How Do Classical Music Organizations Attract a Younger Audience?

A couple of days ago, I spoke about myself not being the target demographic for classical music organizations. I suggested they should be targeting the younger, under 30 crowd. But how?

By understanding what the under 30 crowd wants from a concert.

There is something to be said for programming pops concerts that feature artists and music familiar with this age group. But there is more to the equation.

Rock concerts are multimedia events. There are lights, special effects, slides and/or video captures. The energy at these concerts is at a fevered pitched inciting the audience to scream, clamor to their feet and feel as those they have somehow participate in the event. It isn't just a concert, it's an experience --one they talk about with their friends over and over again. They chatter about it on Facebook and can't wait until the next "show."

Classical music concerts are nothing like this. Occasionally, you may find pop artists performing with orchestras that illicit this kind of response, but even then the concert halls are tame in comparison.

It is possible to place video cameras around the concert hall with the idea of providing live close ups of the performers, showing their face, their emotional connection with the music and creating that connection with their audience. And I'm not just talking about pops concerts. It would be amazing if when the principal oboe player was performing a solo if the audience had the chance to see his/her face. The musicians in professional orchestras are amazingly talent and very expressive when they perform. It's why they perform so well. But sitting 300 feet from them it's hard to really connect with the individual (and these are the good seats - what about the people in the nose bleed section?).

Another aspect about having the video cameras during the performance is the ability to webcast and or post videos after the concert. Statistics show 93% of the people under 30 get most of their news and information from the Internet, 85% don't look anywhere else. They are shopping online, getting their tickets online and making choices about what they want to do in their spare time -- online! In order to connect with this demographic classical music organizations need to exist in the world the under 30 crowd operates, and with a similar look and feel.

YouTube videos are hugely popular. MTV made the music video a necessity for getting a hit song. YouTube has gone the next step by making it possible for even unknowns to "go viral." Imagine if your symphony had a video that was so popular on YouTube it reached a half million people in the first day, or even the first week? It's possible. Videos do it all the time, just not ones from classical music organizations.

What's I'm really saying is communicate to the people under 30 in a way they understand (and what to be communicated to). Make classical music concerts an experience and not just music. I can download hundred of performances of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Why would I want to come to your hall to hear it just once? (Ok, I probably would --but what about that audience that is used to getting more than just music from their concerts?) Answer that question and you'll start getting the younger audience you need.


Anonymous said…
Your approach makes no sense to me.

When I began discovering opera and classical music ON MY OWN in my teens it was through recordings. I'd say 90 percent... Listening and studying the great masterpieces in the privacy of my home was for me the most thrilling activity. Of course I enjoyed going to Carnegie Hall and the MET on occasion and donated what I could, but that never compared to being able to get to know so many pieces in such detail at home. I cannot begin to describe how many times solitary listening lifts me to the heights of aesthetic experience.

Why can't curious and sensitive young people today do the same thing? It's really the only way one can truly assimilate and come to know and love the great masterpieces -- through patient, careful and numerous listenings with one's heart.

Chip Michael said…
J -

You are no alone in your approach to classical music, but you are rare.

I grew up playing the trombone, so I played in the wind ensemble at school as well as the jazz band and orchestra. I found I gravitated more toward the classical music and jazz than any of the other forms out there - but again, I was rare. Most of my friends in band preferred (and still do) the pop music on the radio.

Even then, my youth was 30 years ago (sigh) and times have changed. I'm not saying classical music can't be appreciated with, as you say, repeated solitary listening - but the youth of today (the majority of youth today) gravitate toward the very active, very visceral experiences of modern pop/rock music concerts - because they are easy to feel and experience the music.

You also mention you rarely went to the concert hall. My article is speaking about how to get more people to the halls, particularly the young. And if we don't get more people to the concert hall, there is less impetus to make recordings of classical music meaning less for all of us.

Revel in your rare appreciation of classical music.... but then understand, to reach out to others you need to approach them in a way they are most likely to respond.

Chip Michael

I believe classical music has more to off

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