Culture and participation


This theme page shows developments in visits and practice and is an invitation to explore more culture figures in the Culture Monitor dashboard. How are the theatres, museums and stages visited? What trends do we see in the practice? What does (decreasing) purchasing power mean for cultural participation?


After the effects of corona on cultural participation over the past three years, the energy and housing crisis, inflation and decline in purchasing power are now also leaving their mark on the participation rate. The 'old' audience does not seem to find it easy to find their way back to cultural institutions and the sector is concerned about the future. While big names attract massive audiences again, the halls of lesser-known artists remain empty. Yet people did not sit still during the crisis – they read more, played more games, streamed heavily and video-on-demand flourished. There is even a slight increase in cultural practice, although this mainly applies to more individualistic hobbies.

Introduction and importance of the theme

Cultural participation has taken a major hit as a result of the corona crisis. If we look at the 2021 figures and the forecasts for 2022, it is clear that the cultural and creative sector has not yet recovered and that the corona pandemic will probably leave its mark on the sector for a long time. The forms of cultural participation that took place on location or in company were particularly hit hard. In 2021, museum visits fell below the level of 2020, the number of theater visitors fell by 2021 percent in 78 compared to 2019 and pre-sales for the '22/'23 season are also getting off to a slow start (Visser et al. 2022, Wensink 2022). Although the total number of practitioners in the Netherlands increased slightly during the corona crisis, the share of people who practice culture together decreased - both in informal groups and in the form of membership of an association. Cultural practice became more individual and took place less in groups (Neele et al. 2021a). At the same time, the use of digital media in consumption and practice grew, especially among young people (Broek 2021, Neele et al. 2021a).

Although the corona crisis has major consequences for the cultural and creative sector to this day and probably for years to come, it is now clear that we are talking about multiple crises. With rising energy prices and persistent inflation in 2022, purchasing power will come under pressure. The CPB notes that Dutch households are declining in their disposable income. People with low incomes are particularly at risk from rising prices (Government 2022). This can also have effects on the level of cultural participation. From the Leisure Omnibus (WTO) it appears that people with a lower family income participate less in culture than people with an average or high family income. The continued pressure on purchasing power can increase these social differences. Youth Fund Sport and Culture fears that parents will cut back on sports clubs, music, dance and culture for children and young people due to increasing financial concerns (Maks 2022). And poverty is expected to increase further.

On this page we discuss developments in relation to cultural practitioners and participants using the data from the database and supplement it with Info about digital culture consumption and practice. In addition, we consider the effects of purchasing power on cultural participation by looking back at the 2008 financial crisis and the corona crisis, and the impact of the current inflation, housing and energy crisis on cultural participation.

Key figures Cultural participation

The Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) has attracted a record number of visitors this year, more than in 2019 - the last edition before the corona pandemic ( 2022). Noorderzon in Groningen was almost back to pre-corona levels this year. The Coldplay concert in the Johan Cruijff ArenA was also sold out in no time (Wijk 2022), while the cheapest tickets cost no less than 60 euros. This is in stark contrast to the disappointing sales of tickets for concerts by lesser-known artists, especially at smaller and medium-sized pop venues. Research from PopLive shows that there is a winner-takes-all effect, whereby money is mainly spent on major artists (see below in more detail under the heading 'Other current crises'). A trend that is also visible in the theater world. The Association of Theater and Concert Hall Management (VSCD) sees that less well-known names and less popular genres are doing poorly (NOS News 2022a).

If we look at the figures in the Culture Monitor Dashboard, we see a decline in cultural visits across the board between 2019 and 2021. Nowhere is cultural visit at the level before the corona crisis. The total share of people visiting culture dropped from 94 percent in 2018 to 84 percent in 2020 (VTO ​​2020). We see a larger decline in heritage participation: while two-thirds of the Dutch population initially visited something related to heritage in their spare time, this was less than half during the corona crisis in 2020 (Ibid.). The blow is greatest in the performing arts, as can be seen from the sharp decline in audience income, especially among independent producers (see also the domain page Theater). There was a 2020 percent decline in the number of performances at music venues in 76 (Dee et al. 2021).

(including visit)

This visualization shows the development of cultural consumption and the drastic decline in the various domains following the corona crisis. You can switch between the graphs via the tabs above the visualization.


