The Arts and Media

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chapter 4


Many Americans like to spend their free time experiencing the fine arts. Some attend opera, ballet, or classical music performances, others go to art museums or galleries, and many curl up with a good book.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (2004) found that 39.4% of the American adult population, or 81.2 million people, had attended a classical music, jazz, opera, or ballet performance; musical or play; or visited an art museum or gallery during the previous year. This percentage was down slightly from the 41% of adults who participated in the arts in 1992 (the last time the survey was taken), although the total number of participants was up by five million.

When the number of Americans who participated in these "benchmark" activities (which did not include elementary or high school performances) was added to those who watched other types of dance performances, visited art/craft fairs, visited historic sites, read literature, viewed or listened to performing arts on television or radio, personally performed or created art, took art classes, or owned art, the percentage increased to 76% of adults, or 157 million Americans.

The most popular arts activity among Americans was reading literature, (plays, poetry, novels, or short stories), which was done by 46.7% of adults, or 95.3 million people. It was followed by visiting art/craft fairs or festivals, at 33.4% (68.4 million); visiting historic sites (parks/historic buildings/neighborhoods), 31.6% (64.7 million); visiting art museums or galleries, 26.5% (54.3 million); musical plays, 17.1% (35.1 million); nonmusical plays, 12.3% (25.2 million); classical music concerts, 11.6% (23.8 million); and jazz performances, 10.8% (22.2 million). (See Table 4.1.)

Those who attended arts performances or visited historic sites typically went at least twice per year. Visitors to historic sites tended to visit an average of 3.6 different ones, while those who liked art museums and galleries visited 3.5 times. Fans of modern and other nonballet types of dance saw two performances during 2002, while jazz lovers went to 3.1 performances and classical music listeners, 3.1. Other popular repeat activities included attending art/craft fairs and festivals (2.4 visits per person), musical plays (2.3), and plays (2.3). (See Table 4.2.)

In general, attendance at various arts events was highest among whites. One exception was jazz performances, which a greater proportion of African-Americans attended compared to their percentage of the total U.S. population. Many activities also appealed more to women than men, most notably ballet, for which more than two-thirds of the attendees were female. People between the ages of thirty-five and forty-four were somewhat more likely to attend arts events, with those ages forty-five to fifty-four close behind. Higher levels of education and greater income were also linked to greater participation and attendance at arts events. (See Table 4.3.)


The NEA survey asked respondents about their participation in personally performing or creating art in 2002. The study revealed that the highest rates of personal participation were in weaving/sewing (16%), photography (11.5%), painting/drawing (8.6%), and writing (7%). The survey also found that almost 5% of the adult population sang publicly in a choir or chorale. The lowest rates of participation were in jazz (1.3%), opera (0.7%) and ballet (0.3%). These low rates were not unexpected because these disciplines are demanding and require extensive training. Participation in almost every category had declined since 1992, save for slight increases in those reporting that they composed music or danced ballet. (See Table 4.4.)

As with attending arts performances and events, in many categories whites were more likely to participate in


Adults participating in the arts at least once in a 12-month period, 1982, 1992, 2002
Percent of adults attending/visiting/readingMillions of adults attending/visiting/reading
1Denotes "benchmark" art activity.
2"Other dance" refers to dance other than ballet, including modern, folk, and tap. "Other dance" was not included in the 1982 survey.
Note: Figures may differ slightly from those shown in other reports and notes due to rounding.
source: "Table 1. U.S. Adults Participating in the Arts at Least Once in a 12-Month Period: 1982, 1992, 2002," in 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, 2004, (accessed September 9, 2004)
Performing arts
Classical music113.012.511.621.323.223.8
Musical plays118.617.417.130.532.335.1
Nonmusical plays11.913.512.319.525.125.2
Other dance2NA7.16.3NA13.212.1
Visual arts
Art museums/galleries122.126.726.536.249.654.3
Art/craft fairs and festivals39.040.733.463.975.668.4
Historic sites
Parks/historic buildings/neighborhoods37.034.531.660.664.164.7
Plays/poetry/novels/short stories56.954.046.793.3100.395.3
Any benchmark activity39.041.039.466.576.281.2


Average number of attendances to an arts event and total number of attendances, 1992 and 2002
Audience in millionsAverage number of attendances per attenderTotal number of attendances in millionsAudience in millionsAverage number of attendances per attenderTotal number of attendances in millions
1Denotes benchmark activity
2"Other dance" refers to dance other than ballet, including modern, folk, and tap
source: "Table 7. Average Number of Attendances and Total Number of Attendances, 1992 and 2002," in 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, 2004, (accessed September 9, 2004)
Performing arts
Classical music123.22.660.323.83.172.8
Musical plays132.32.374.535.12.379.3
Non-musical plays125.12.460.225.22.358.7
Other dance213.23.039.612.12.024.6
VIisual arts
Art museums/galleries149.63.3163.754.33.5190.6
Art/craft fairs and festivals75.62.7204.168.42.4164.2
Historic sites
Parks/historic buildings neighborhoods64.13.8243.664.73.6231.0


Demographic distribution of adults who participated in the arts at least once in the 12-month period ending August 2002
U.S. population
millionsPercentAny benchmark activityJazzClassic musicOperaMusicalsNonmusical playsBalletArt museumOther danceLiteratureHistoric sitesArt fairs and festivals
*Not including Hispanics
Note: Total may not equal 100% due to rounding
source: "Table 8. Demographic Distribution of U.S. Adults Who Attend/Visit/Read at Least Once in the 12-Month Period Ending August, 2002," in 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, 2004, (accessed September 9, 2004)
Race and ethnicity
75 and over15.
Grade school11.
Some high school20.
High school graduate63.831.019.515.212.28.316.514.49.316.616.525.019.923.9
Some college56.927.631.431.527.524.131.328.627.730.231.831.332.031.7
College graduate36.117.528.531.533.135.530.831.932.330.727.323.728.325.8
Graduate school17.48.516.218.924.929.118.521.728.118.619.713.415.213.1
Less than $10K14.
$10K to $20K22.711.
$20K to $30K25.
$30K to $40K24.211.811.513.111.310.710.
$40K to $50K17.
$50K to $75K34.716.921.319.319.720.
$75K and over45.822.


