritage) which are feeling a little less well off (net -8%) and also attending less (net -9% and -12% respectively)
  • All other (mid- and lower-engaged) segments, that are net -15% to -20% for attendance and net -20% to -25% for finances.
Finance vs. attendance by Audience Spectrum
Attendance vs. Finances per Audience Spectrum Segment

This suggests that the impact of the cost-of-living crisis is being particularly concentrated among family and middle- and lower-engaged groups, with reductions among older audiences driven mainly by different reasons (post-COVID changes).

(Note: source for all figures is the Cultural Participation Monitor wave 9, with fieldwork in March 2024, with a nationally representative sample of 2,945 UK adults. Samples by Audience Spectrum segment vary from 107 [Metroculturals] up to 472 [Dormitory Dependables]).

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