Source: KB, NVBF, Boekman, OCW and CBS

From the most recent figures of the VSCD shows that in 2021 the number of theater visitors has fallen by 78 percent compared to 2019, where the number of performances fell by sixty percent. Although these figures are not surprising given the corona restrictive measures at that time (including seven months of complete closure of theaters), they do raise concerns for the future. For example, members of the VSCD report that 2022 has also gotten off to a difficult start and that presales for the 2022/2023 season are still far from the pre-corona level (Wensink 2022). There are therefore great concerns about the hesitant public. Out research by the National Theater Fund This hesitation appears to be mainly due to the lack of clarity as to whether the concerts and performances will actually take place (Beerda 2022). While health risks are more likely to play a role among the elderly, costs are particularly important among young people.

The forecast for museums for 2022 also did not look rosy. The Museum Association warns that smaller museums, municipal and private museums in particular are having a hard time (NOS News 2022b). In 2021, museum visits fell below the 2020 level, from 13 to 11 million visits. This is less than a third of museum visits in 2019 (Visser et al. 2022).

We initially see a positive development in the practice of art and culture. The Amateur Art Monitor (MAK) of the LKCA even talks about one slight increase in the share of arts practitioners in 2021 (Neele et al. 2021a). This increase is especially visible when practicing 'individual' activities and is accompanied by a decrease in social activities. To explain the increase in individual activities, in addition to the possibility of home practice, the researchers also provide access to online tools and platforms to learn, meet and show work (Ibid.). This decline in social activities also translates into a drastic decline in members and volunteers, for example, Koornetwerk Nederland and CBS report (Koornetwerk Nederland 2021, CBS statistics Museums, Neele et al. 2021b). Performing arts often include social activities such as acting or singing in choirs, which are more difficult to perform from home. We see such a decrease in the number of volunteers in museums and in the performing arts (see the numbers in the Dashboard). From the perspective that creating culture together is important, State Secretary Gunay Uslu invests through it National Amateur Art Agreement one million euros in 2023 in support of amateur art, and three million in the following years (Uslu 2022a).

More digital cultural offerings

As an alternative to physical cultural reach, more digital cultural offerings quickly emerged in 2020, with a multitude of options for reaching new audiences, including across the border. Think of virtual tours in museums, online registrations of theater performances or digital reading clubs (see also Overview of online cultural initiatives). But the general digitization of cultural services also continued.

Already in 2018, for the first time, the total turnover of streaming services in the Netherlands was higher than the gross receipts of Dutch cinemas, respectively 324 versus 312 million euros. And while cinema attendance and turnover declined drastically during the corona crisis, the Video On Demand (VOD) platforms recorded an unprecedented increase in turnover (read more about this on the Audiovisual domain page under The momentum in streaming land). We also see strong growth in turnover in the Dutch music industry (NVPI). streaming services will account for no less than 2021 percent of turnover in 80 (more about this on the domain page Music). While the number of physical visits to concerts decreased, digital consumption increased even more. We saw the same development in the gaming industry. In May and June 2020, Dutch consumers spent 42 percent more on games than a year earlier. Over the entire year, consumer spending increased by another 20 percent (Jaeger et al. 2020, Schipper 2020, Uffelen 2020). Social games that are played online with friends in particular grew in use (read more about this on the Games domain page under Impact of the corona crisis).

Organizations that mainly rely on physical visits and on-site offerings - such as theaters - have also started experimenting with new options for online and digital presentations. This digital transformation is not new, but the corona crisis has given it a strong impetus. Online programming has now become a permanent part of many cultural institutions organizational strategy (Knol 2021, see also the domain page Theater). But these digital options have only partially compensated for the loss of audience reach. This is also evident in the Arts domain: the number of e-books and audio books lent out grew between 2019 and 2021, but could not compensate for the loss in physical books (see the domain page Letters). Also in practice, despite an increase in the use of online platforms and instruments an overall decrease in the share of practitioners who attended classes, courses or workshops during the corona pandemic in 2020 compared to 2017 (Neele et al. 2021, see also the Monitor Amateur Art of the LKCA).

Yet there are also hopeful voices: research by the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE) into heritage participation shows that the social value of participation does not necessarily disappear with the introduction of digital forms. For example, young people seemed to participate more actively when digital technologies and experiences were used (Burggraaff et al. 2022). In addition, digital participation can lower barriers to physical participation (Ibid.).