Adults performing or creating art at least once in a 12-month period, 1992 and 2002
Percent of adults personally performing or creatingMillions of adults personally performing or creating
1Only includes those singing in a public performance or rehearsing for one
2"Other dance" refers to dance other than ballet, including modern, folk and tap
source: "Table 15. U.S. Adults Performing or Creating Art at Least Once in a 12-Month Period: 1992 and 2002," in 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, 2004, (accessed September 9, 2004)
Performing arts
Jazz1.7 %1.3 %3.22.7
Classical music4.
Composing music2.
Musical plays3.
Nonmusical plays1.
Other dance28.
Visual arts
Creating art
Own original art22.119.341.139.5
Plays/poetry/novels/short stories7.47.013.714.4

the performing and creating of art than those of other races, as were women. African-Americans, who made up 11.5% of the U.S. population, reported higher rates of participation in choirs/chorales (22%) and acting in plays (17.6%), while 11.2% of Hispanics reported participating in creating "other dance," slightly more than their 11% percent share of the population. There was also a strong correlation between greater participation in performing/creating and higher education and income levels. (See Table 4.5.)

Online Content Creation

In addition to creating and performing art in more traditional ways, many Americans now express themselves online. According to a spring 2003 Pew Internet & American Life Project (Pew/Internet) survey, Content Creation Online, 44% of the nearly two-thirds of American adults who used the Internet (fifty-three million) had created online content. The most common activity was posting photographs to Web sites, done by 21% of Internet users, followed by posting written material (17%), posting comments to an online newsgroup (10%), contributing material to Web sites run by businesses (8%), and contributing material to Web sites run by such organizations as churches or professional groups (7%). Another 6% of Internet users had posted artwork to Web sites, while 5% had posted audio files, 4% had posted material to Web sites created for their families, 3% had put video files on Web sites, and 2% maintained Web diaries or "blogs."

According to Pew/Internet, 13% of Internet users maintained their own Web sites, and 7% had "Web cams" on their computers to allow other Internet users to view them or their surroundings. Many of those who created online content did so infrequently—42% of those with Web sites said they added new content less often than every few weeks. Only 10% said they added content on a daily basis. (See Table 4.6.)

Online content creators were almost equally split between men and women, and three-fourths had attended or graduated from college. More than three-fourths were also under the age of fifty, while only 4% were older than sixty-five. Whites made up 77% of online content creators, 9% were African American, and 9% were Hispanic—roughly the same proportions as the population as a whole. (See Table 4.7.)


The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) reported in its 2004 State of the Nation's Art Museums that attendance at American art museums was generally up in 2003. Forty-three percent of museum directors reported that their attendance had increased during the year, while 28% said it had not changed and 29% said it had decreased. Forty percent said they had increased educational programming, while 48% had made no changes and only 12% had decreased it. Most reported no change in artwork acquisitions, although 16% reported an increase and 8% reported a decline.

The AAMD also reported that funding was generally improving. Fifty-six percent of museum directors reported that individual giving was up from 2002 levels, while 39% said foundation support was up, and 35% indicated there had been no change. Corporate support was up for a third, unchanged for a third, and down for another third, while government support dropped for 46% and increased for only 19%, although this was an improvement when compared with the results for 2002.


Before there were movies, television, and radio, there was live theater. The first American theater, with actors, scenery, and numerous play productions, came to the American colonies from England in 1750. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, every major city had at least one theater company performing plays.

Taking the Show on the Road

As the American population grew and spread westward, so did the number of theaters. From New York City,


Demographic distribution of adults personally participating in the arts at least once in the 12—month period ending August 2002
U.S. adult population
MillionsPercentJazzClassicalOperaChoir/ChoraleMusical playAct in playsBalletOther danceMusic compositionPaintingWritingPhotographyPotterySewingOwn artPurchased art recently
Note: Percentages may not equal 100% due to rounding
*Not including Hispanics
source: "Table 17. Demographic Distribution of U.S. Adults Personally Participating in the Arts at Least Once in the 12—Month Period Ending August 2002," in 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, 2004, (accessed September 9, 2004)
Race and ethnicity
75 and over15.
Grade school11. a0.
Some high school20.
High school graduate63.831.010.210.416.922.416.718.
Some college56.927.637.327.631.234.732.335.337.737.636.837.335.832.336.331.731.129.9
College graduate36.117.530.
Graduate school17.48.519.825.323.712.821.210.320.311.613.210.815.
Less than $10K14.
$10K to $20K22.711.08.15.510.312.36.88.4n/a9.511.
$20K to $30K25.
$30K to $40K24.211.813.516.09.014.913.817.54.814.615.114.413.811.612.813.411.710.5
$40K to $50K17.68.510.214.910.110.613.316.412.49.810.110.29.911.
$50K to $75K34.716.921.125.019.821.820.320.714.621.119.618.018.421.321.719.422.022.9
$75K and over45.822.237.131.442.923.735.023.132.724.124.229.629.236.228.523.041.046.0


Frequency with which people maintaining their own Web sites update their sites, 2003
Population = 202
source: Amanda Lenhart, John Horrigan, and Deborah Fallows, "How Often Do You Post Material on Your Web Site?" in Content Creation Online, Pew Internet & American Life Project, February 29, 2004, (accessed August 7, 2004)
Several times a day4%
About once a day6%
3–5 days a week7%
1–2 days a week11%
Every few weeks25%
Less often42%
Do not know/refused5%

the leading theater center, hundreds of companies took their performers on the road to bring entertainment to settlers all across the country. Until the early 1900s the theater—which included opera, drama, comedy, and musical shows—was America's principal form of entertainment. An original American theater type was the showboat, which sailed up and down the Mississippi River entertaining passengers, the gamblers who made a living on the river, and the residents of the towns where the boats docked.


