The Social Impact of a Night out at the Concert Hall

Are people who attend jazz concerts more likely to vote in the next presidential election? Are audience members at symphonies more likely to make charitable donations? In “Relationships between Traditional Music Audience Participation and Pro-Social Behaviors,” authors Donald J. Polzella and Jeremy S. Forbis build off of previous research that has proven a relationship between making art and positive, “pro-social” actions that benefit society. Here, the authors investigate a new dimension of this relationship by exploring whether attending arts events—specifically, jazz, opera, or classical music concerts—makes people more civically engaged. 

Using data from the 2008 U.S. Department of Commerce Current Population Survey and its Participation in the Arts Supplement survey, the authors measured the extent to which people had been civically engaged over the course of a year.  They based this measurement on whether individuals participated in three “pro-social” behaviors: voting in the most recent presidential election, attending community meetings, and making a charitable donation or volunteering. The authors then compared the extent to which individuals participated in these behaviors with their frequency of attending jazz, opera, or classical music concerts.

The authors found that those who attended these concerts were almost twice as likely to vote than those who did not attend the concerts. Concert attendees were also over two and a half times more likely to volunteer or make charitable donations. Furthermore, concert attendees were nearly three times more likely attend community meetings.  Overall, the results demonstrate a correlation between attending jazz, opera, or classical concerts and the likelihood that a person will be civically engaged.   

According to the authors, this research reinforces past studies that have found a similar connection between music participation and pro-social behavior. However, they suggest that more research is needed to determine precisely what part of this participation impacts pro-social behavior: the act of listening to the music itself, or the act of being part of a concert audience.

Polzella, Donald J. & Jeremy S. Forbis. 2014. "Relationships between Traditional Music Audience Participation and Pro-Social Behaviors." Empirical Studies of the Arts, 32(1): 109-120. 
DOI: 10.2190/EM.32.1g

← table of contents