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Concerts becoming more popular in Finland – operas not so much

Movies and live music events – except opera – remain the most popular cultural events in Finland. Researchers cite a growing desire for genuine experiences.

Helsinki's Tavastia rock club has been active since 1970.

Most people in Finland – 83 percent of those over age nine – attended at least one cultural event last year, according to a poll just out from Statistics Finland. It surveyed attendance at movies, concerts, theatre, museums and exhibitions, dance performances and opera.

Topping the Leisure Survey list were films and concerts, with opera showing by far the lowest level of participation.

Nearly six out of 10 people went to a live music event last year, up from just four out of 10 in a similar poll carried out 15 years ago.

"This increase has come during the 2010s, when the number of concerts has risen. We’re living through an upswing, so probably Finns have enough money for the experiences that they want to have," says Juha Haaramo, a senior actuary at Statistics Finland.

Musical tastes in Finland are becoming more diverse, as evidenced for instance by the surge in popularity of techno and hip hop concerts, which has risen at least six-fold over the past decade and a half.

Haaramo suggests that a desire for experiences also explains the enduring popularity of cinemas despite the rise in ticket prices to between 10 and 15 euros.

Active culture vultures ever more active

The number of people attending art exhibitions declined slightly – paradoxically as most major museums report higher visitors levels since the introduction of the Museum Card in 2015. The card, which costs 59-68 euros, allows virtually unlimited admission to more than 260 museums for a year.

"Museum attendance has become more concentrated," says Haaramo. "Those who go, do so frequently. The number of active visitors to art exhibitions has doubled."

Is consumption replacing creativity?

Turning to do-it-yourself culture, the popularity of writing as a hobby seems to be dropping. For instance only one tenth of respondents said they keep a diary or journal, down from one quarter in the early 2000s.

So how do people in Finland express their creativity? Taking pictures with their phones?

According to the survey, only those under age 15 reported an increase in taking photos and videos as a cultural hobby.

Riie Heikkilä, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tampere, says that many people in Finland keep busy with everyday activities that should be considered culture but do not show up in this survey. She points to cooking, going to flea markets, playing board games and taking sauna baths.

"When you look at various surveys carried out in European countries, it appears as if even more than half of the population is completely passive when it comes to cultural activity," she says.

Heikkilä notes that cultural experiences bring happiness and argues that these should be made more available to the disadvantaged by offering cheaper tickets to certain groups, for example.

Statistics Finland surveyed 7,155 residents of Finland aged 10 and over in Finnish, Swedish and English in late 2017 and early 2018 through interviews, online and postal questionnaires for the assessment.

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