The modern period on Broadway began in New York City with the founding of the Theater Guild in 1918. It was the first commercially successful art theater to produce plays of the same caliber and quality as those produced in Europe. Other theaters soon opened, and they prospered right up to the stock market crash of 1929. The nation recovered from the Great Depression that followed, but theater did not because more and more people were going to see motion pictures or staying home to listen to the radio and, later, watch television.

By the turn of the twenty-first century it had become extraordinarily expensive to put on a Broadway show. In some instances, the extravagant sets and breathtaking special effects overshadowed the play. For example, the show Sunset Boulevard involved two separate stages, and in Miss Saigon, a real helicopter landed on the stage. The costs involved in staging a successful theatrical performance on Broadway had become almost prohibitive. As a result, fewer and fewer shows were produced there. Financial backers, concerned about minimizing their risks, appeared more willing to finance revivals of shows that were successful in years past or stage plays drawn from movies. Examples of revivals in the early 2000s included classics such as Fiddler on the Roof and Gypsy, as well as newer fare such as John Kander and Fred Ebb's darkly comic 1970s musical Chicago.

In 2004 forty venues were designated as Broadway theaters. In 1980 there were sixty-one new Broadway


Demographics of Internet content creators, 2003
Population for Internet users = 1,555. In the Race/Ethnicity category, 6% of respondents fall into the "other" category
source: Amanda Lenhart, John Horrigan, and Deborah Fallows, "Who Creates Content," in Content Creation Online, Pew Internet & American Life Project, February 29, 2004, (accessed July 7, 2004)
65 +4%
Household income
Less than $30,00019%
$75,000 +31%
Education level
Did not graduate from high school6%
High school graduate19%
Some college29%
College degree+46%
Type of home Internet connection
Dial up63%

shows, by 1991 just twenty-eight new shows had started, and in 1996 thirty-eight shows opened. In the 2003–04 season, there were thirty-nine new shows: twenty-four plays, thirteen musicals, and two "specials." Total box office sales for the 2003–04 season were $771 million, up 6.9% from the previous year, according to industry newspaper Variety. Attendance was up almost 2%, to 11.6 million, with the average ticket price rising $3.20 to $66.47.

Touring versions of Broadway shows were successful as well. During the 2002–03 season 12.4 million Americans bought $642 million worth of tickets to see traveling productions of hit shows around the country, according to the League of American Theaters and Producers.

In New York City there were also about 150 "Off-Broadway" and "Off-Off-Broadway" performance spaces, which presented an estimated 1,500 productions annually. Attendance was approximately seven million in 2002, according to the Alliance of Resident Theaters of New York.

Nonprofit Theater

The Theatre Communications Group (TCG; represents the interests of nonprofit professional theaters in the United States. At the end of the 2002–03 season, its membership consisted of 454 theater companies in forty-six states and Washington, D.C., up from 228 in 1996. These groups included ensembles, touring companies, children's theater groups, and small companies. During 2002–03 they held 63,330 performances of 4,787 different productions: the classics, modern plays, musicals, new plays by American and foreign playwrights, experimental works, and plays aimed at young audiences. In 1980, 14.2 million people attended TCG members' nonprofit theater productions; in 1994, 20.7 million did; and in the season that ended in 2003, attendance was eighteen million.

The TCG's annual report for 2002–03 noted that 4% of member theaters had budgets of $10 million or more, 7% spent $5–10 million, 6% spent $3–5 million, and 25% spent $1–3 million. The remaining 58% had budgets of less than $1 million. Nonprofit theaters employed forty-two thousand artists, administrators, and production staff in 2002–03.

Going to Concerts and Operas

Research conducted by Audience Insight for fifteen orchestras and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation found that in 2002 just 17% of adults in the United States reported that they had attended a live classical music performance. Americans attended classical music concerts in a variety of settings, including traditional concert halls, school auditoriums and gymnasiums, churches and synagogues, and outdoor venues.

Although just over 3% of Americans typically attended opera performances each year, opera audiences increased by almost 50% in numbers from 1982 to 2002 (see Table 4.1.) In 2002–03 North America's professional opera companies offered 2,112 performances of 401 fully staged productions. According to OPERA America, a service organization that supports the creation and performance of opera, the ten most frequently produced operas during the 2004–05 season were: Madama Butterfly (Puccini), Don Giovanni, (Mozart), La Boheme (Puccini), Carmen (Bizet), The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart), Tosca (Puccini), Rigoletto (Verdi), Aida (Verdi), The Mikado (Sullivan), and La Traviata (Verdi).

Rock and Pop Music

The 2002 NEA survey asked Americans which types of music they liked to listen to. Almost half said they liked classic rock/oldies, while two-fifths said they liked country western, and almost 30% each said they liked blues/R & B, mood music/easy listening, jazz, classical/chamber music, and hymns/gospel music. When asked what their favorite type of music was, 16% said classic rock/oldies, 15% said country, and 14% said they preferred no particular genre.