Other current crises

The figures presented above clearly show that the corona crisis has had major effects on cultural participation. However, it is important for the future of the sector not only to investigate the (lasting) effects of the corona crisis, but also to pay attention to the other current crises. Consider the current inflation and decline in purchasing power, the energy and housing crisis. All also have an impact on expenditure patterns and therefore on cultural participation. Below we zoom in on the influence of these current crises on cultural participation.

The fact that the public is becoming increasingly hesitant – such as in the cultural sector – is a trend that is more widely visible. In September and October 2022, CBS even reported historically low consumer confidence (-59): consumers are not only negative about the economic situation but also about their own financial situation. In particular, willingness to buy was much lower in October 2022 than in previous periods of low confidence (CBS 2022a). And although people spent more money on culture in the second and third quarters of 2022 than the year before (CBS 2022b, CBS 2022c, CBS 2022d), these figures give a distorted picture of the recovery of the sector. The growth in 2022 is partly because consumption in 2020 and 2021 was low; After all, cultural institutions were closed for a large part of the year.

Economic figures

The figures below show figures from Statistics Netherlands about (confidence in) the Dutch economy. You can switch between the different graphs via the tabs above the figure.

Average of all sub-questions
% change compared to a year earlier
% change compared to a year earlier

Source: CBS

The sector therefore feels uncertain about the future in 2022, as evidenced by interviews with, among others, the ONGOING, the NRC en the AD. Research conducted by the National Theater Fund shows that three-quarters of theater visitors now attend fewer performances than before the crisis (Beerda 2022). It is difficult for amateur art associations to find sufficient organizational strength on the boards and to rejuvenate the membership base (Neelemans-Wouters 2022, Uslu 2022a). Also shows recent research among our southern neighbors, the participation rate across the board has only slightly recovered in 2022, and the figures remain far below the level of 2019 (Knowledge Center for Culture and Media Participation 2022).

In addition, the question is how sustainable the growth in consumer spending is, as the figures from Statistics Netherlands showed. After all, the growth in the culture industry as a whole does not mean that individual cultural organizations are all in the plus. Large successful parties can make up for the losses in the overarching picture. Berend Schans, chairman of the Association of Dutch Popping Venues and Festivals (VNPF), sees that the public is staying away, especially with the new artistic offerings (Quekel 2022). Larger names in the sector appear to be less affected by disappointing visitor numbers. Well-known pop artists attract full houses and the larger pop festivals will all be sold out in 2022.

A possible explanation for this may lie in the 'superstar economy' or 'winner-takes-all' theory. American economist Alan Krueger discovered that in recent decades an increasing share of live music revenues has been allocated to a very small (top) share of artists (Krueger 2005, Krueger 2019). There is also a superstar economy in the Netherlands, researchers from PopLive conclude. Today, with the algorithms on which music streaming is based, the power of social media and the operation of the live industry, the superstar effect is only being stimulated more (PopLive 2022). This makes it difficult for smaller and less well-known names to find an audience.

Ultimately, a decrease on the demand side has effects on the supply side, and vice versa. If visitors are absent, the supply may decrease, for example because institutions experience financial distress due to the lack of public income. The Museum Association describes the same downward spiral when cuts have to be made to the supply (Vakblad Fundraising 2022). In recent years, the various support measures from the National Culture Funds have mainly focused on supply, but to a much lesser extent on stimulating demand (Brom and Schrijen 2021, Gielen et al. 2022). In the policy review on cultural participation it is concluded that programs aimed at promoting reading (especially for children) and library facilities for reading disabled people are actually the only instruments that focus directly on cultural participation (Gielen et al. 2022). Attention to the restoration of the cultural infrastructure is important, but it is also important to think about the restoration of cultural participation.

Future perspective

What now? What do successive crises teach us? During the financial crisis in 2008, people were still positive about the future and resilience of the cultural and creative sector. For example, the SCP wrote that no major changes in cultural visits were observable in the 10s, except for a growing reach within various disciplines. 'The credit crisis and its aftermath, including cuts to subsidized culture, appear to have left no traces in the cultural sphere. Nor in the visit frequencies' (Broek 2021). Art economist Van Klink also noted in 2009 that the impact of the credit crisis posed 'no danger whatsoever' for subsidized institutions (Klink 2009). He made the important observation that cultural entrepreneurs who do not have long-term subsidies and therefore earn their earnings from the market are less crisis-resistant.

