A major new analysis of public source attendance data for Australian performing arts companies, published today by Crikey, reveals stagnating audiences across the sector. Crikey analysed data from 17 large opera, music, theatre and dance companies from 2007 to 2011. The results will make for sleepless nights across the boardrooms of major performance organisations. Most companies are shedding audiences, and attendances in total have declined by 6% over the past five years. Of the 17 companies Crikey surveyed, 10 have seen declining audiences since 2007. Perhaps most worrying, this figure includes all six of the largest performing arts companies with audiences of more than 200,000 annually. Australia's largest performing arts organisation, Opera Australia, is down about 130,000 attendances from its 2008 peak. However, it's not all doom and gloom. Arts companies in the west are bucking the trend. Companies based in Perth are taking advantage of a booming economy, new venues and an increasingly culture-hungry local audience to record impressive growth in their total attendances. In particular, theatre company Black Swan has more than doubled its footprint, while the Western Australian  Symphony Orchestra and the Western Australian ballet are also showing healthy gains. The other stand-out performers are Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, both of which added significant new audiences in the five-year period.

Attendance figures for 17 major Australian performing arts companies between 2007 and 2011. Total attendances fell from 3.26 million to 3.05 million in that time.