Given these findings, it was not surprising that the best-attended concerts in America were ones given by well-established rock, country, and popular music performers. According to Billboard magazine, the top concert tours of 2003, in order, were those of the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Cher, Fleetwood Mac, the Dixie Chicks, the Eagles, the Dave Matthews Band, Aerosmith/Kiss, Metallica's Summer Sanitarium, and Billy Joel/Elton John.

The Rolling Stones' 116-date September 2002 to October 2003 world tour was 99% sold out and attended by 3.4 million people worldwide, according to Billboard. It grossed $299.5 million. For his 2003 shows, Bruce Springsteen grossed $181.7 million, and Cher took in $76.3 million at the 116 shows of her two-hundred-date "Farewell Tour" in 2003, which grossed $145 million over two years.


Media experiences have become a part of the fabric of modern life. In their work and personal lives, Americans are bombarded with images and sounds that convey insistent and powerful messages. According to communications expert Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message, and each medium presents a different type of experience. Listening to music on a compact disc (CD) player is unlike watching television, playing a video game, surfing the Internet, or reading a book.

Multiple contacts with the media are inescapable aspects of daily life. Televisions flicker in kitchens, living rooms, dens, and bedrooms. Children are mesmerized by video game competitions, and families use the computer to budget, bank, and send e-mail, as well as to surf the Internet and make purchases. Music flows from radios and CD players, while cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) connect people to one another and the Internet.

Americans devote much time to the media, which includes television, radio, recorded music, newspapers, books, magazines, videos/DVDs for rent or purchase, movies in theaters, video games, and online computer services. In general, the less costly a form of consumer media is, the greater the usage of that medium. Since broadcast TV and radio are free to consumers, they have become the most widely used media, followed by subscription video services, recorded music, and online services. The most expensive media on an hourly basis are movies in theaters and videos/DVDs for rent or purchase.

According to the July 2003 survey Internet and Multimedia 11: New Media Enters the Mainstream, conducted by Arbitron Edison Research, the average American was then spending three hours and twenty minutes a day watching television, two hours, thirty-nine minutes listening to the radio, thirty-eight minutes reading the newspaper, and one hour, three minutes online. In Communications Industry Forecast and Report 2004, a study released in August 2004, the merchant banking firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson projected that by 2008 total media time per consumer would surpass eleven hours a day, reaching approximately seventy-eight hours per week.

The Birth of an Industry

In 1891 Thomas Alva Edison, the American inventor best known for the electric light bulb and phonograph, or "talking machine," applied for a patent on a "kinetoscopic camera." This camera took motion pictures on a band of film that could be seen by looking or "peeping" into a box, which gave these early pictures the name "peep shows." This invention soon gave rise to movie projectors and screens. In 1893 Edison and his partner, W. K. L. Dickson, built the Black Maria, the first movie studio.

As the United States entered the twentieth century, inventions such as the automobile, radio, telephone, and airplane were beginning to change the way people lived. While not everyone could afford all of these modern wonders, almost anyone could pay the price of a ticket to see "moving pictures" wherever there was a theater and a piano. (The first motion pictures were "silent movies." They had no sound and the actors' words were printed on the screen so the audience could follow the plot. A piano player or musical ensemble typically provided background music to make the movie more exciting.)

The first "blockbuster" movie, D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (also known as The Clansman), was released in 1915 and concerned the American Civil War and the beginnings of the racist group the Ku Klux Klan. The film's sympathetic treatment of its subject matter outraged African-Americans and some whites, but it went on to make more money than any other film released to that time. World War I gave filmmakers spectacles that audiences wanted to see, and 1,175 war films were made during that time, according to the American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States.

The years following the war saw a period of financial growth for the United States, and this prosperity, along with the emergence of such stars as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Rudolph Valentino, helped the motion picture industry become highly successful. By the mid-1920s, some twenty thousand movie theaters were showing moving pictures in the United States, twice the number as in 1910.

On the technical side, the industry was moving forward, with the first feature-length "talking picture," 1927's The Jazz Singer, revolutionizing the art of filmmaking while ending some careers and giving birth to others. The late 1930s saw the perfection of Technicolor, which was used to spectacular effect in such features as Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, although many films continued to be made in less-expensive black and white until the mid-1960s.

Movie Business Boom

Motion pictures remained one of America's favorite pastimes throughout the 1930s and 1940s. By 1950, however, television had emerged as a competitor. When it began to surge in popularity, fewer people went to the movies. Weekly attendance dropped from about ninety million people in 1947 to an average of forty-two million in the 1950s and 1960s. Gross sales fell from an all-time record high of $1.5 billion in 1957 to a yearly average of $1.2 billion in the 1950s and rose only slightly in the 1960s.

To respond to the threat of television, movie producers in the 1950s introduced a number of gimmicks such as widescreen and three-dimensional (3-D) movies to lure people back to theaters. Special glasses had to be worn for 3-D films to make it seem as though figures "jumped off" the screen, while widescreen movies simply resized the image for display on a larger, panoramic screen. Though the 3-D craze died off after just a year, the industry retained the widescreen format for all future theatrical releases.

The 1950s also saw an estimated 4,700 drive-in theaters built. These outdoor venues allowed families to park their cars by poles equipped with portable speakers and view the movies on giant screens. Drive-ins solved babysitting problems for parents and were so popular that they accounted for 25% of movie attendance in the 1950s. Teenagers also loved them for other reasons, which led to drive-ins earning the nickname "passion pits."

