Senior Culture Correspondent
SINGAPORE – Even before Covid-19 drove arts content and consumption online, three out of four Singaporeans were consuming arts via digital media in 2019.
This is a 14 percentage point increase from 2017, according to the National Arts Council’s latest Population Survey On The Arts released on Monday (July 27).
Music is the artform most consumed digitally at 52 per cent, followed by theatre at 41 per cent, while literary arts showed the largest jump in online participation, climbing 30 percentage points from 2017 to 39 per cent in 2019.
The survey attributed the better numbers for literary arts to “Reading stories, poetry or graphic novels” being asked as a standalone question which better captured reading habits.
The biennial survey interviewed 1,176 Singaporeans and Permanent Residents for their perceptions of the value of arts and culture as well as their engagement with arts and culture.
The survey showed markedly positive trends across the board for arts attendances and perceptions in Singapore. Physical attendances increased to 69 per cent, up 15 percentage points from 2017 and each person attended 7.6 events compared with 5.4 events in 2017.
This rate of physical attendance is the second highest observed since the survey began, second only to 2015, which peaked at 78 per cent during SG50 celebrations.
Literary arts and heritage activities were the most popular, with 41 per cent and 40 per cent of respondents respectively saying they had attended at least one event in these categories.
Overall perceptions of the arts also improved, with 80 per cent of the respondents saying that the arts and culture were a source of pride and 78 per cent saying that it improved the quality of life.
While the numbers are positive for last year, the NAC said it expected a drop this year due to the pandemic and venue closures during the circuit breaker period. Fieldwork was conducted in February and March, and the NAC noted that even at that early stage of the pandemic, two in 10 attendees said that they intended to reduce the frequency of their attendance of arts events.
The NAC added in a statement: “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.”
Mrs Rosa Daniel, 56, NAC’s chief executive officer, 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.
“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.”
She added that the NAC will conduct 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”.