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Teens Don't Want to Rock … as Much

by Joseph Carroll

Since 1976, the Gallup Youth Survey has been asking high school-aged teens about their participation in different arts and entertainment activities, including going to museums, pro-sports events, rock concerts and the symphony. Historically, pro-sports events and rock concerts have outranked every item on the list. In the last 10 years, however, more teens say they have gone to pro-sports events and museums than to rock concerts. Results from April 2000* find American teens more likely than ever to say that they have attended a professional sports event in the past year -- up to 63% from 43% in 1976.

There has been a decline since 1976 in the number of teens who say they have gone to a rock concert in the past year -- possibly a result of rising ticket prices and an overall decline in concert attendance by people of all ages. In 1976, four in 10 American teens said they had attended a rock concert. Almost 25 years later, attendance had dropped off to 31%.

According to Dr. Alan B. Krueger, professor of economics at Princeton University and editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, ticket prices soared -- to an average price of $40 -- during the economic boom of the late 1990s. In his keynote address at the 2002 Concert Industry Consortium convention Dr. Krueger said, "From 1996 to 2001…concert prices have increased by 54%. The price [sic] for movies, sporting events and theater have increased 24%." Dr. Krueger also reported that the number of concert tickets sold to people of all ages in 2001 fell to their lowest level in 12 years.

Interestingly, even as fewer teens say they are going to rock concerts, they are more likely to say they have been to not only professional sporting events, but also museums and the symphony.

Fewer than four in 10 teen-agers (37%) said that they visited an art museum in 1976, and this number decreased throughout the 1980s, with just about one-third saying they had done so (30% in 1984, 30% in 1986, and 34% in 1988). In 2000, more teens said that they had gone to an art museum than in any other year (50%).

The rate of teen attendance at the symphony has increased just slightly since this question was first asked, although only a small percentage of teens go to the symphony at all. In 1976 and throughout much of the 1980s, about one in six teens said they had gone to the symphony within the past 12 months. In recent polling, however, roughly one in five say they have attended the symphony. Throughout the past two decades, there have been only slight increases in the percentage of teens who have attended the ballet or opera.

Clearly, concert ticket prices have outpaced the growth of ticket prices for other types of teen entertainment, and attendance rates may have suffered as a result. But as Dr. Krueger pointed out at the end of his address, everyone has miles to go to catch up with the price of Super Bowl tickets -- $400 each this year on average.

*Findings are based on telephone interviews with a national cross section of 501 teen-agers, aged 13 to 17, conducted in January through April 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±5%.

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