The number of drive-ins began to fall as suburbs spread out and property became more expensive. By 1971 the total had dropped to 3,720, and the ensuing decades saw an even more rapid decline. In 2003 just 408 remained in the entire country.

The way Americans viewed movies on indoor screens also changed during these years. In 1945 some 20,355 movie theaters existed; by 1960 that number had dwindled to 11,300. In 2003 it stood at 6,066, but because of the rise of the multiplex (multiscreen) theater beginning in the 1970s, the number of actual screens had grown to 35,786, an average of more than six per theater, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Technological changes were occurring as well. In the late 1970s Dolby Stereo was introduced, and with its effective use in such films as the first Star Wars movie, it soon became the standard of the industry. By the late 1990s digital sound had become commonplace, and by the early twenty-first century the era of film itself appeared to be nearing an end. With filmmakers like George Lucas of Star Wars fame shooting their features digitally, and with rapid advances in digital projection technology, the number of all-digital screens rose to 171 worldwide in 2003 from 124 in 2002, according to the MPAA. The savings on expensive 35mm movie prints, and the prospect of splice-and scratch-free screenings for the life of a film, were driving factors in the anticipated conversion of the entire industry to an all-digital standard over time.

Box Office Grosses

According to the MPAA, total U.S. box office grosses climbed from the mid-1990s, with 2003 receipts of $9.5 billion, only 0.3% lower than the industry record year of 2002 and 13.2% above the $8.4 billion taken in during 2001. (See Table 4.8.) The increased revenues were largely attributable to growing numbers of admissions, although rising ticket prices also contributed. (See Table 2.9 in Chapter 2.)

The top movie of 2003, Finding Nemo, earned a total of $339.7 million at the U.S. box office, according to the MPAA, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean ($305.4 million), Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (290.4 million), The Matrix Reloaded ($281.5 million), and Bruce Almighty ($242.6 million).


According to the MPAA, 167.6 million Americans went to a movie in 2003. Of these, slightly more than one-third went to movies more than once a month, while half went between two and eleven times a year and 15% went less than once every six months. Half of moviegoers were between the ages of twelve and twenty-nine, and although their growth rate remained flat when compared with 2002, the number of moviegoers aged forty to fifty-nine was growing, with attendance in this age group increasing 7% during the year.

In addition to revenues from box office receipts, which were split with theater owners, a movie such as the third entry in the Lord of the Rings trilogy also drove sales of the books it was based on, toys, games, clothing, video-cassettes, and DVDs. According to Peter Mirsky, an Oppenheimer media analyst, 40% of the earnings for the Ring films would come from the box office, while another 35% would be from home video sales, 5% to 10% would come from television showings, and 15% would be derived from licensed merchandise sales.

Digital Videodiscs (DVDs) and Videocassettes

Some industry experts once believed that videocassette recorders (VCRs) and digital videodisc (DVD) players, which made it easy to watch movies at home, would hurt movie box office sales more than television. Others thought that such viewing alternatives would make more money for a film over time. Moviemakers learned that if a movie made money at the box office, it would also make money in video/DVD sales and rentals. In fact, sometimes a movie that was not expected to do well in movie theaters was released directly to video, where it could generate considerable revenue from rentals and purchases.

Although home video was once dominated by the tape-based VCR, by 2004 the higher-quality image and sound of DVDs, and the drop in price of players to an average of $122 (according to the Consumer Electronics Association, or CEA), had made it the hottest format in the video industry. Research conducted by the CEA found that in January 2001, 94% of U.S. households had VCRs and 15% had DVD players, but by January 2004, the number of households with VCRs had fallen to 87%, while 50% had DVD players. (See Table 2.4 in Chapter 2.)

According to Adams Media Research, the number of DVDs sold to dealers in the United States in 2003 was 1.1 billion, up 50.2% from 2002. The number of videocassettes sold was just 293.6 million, down 39% from 2002. By 2003, twenty-nine thousand different titles were available on DVD.

A 2001 Gallup poll found that watching movies at home was a popular way for Americans to spend an evening. Eighty-three percent of all polled respondents and 88% of those who owned a VCR or DVD player said they had viewed a movie at home during the month preceding the poll. Nearly all (96%) young adults ages eighteen to twenty-nine reported viewing an average of almost thirteen movies per month at home. More than 90% of adults ages thirty to forty-nine watched movies at home, but on average they watched about half as many as the younger adults. Rates of home movie viewing as well as the average number of films viewed per month declined with advancing age.


Television has defined two generations of consumers. It has, however, ceased to possess the unifying power it once had. A TV viewer of the 1950s or 1960s could tune in to comedian Milton Berle or Gunsmoke and know that he or she was sharing the moment with nearly every other American. Today, people have many more choices, including cable TV, satellite TV, pay per view, rented videos and DVDs, and computers. The American viewing audience has become fragmented.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) study U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales & Forecasts, 1999–2004 found that virtually all U.S. households had at least one television and three-quarters had more than one. Nielsen Media Research estimated that as of August 2004 there were 109.6 million TV-owning households in the United States, representing an increase of 1.2 million television households over the previous year.

Effect of the Internet on TV Viewing

Conflicting opinions have been expressed about the effect of Internet use on TV viewing. Some data has suggested that Americans online view less television, while other data has indicated that the time saved by online activities leaves more time to spend watching television. Veronis Suhler Stevenson observed that the projected 192 hours per year Americans would devote to Internet use in 2003 was just a fraction of the 1,610 hours they would spend watching television or the 992 hours spent listening to the radio. They forecast that the time saved using the Internet to perform tasks such as banking, paying bills, and shopping would free up additional hours Americans could devote to other media including television.

