Baldin A., Bille T.(2023)
The avant-garde consumers: A new perspective on quality evaluations of performing arts. Poetics, Volume 97.
This article further investigates a well-established issue in consumer research concerning cultural offerings, namely the relationship between expert (critics) and audience quality evaluations. We provide a new perspective by arguing that such a relationship must consider the heterogeneity of consumers and experts alike. This article addresses the issue of quality evaluation of performing arts, and the purpose is to determine the relationship between, on the one hand, the criteria adopted for quality assessment, and on the other hand, the preferences for particular theater performances. This is done by simultaneously considering heterogeneity among the consumers and among the critics, which is a new approach in the literature. Using data from newspaper critics’ evaluations and from surveys completed by a sample of operagoers at the Royal Danish National Theater, we perform a multilevel latent class analysis, and we find three distinctive segments: The the unexperienced audience, the conventional connoisseurs and the unconventional avant-gardes. The avant-garde consumers and experts are localized as a distinct segment of audience, with different preferences and different evaluation criteria than the other audience segments (the conventional connoisseurs and the unexperienced audience). Newness and innovation are the most important criteria for the avant-garde consumer segment. The goal of an opera house or a theater is not just to increase attendance and revenue, but equally to innovate the artform. In this perspective, the avant-garde consumers are an important segment for the opera houses and producers of other cultural products, and a better understanding of the early adopters of artistic innovation (the avant-garde consumers), their preferences, evaluation criteria, and behavior, would seem to be crucial information. We suggest future empirical research could focus on avant-garde consumers as an important segment of the audience.