The biennial survey reports a marked improvement in the perception of the value of arts and culture, but forecasts a possible reduction of attendance over the next 12 months due to the economic slowdown, potentially resulting in cautious spending and preference of other leisure activities over the arts
SINGAPORE, 27 July 2020 – The key findings from the biennial Population Survey on the Arts of Singaporeans’ perception of the arts in 2019 were released today by the National Arts Council (NAC). Compared with the last survey in 2017, the 2019 results showed positive trends across all key indicators for appreciation and consumption of the arts. In 2019, 7 in 10 Singaporeans attended arts events (69%), and 3 out of 4 Singaporeans consumed arts through digital media (75%). 80% of all respondents affirmed the value of the arts by expressing a sense of pride in the arts. This was a 4 percentage point increase from the 2017 survey findings.
Attendance and consumption of the arts continue in an upward trend
2 The physical attendance of arts events is the second highest observed since the commencement of the survey, just below the figure from the SG50 celebrations in 2015, which peaked at 78%. This increase in attendance was mainly driven by activities within the genres of heritage and literary arts, for which 40% and 41% of respondents respectively indicated that they attended at least one event.
3 Supporting the evidence that Singaporeans are digital natives and with the increasing prevalence of digital platforms, the arts sector also saw arts activities and digital avenues grow to captivate larger audiences online. Similar to the increase observed in physical attendance, digital consumption via digital / online media of the arts saw a 14-percentage point increase to 75% in 2019 across several art forms including music, theatre and literary arts. This increase in digital consumption of the arts presents opportunities for artists to reach out to more people through digital platforms and cultivate a larger group of arts-embracing audience, particularly during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic where there are restrictions on ‘live’ performances.
4 The exposure to this growing number of arts events and experiences has led more Singaporeans to continue furthering their interest in arts and actively participating in conversations around it by joining tours, attending workshops or donating to support the cause. This applies to 33% of respondents - 1 out of 3 Singaporeans - which continues its upward trend with an 11 percentage point increase from the previous survey.
Singaporeans take pride in the arts
5 Underlying the overall increase in consumption of the arts is an improved perception of the value of arts and culture, with more than 70% of Singaporeans acknowledging that our cultural landscape has improved, as compared to five years ago.
6 When asked what they thought about the value of arts and culture in Singapore, 8 in 10 respondents pointed to the role of arts in improving the quality of life (78%) – an improvement compared to 2017 (74%). Other marked improvements in perception are attributed to the arts fostering a greater sense of belonging and identity (82%), and being a source of pride for Singaporeans (80%).
7 Compared to the last survey, there was a lower percentage of Singaporeans who did not attend any arts and cultural events (31%). These respondents cited the lack of familiarity with the artists and performers (26%) and the lack of relevance of arts and culture events and activities (22%) as a key barrier to attending arts and cultural events.
The road ahead for the arts
8 The key findings of the 2019 Population Survey of the Arts point to positive trends in Singaporeans’ appreciation of arts and culture. These affirm the good quality content and artistic excellence that our artists continue to pursue, and how Singaporeans recognise that the arts play an important role in bringing communities together and fostering a sense of pride for Singaporeans.
9 Notwithstanding the encouraging growth in arts perception and engagement in 2019 before COVID-19 hit, the sector is expected to face new challenges in the years ahead due to the impact of the pandemic. It is expected that the slowdown in the economy may cause people to tighten their purse strings and be more selective in attending arts events and activities, as well as decrease physical participation in arts events to avoid COVID-19 risks. The survey was conducted through fieldwork during the months of February and March 2020 at the onset of the global pandemic. At that early stage, 2 in 10 attendees said that they intended to reduce the frequency of their attendance of arts events.
10 This downturn in physical attendance and participation will continue with the extensive restrictions imposed on local and international activities till the end of 2020. Mandatory safe distancing measures may be expected to affect arts groups as well as fewer audience members are able to visit arts venues and attend arts events and performances. The 2019 survey results have however pointed to the significant potential to grow local and international audience participation and engagement through digital platforms. The pivot of the arts sector to digital and blended delivery augurs well for stronger competitive positioning with other sectors such as lifestyle and entertainment.
11 Mrs Rosa Daniel, Chief Executive Officer of NAC, said, “The 2019 survey results strongly affirm the value of the arts and culture in Singapore. Prior to the COVID situation, all key indicators on appreciation and consumption of the arts have shown strong positive trends. Our artists and arts groups have contributed to a vibrant arts scene, which enhances the lives of Singaporeans and the liveability of Singapore. The results validate the key priorities and policies articulated under Our SG Arts Plan (2018-2022) that need to be supported and sustained. With the impact of COVID-19, NAC is cognisant of the challenges ahead and will draw on the Arts and Culture Resilience Package (ACRP) of $55 million to continue supporting our artists and arts groups. We will also work closely with partner agencies, businesses, academia and the arts community on creative and innovative solutions to offer new exciting experiences for our audiences. NAC will be launching a series of dipstick surveys to get a reading of audiences’ readiness to come back and participate in the arts, as well as their openness to digital arts offerings, so that our artists and arts groups can make the necessary pivots.”
12 Commissioned by NAC, the 2019 Population Survey on the Arts interviewed a total of 1,176 Singaporeans and Permanent Residents as part of its ongoing efforts in monitoring the state of the arts in Singapore. It examines Singaporeans’ perceptions of the value of arts and culture, the level of engagement, and the motivations and barriers faced by Singaporeans in attending arts and cultural events and activities.
 As of mid-2019, Singapore had the second highest rate of internet penetration within the Southeast Asian region, with 84.5 percent.[Source: https://www.statista.com/topics/5852/internet-usage-in-singapore/]