Cable and Satellite TV

Cable TV subscribers pay a monthly fee to cable companies to receive not only the regular broadcast networks but also such specialized channels as The History Channel, Animal Planet, the Game Show Network, Nick-elodeon (a children's channel), and ESPN (a sports channel). Cable TV subscribers who choose to pay more can also see the latest movies on such premium channels as HBO or Showtime. As of 1995 basic cable channels began to draw more total viewers than the three biggest networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC) in homes that had cable. During prime-time hours, however, the major networks still attracted more viewers than the cable channels, but the cable networks' audiences have only grown over time.

According to Nielsen Media Research, 68.1% of American households with television (73.9 million) subscribed to at least a basic cable TV package in 2003. Almost 37% of TV homes (forty million) subscribed to a premium cable package, which included such channels as HBO. Another 19.4 million households had satellite television. According to Screen Digest, 283 different cable and satellite channels were available in 2003.


The original form of broadcast media, radio, was developed and refined during the late 1800s and early 1900s, initially gaining use for experimental and governmental purposes. A radio distress signal helped save many lives when the Titanic sank in 1912, and radio was used by the military during World War I. The first commercial broadcast was transmitted in 1920 by KDKA in Pittsburgh, and the 1930s and 1940s saw a golden age of radio entertainment, with such classic shows as "The Shadow" and "The Jack Benny Program" heard by millions of Americans across the country.

In 1950 ninety million radios were in use in homes, compared to just ten million televisions. The balance soon shifted, however, and with the widespread adoption of television by Americans, radio was relegated to back-burner status, delivering recorded music, news, farm reports, and weather, but with far fewer entertainment programs. The rise of rock and roll music gave radio a new lease on life, however, and the late 1950s and 1960s were another golden era, this time for AM (amplitude modulation) radio broadcasts featuring personality disc jockeys such as Murray the K and Wolfman Jack. The late 1960s also saw the spread of FM (frequency modulation) radio, which broadcast a high-fidelity stereo signal.

Radio continues to prove a popular medium with Americans in the twenty-first century. In 2004 almost 13,900 radio stations were broadcasting around the country, according to research firm Arbitron, Inc., in Radio Today—How America Listens to Radio (2004 edition). Of these, more than 80% were advertiser-supported commercial outlets.

According to Arbitron, the percentage of Americans who listened to radio weekly was roughly the same for every age group, approximately 90% to 95%, with those over sixty-five listening slightly less. People ages thirty-five to forty-four spent the most time listening, approximately twenty hours per week for women and twenty-two hours, forty-five minutes for men. While the number of men and women listening was roughly equal in most age groups, Arbitron found that in the youngest group (ages twelve to seventeen), more girls listened, and they spent more time listening than boys (fifteen hours per week versus eleven and three-quarters hours for boys).

Many Americans listened in the car while driving to or from work. Daily listenership figures peaked at seven a.m., noon, and from three to five p.m. More than one-third of listeners were in cars between six and ten a.m., while 43% were in cars between three and seven p.m. This number dropped to 26.1% from seven p.m. to midnight, according to Arbitron.

Different age groups listened to different types of radio stations. Those between twelve and seventeen preferred contemporary hit radio, urban, and alternative stations, while those eighteen to twenty-four listened mostly to alternative, along with contemporary hit and urban. Between twenty-five and thirty-four, the most popular formats included alternative, rock, Spanish-language, urban, contemporary hit, and adult contemporary. Americans ages thirty-five to forty-four preferred rock, adult contemporary, new adult contemporary/smooth jazz, and oldies. For those ages forty-five to fifty-four, oldies topped the list, followed by new adult contemporary/smooth jazz. Those ages fifty-five to sixty-four preferred classical music, adult standards, new adult contemporary/smooth jazz, and news/talk/information. Americans sixty-five and above preferred adult standards, classical, and news/talk/information.


America's love affair with consumer electronics has shown no sign of waning. Cellular phones; digital cameras and camcorders; cordless phones; large-screen, flat panel, projection, and high-definition TV sets; video game systems; mobile navigation devices; and home security systems have continued to rank high on the wish lists of many Americans. The CEA forecast that the wholesale value of shipments of consumer electronics would reach a record $100.1 billion in 2004, up from the estimated $96.4 billion worth shipped in 2003.

The CEA credits digital products such as digital televisions (DTVs) with driving industry growth. An estimated four million DTVs were sold in 2003, and in 2004 this figure was expected to rise to more than 5.7 million, with a total value of $8 billion at wholesale. The DTV category included flat panel, plasma, and liquid crystal diode (LCD) TVs. Although falling off in some categories, digital audio sales continued to be strong overall, with sales of MP3 players expected to hit 5.1 million in 2004, up from the estimated 3.8 million sold in 2003. Digital camera sales totaled an estimated 12.5 million in 2003, and were projected to rise to more than 15.3 million in 2004.

Cellular telephones are another highly popular consumer electronics product. The number of wireless telephone subscribers has skyrocketed since the 1990s. The CEA predicted that sales of wireless telephones would grow to 84.6 million units in 2004, representing $11.5 billion worth of factory sales.

