Hell is other people, Sartre famously wrote.
But not in my life, and certainly not on this blog. When I posted my estimates yesterday of how much — in real numbers — the classical music audience has increased or declined between 1982 and 2008, I needed to know the 2008 adult (18 and over) population of the US. I couldn’t find that figure, so I used 2004 numbers instead, figuring they’d be close enough. Using those numbers, I calculated a five percent drop in the size of the classical audience. See yesterday’s post for details.
But then I thought I could do better. I asked both here and on Twitter and Facebook if anyone could find a 2008 number for the data I wanted, and several people did. Thanks, all of you! The page I wanted, with the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 population estimates was here. If you want the data yourself, download the second of the Excel files they offer. That’s the one that breaks out the age of the population from 18 up.
So now I know that — at least according to the Census Bureau’s best estimate — the 18 and up population of the US in 2008 was 230,117,876. That’s a 41% increase from 1982. During that period, the percentage of adults 18 and over going to classical music performances declined 30% (from 13.3% to 8.3%). But the increase of population almost wiped out that decline, so the absolute number of adults attending classical music events — the size, in other words, of the adult classical music audience — declined only 1.3%, quite a bit less than the 5% drop I wrongly calculated yesterday.
Which would explain why the rate of attendance could drop so steeply without causing panic at the box office. See my last post for various footnotes and qualifications. This is very rough data. And see the post before that for my theory about the longterm trends at work here, which — if they continue — should eventually lead to shrinkage we can see and feel.