Although the effects of the credit crisis cannot be compared in many areas current crises, there are also similarities with the credit crisis that could perhaps have prepared us for the current situation. The report Unequally affected, unequally supported shows that in 2020 also the non-multi-year subsidized organizations had the largest decline in own income and turnover, just as Klink noted in 2009. Despite the support measures, these organizations suffered large losses in 2020, while most multi-yearly subsidized organizations ended that year without any losses (Goudriaan et al. 2021). This not only affects the supply, but also the participation rate.

In addition, after the financial crisis of 2008, just as during the corona period, the digital availability of cultural expressions increased (Broek 2021), which the public could often use free of charge or at a low rate. However, in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, this development was not accompanied by reduced physical reach of culture. 'The consequences were limited to slight shifts in the scope of cultural media use, where the importance of digital media grew at the expense of print media and broadcasting' (Broek 2021). Unfortunately, this did not apply during the corona pandemic when cultural institutions had to close their doors completely or partially on several occasions, hindering the physical reach of culture. In its report on the effects of corona on the cultural sector, the SCP concludes that the increase in digital home consumption - such as films or stage performances via streaming services or virtual tours in museums - can lead to a decrease in the need for a physical visit (Broek 2020 ). A trend that was already visible in some sectors before the corona crisis.

It is therefore important to maintain the innovative power that arises or is accelerated during a crisis. During the credit and current crisis, there was plenty of innovation; organizations found new ways to engage audiences and raise revenue. For example, in 2008 there were music lovers who bought shares in their favorite band via online music platforms such as Sellaband, Bandstocks, Magnatune or MyMajorCompany (Hartog 2009). And Museumpeil produced a special issue in the autumn of 2009 Crisis as opportunity! about how museums can sharpen their creativity and ingenuity in times of crisis. In 2020 to 2022, the search for alternative revenue models has also proven necessary to make the cultural and creative sector more resilient and accessible to the public. Based on the above figures, we expect this will also be necessary in the coming years. State Secretary Uslu made 2022 million euros available for this in 135, divided over the following topics: measures aimed at restarting the sector, the labor market, starting the flow of orders for makers, boosting youth culture and innovation and digitalization in the sector (Uslu 2022b). She provided the cultural policy for the coming years in November 2022 in the multi-year letter The power of creativity implementation of 170 million euros in additional resources for culture from the coalition agreement. The State Secretary is thus focusing on the cultural and creative professional, creativity in complex social tasks, accessibility of culture, digitalization and innovation, and heritage for the future (Uslu 2022a).

It is important to make investments in digitalization sustainable, so that they continue to exist even after the crises. The State Secretary also emphasizes that the 'digital wheel' is regularly reinvented for various reasons. She wants to support the sector in the coming period by encouraging joint knowledge development in this area and investing in infrastructure and innovation. 'Digital transformation makes the sector stronger and more flexible' and better prepared for possible future crises (Uslu 2022b).

Want to know more about the theme of Culture and participation?

View more data on the theme of Culture and Participation the Dashboard of the Culture Monitor.    

Figures on cultural participation from the VTO can be found in the Annual report 2021.    

Want to read more about culture and participation? Then click on the following link for a list of available literature in the Knowledge base of the Boekman Foundation.

A previous edition of the text on this theme page can be found here.


Beerda, H. (2022) Future perspective on theater visits in times of corona; results of 1st examination. At:

Bouma, H. (2022) Small museums still fear they will collapse due to energy costs. On:, September 11nd.

Broek, A. van den (2020) Corona and the meaning of cultural life: what if the pandemic passes, and what if it stays? The Hague: Social and Cultural Planning Office.

Broek, A. van den (2021) What do people have with culture? cultural involvement in the 1910s. The Hague: Social and Cultural Planning Office.

Brom, R. and B. Schrijen (2021) 'Support for a strongly affected sector: about the impact of the corona crisis and the support measures on the cultural sector'. In: Never dance again, 219-239.

Burggraaff, W., W. Simons and KM Nguyen (2022) 'More digital, less social? Impact of corona on active heritage participation'. In Boekman, jrg. 34, no. 132.

CBS (2022a) 'Mild pessimism causes historically low consumer confidence'. On:, November 9.