Sales of personal computers were also expected to rise in 2004 as consumers upgraded older systems to accommodate new digital media and software requirements. The CEA projected that 17.5 million computers would be sold, up from the estimated 15.9 million sold in 2003. The electronic gaming market, meanwhile, was expected to remain flat, with wholesale sales estimated at $10.9 billion for both 2003 and 2004, as a rise in software


Total dollar value of sound recording sales, 1994–2003
(In millions)
Figures indicate the overall size of the U.S. sound recording industry based on manufacturers' shipments at suggested list prices
source: Peter Hart Research, 2003 Consumer Profile, Recording Industry Association of America, 2004, (accessed July 7, 2004)

sales was cancelled out by a drop in hardware sales. Home security systems also projected flat or slight sales growth, from just under $2.1 billion in 2003 to slightly more than that figure in 2004.


Americans have long been among the most voracious consumers of recorded music in the world. However, the Recording Industry Association of America, the music industry's primary trade association, reported that the total U.S. dollar value of audio recordings was dropping, from $14.6 billion in 1999, to $13.7 billion in 2001, to $11.9 billion in 2003. (See Table 4.9.) The decline was attributed to such factors as widespread illegal downloading of music from the Internet, the falling price of compact discs at retail, and a lack of blockbuster albums from major artists.

In 2003 the most widely purchased type of recorded music was rock, at 25.2%, although its popularity had steadily declined since 1994 when 35.1% of audio recordings sold were in this category. During the same period, interest in country music waned from 16.3% to 10.4%. (See Table 4.10.)

Other categories of music experienced growth. Rap/hip-hop nearly doubled its share of the market, rising from 7.9% in 1994 to 13.3% in 2003, while religious music increased from 3.3% of the total in 1994 to 5.8% in 2003. Most other categories held relatively stable throughout the period. (See Table 4.10.)

The form in which Americans purchased music also changed. In 1994 slightly more than half of audio recordings purchased were CDs (58.4%) and a third were cassette tapes (32.1%). By 2003 cassette purchases had dropped to 2.2% as CDs became the overwhelming format of choice, with 87.8% of the market. In the future, the

TABLE 4.10

Recorded music purchased, by genre, format, age, source, and gender, 1994–2003
1"Rap": Includes rap (10.4%) and hip-hop (2.9%)
2"R&B": Includes R&B, blues, dance, disco, funk, fusion, Motown, reggae, soul
3"Religious": Includes Christian, gospel, inspirational, religious, and spiritual
4"Other": Includes ethnic, standards, big band, swing, latin, electronic, instrumental, comedy, humor, spoken word, exercise, language, folk, and holiday music
52001 is the first year that data was collected on DVD audio and digital download purchases
62003 is the first year that data was collected on SACD purchases
7"Internet": Does not include record club purchases made over the Internet
source: Peter Hart Research, 2003 Consumer Profile, Recording Industry Association of America, 2004, (accessed July 7, 2004)
Country16. 316.714.714.414.110.810.710.510.710.4
New Age1.
Full-length CDs58 .465.068.470.274.883.289.389.290.587.8
Full-length cassettes32.125.119.318.
Singles (all types)
Music videos/video
Digital download5NANANANANANANA0.20.51.3
Vinyl LPs0.
10–14 years7.
15–19 years16 .817.117.216.815.812.612.913.013.311.4
20–24 years15 .415.315.013.812.212.612.512.211 .510.0
25–29 years12 .612.312.511.711.410.510.610.99.410.9
30–34 years11 .812.111.411.011.410.19.810.310.810.1
35–39 years11 .510.811.111.612.610.410.610.29.811.2
40–44 years7.
451 years15 .416.115.116.518.124.723.823.725.526.6
Record store53 .352.049.951.850.844.542.442.536 .833.2
Other store26 .728.231.531.934.438.340.842.450.752.8
Tape/Record club15.114.314.311.
TV, newspaper, magazine ad or 800 number3.
Female47 .347.049.151.451.349.749.451.250.650.9
Male52 .753.050.948.648.750.350.648.849 .449.1

industry was expected to sell more and more music legally downloaded from the Internet, although in 2003 this constituted just 1.3% of sales, up from 0.5% in 2002. Music was also sold on DVD audio discs (2.7%), super-audio CDs (0.5%), and vinyl long-play albums (0.5%), among other specialist formats. (See Table 4.10.)

Americans over age forty-five made more than onequarter (26.6%) of audio recording purchases in 2003, nearly twice their percentage in 1994. The growth in this age group likely reflected the enduring interest in music of the aging baby-boomer generation. In contrast, young people, once considered the recording industry's strongest supporters, comprised a declining proportion of the market for recordings. Purchases made by consumers ages fifteen through nineteen dropped from 16.8% in 1994 to 11.4% in 2003, and among young adults ages twenty to twenty-four the number of consumers dropped from 15.4% in 1994 to 10% in 2003. While there were slight variations from year to year, men and women bought recordings in almost equal numbers. (See Table 4.10.)

The places Americans purchased their music was changing as well. In 1994 more than half of music purchases were made in record stores, but by 2003 only a third were. At the same time, sales through other types of stores, including such mass merchandisers as Wal-Mart, grew from less than a third to account for more than half of purchases. Only a small percentage of people (5%) purchased music over the Internet during 2003, while slightly less (4.1%) bought music from a record club such as Columbia House. (See Table 4.10.)


An explosion in digital technology coupled with growth of the Internet have combined to produce a wealth of new possibilities for media experiences. It has become possible to move seamlessly from one medium to another in the same delivery platform—televisions or personal computers. Along with computer and TV access to the Internet, consumers can go online via cellular telephones and an expanding array of handheld devices, including personal digital assistants (PDAs).

The study Internet and Multimedia 11: New Media Enters the Mainstream, conducted by Arbitron Edison Research in July 2003 looked at practices and preferences of online consumers. The survey found that about 108 million Americans, 45% of the population over age twelve, had on at least one occasion accessed streaming media—that is, listened to audio or watched video online—and nearly half of these (fifty million) had done so within the last month. These online consumers were known as "streamies."

Streamies tended to be male (57%), and nearly a quarter were between the ages of thirty-five and forty-four. Nearly three-quarters were white and more than half reported an income in excess of $50,000 per year. Streamies spent an average of two hours and fifty-six minutes per day watching television, two hours and forty-four minutes listening to radio, one hour and fifty minutes accessing the Internet, and thirty minutes reading the newspaper.

Reported as a percentage of total Internet users, the most frequently viewed types of streaming video content were movie trailers or previews (9%), music videos (7%), highlights of sports events (5%), and short-or full-length movies (3%). Audio users primarily listened to radio station Webcasts, the most popular of which were those featuring contemporary hits. The Internet was a source for a wider variety of radio than many people could get over the airwaves, and stations broadcasting jazz, classical music, or Spanish-language programming were popular as well.

The study also found that 22% of Americans had residential broadband Internet access, while 42% had dial-up connections. Consumers with high-speed connections, as opposed to slower dial-up ones, viewed Internet access as much more essential for the activities of their daily lives and used streaming media more often. They also used the Internet nearly twice as much as those with dial-up connections and used other forms of media less.

Online Advertising and Spam

Use of the Internet was not without its frustrations. While two-thirds of those in the Arbitron Edison Research

TABLE 4.11

What e-mailers consider spam, 2003
Sender or subject matter% who consider it spam
For items 1–5, sample size = 624; for items 6–13, sample size = 648.
source: Deborah Fallows, "What Is Spam, Anyway?," in Spam: How It Is Hurting Email and Degrading Life on the Internet, Pew Internet &American Life Project, October 22, 2003, (accessed July 7, 2004)
Unsolicited commercial email (UCE) from a sender you don't know92%
UCE from a political or advocacy group74
UCE from a non-profit or charity65
UCE from a sender with whom you've done business32
UCE from a sender you have given permission to contact you11
UCE containing adult content92
UCE with investment deals, financial offers, moneymaking proposals89
UCE with product or service offers81
UCE with software offers78
UCE with health, beauty, or medical offers78
Unsolicited email with political messages76
Unsolicited email with religious information76
A personal or professional message from one you don't know74

study said they preferred advertiser-sponsored free content over paid content, they did not like the intrusions of the ads. "Pop-up" advertisements that appeared when accessing certain Web sites were cited by 65% of those online as the most annoying type of Internet advertising, followed by "spam" e-mails from advertisers (9%), commercials during Internet audio or video broadcasts (3%), and Web site banner ads (3%).

According to the October 2003 Pew Internet & American Life Project (Pew/Internet) report Spam: How It Is Hurting Email and Degrading Life on the Internet, the definition of spam varied from person to person. While 92% considered unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) from a sender they did not know or with adult content to be spam, only 32% considered UCE from a sender they had done business with to be. Slightly more than three-fourths of e-mail users considered UCE with software offers, health, beauty, or medical offers, political messages, or religious information to be spam, while 11% considered UCE from a sender they had given permission to contact them spam. (See Table 4.11.) Women, parents, and older Internet users were more likely to consider a UCE to be spam or to be offended by it, according to Pew/Internet researchers.

While many have decried the spread of spam, the Pew/Internet report found that a third of e-mailers had clicked on a link to investigate the content of a spam e-mail, and 7% had ordered something online as the result of an unsolicited spam e-mail. Another 4% had provided personal information requested in a UCE, and 1% had given money in response to a request. (See Table 4.12.) Twelve percent of e-mail users also said they responded to an e-mail offer, only to find out later that it was phony or fraudulent.

TABLE 4.12

What e-mailers did with spam, 2003
% respondents
Sample size = 1,272
source: Deborah Fallows, "How Emailers Interact with Spam," in Spam: How It Is Hurting Email and Degrading Life on the Internet, Pew Internet & American Life Project, October 22, 2003, (accessed July 7, 2004)
Deleted it immediately without opening86%
Clicked "remove me"67
Clicked to get more information33
Reported unsolicited commercial email (UCE) to email provider21
Ordered a product or service7
Reported UCE to consumer or government agency7
Provided personal info requested in UCE4
Given money in response to UCE1

The volume of spam received by e-mail users was found to vary widely. While 34% said that spam made up a quarter or less of the e-mail they received each day, an almost equal number (35%) said it comprised 60% or more of their e-mail. (See Figure 4.1.) This posed a problem for people whose e-mail service providers limited the amount of file space they could use—if they did not delete spam messages every day, they were in danger of reaching their storage limit and having incoming messages "bounced."

In 2003 a Center for Democracy and Technology study found that over 97% of the ten thousand incoming spam e-mails that researchers collected came to addresses that had been posted on the Web. Pew/Internet researchers found that 73% of e-mail users said they avoided giving out their e-mail addresses to reduce the amount of spam they got, 69% said they avoided posting their addresses on the Web, and 14% said they tried to use obscure screen names that were harder for spammers' address-generating computer programs to come up with.


Spam has proven to be more than just an annoyance for e-mail users, however—its uncontrolled spread has threatened to slow down Internet traffic worldwide. In July 2004 the United Nations'International Telecommunications Union hosted a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to explore ways to stop the spread of spam, noting that it had grown to comprise as much as 85% of all e-mails sent, up from 35% just a year earlier. While many touted bogus products like herbal weight-loss and sexual potency pills, some were sent by criminals hoping to commit fraud by gaining access to people's bank account numbers or other personal information. Only a few hundred people were suspected of sending the vast majority of such e-mails worldwide, according to UN experts.

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