CBS (2022b)'Economy in 1e quarter 2022 as large as in the previous quarter'. On:, May 17.

CBS (2022c)'Economy grows in 2e quarter by 2,6 percent.' On:, 17 August.

CBS (2022d) 'Economy shrinks by 0,2 percent in the third quarter.' On:, November 15.

Dee, A. and B. Schans (2021) Music venues and festivals in figures 2020. Amsterdam: Association of Dutch Music Venues and Festivals.

Gielen, M., N. Bilo, F. Bongers, P. Verhagen, F. van Wijk (2022) OCW policy review: cultural participation component 2001 to 2020. The Hague/Utrecht: Significant APE and Dialogic.

Goudriaan, R. (et al.) (2021) Unequally affected, unequally supported: effects of the corona crisis in the cultural sector. Amsterdam/Utrecht/The Hague: Boekmanstichting/SiRM/Significant APE.

Hartog, R. (2009) "HIt's not about the financial gain, it's about the fun": what now credit crisis?! Invest your money in music! On:

Jaeger, L., N. Zarb and A. David (2020) 'Global Gaming Study: More Gamers Spending More Money in COVID lockdowns – Which Publishers Will Benefit?'. On:, 26 August.

Knowledge Center for Cultural and Media Participation (2022) Leisure and participation in a changing landscape. On:, November 2022.

Klink, P. van (2009) Subsidy country seems crisis-proof. In ATANA newsletter (2009)9(jun.1).

Knol, JJ (2021) 'Innovation labs: innovation after corona: interview with Syb Groeneveld and Bart Ahsmann'. On:, 17th of June.

Choir Network Netherlands (2021) 'Corona causes unprecedented decline in membership numbers at choir associations'. On:, 8 March.

Krueger A. (2005) The Economics of Real Superstars: The Market for Rock Concerts in the Material World. In: Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 23, no. 1, January 2005.

Krueger, A. (2019) The Economics of Rihanna's Superstardom: The music industry can tell us a lot about our winner-take-all economy. On:, 6 January.

Maks, M. (2022) Youth Fund Sport & Culture fears that increased poverty will come at the expense of sports and culture for children. On:, September 5nd.

Neele, A. and Z. Zernitz (2021a) Monitor Amateur Art 2021. Utrecht: National Knowledge Center for Cultural Education and Amateur Art.

Neele, A. and Z. Zernitz (2021b) Association Monitor 2021. Utrecht: National Knowledge Center for Cultural Education and Amateur Art.

Neelemans-Wouters, E. (2022) 'Time for action in amateur art'. On: www.kunstlocbrabant.nlNovember 3.

NOS News (2022a) Where is the audience? The cultural sector has been struggling since corona. On:, May 21.

NOS News (2022b) Almost half of the museums are in the red, again fewer visitors. On:, September 12nd. (2022) Record number of visitors for the first edition of ADE since the corona pandemic. On:, October 24.

PopLive (2022) Pop music as a superstar economy – IMBRD conference. On:, October 25.

Quekel, S. (2022) 'Great concerns about the future of music venues, theaters and museums: 'Living between hope and fear.' On:, October 31.

National government (2022) Package of measures to alleviate the consequences of rising energy prices and persistent inflation. On:, 11 March.

Schipper, N. (2020) 'Interactive socializing: Dutch people have started gaming longer and more often during the corona crisis'. On:, September 14nd.

Uffelen, X. van and M. Muller (2021) 'Games more popular than ever in corona year 2020: now a billion-dollar industry in the Netherlands'. On:, 6 August.

Uslu, G. (2022a) Multi-year letter 2023-2025. The power of creativity: culture at the heart of society. The Hague: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Uslu, G. (2022b) Culture outline letter 2022: recovery, renewal and growth. The Hague: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Fundraising trade magazine (2022) Fewer people find their way to museums, impoverishment in the sector threatens. On:, September 12nd.

Visser, J. and L. Kuiper (joint) (2022) Museum figures 2021. Amsterdam: Museum Foundation, Museum Association.

Wensink, H. (2022) Much fewer theater visits in 2021 compared to 2019, and recovery is not yet in sight. On:, September 8nd.

Wijk, L. van (2022) Rush for tickets for Coldplay shows, sold out in no time. On:, 25 August.

Accountability image

Oerol 2022 / Photography: Lisa Maatjens