How Do Classical Music Organizations Attract a Younger Audience? II
Previously I've spoken on thinking about the under 30 crowd as the audience to attract, and how the concert experience needs to be more like what this younger audience is familiar with and wants in terms of live entertainment. In the first in this series I mentioned types of artists pop concerts could bring in to attract a younger audience. Now let's talk about changing the concept of the pops concert.
What about Rap Artists? Numerous rappers use classical-like themes as backing for their vocals, why not bring this live to the stage?
Terry Riley's "In C" is popular with chamber ensembles, but not the only way to create a dynamic ensemble performance. What if this piece (or something like it) was performed with the conductor making the choices as to when sections moved, rather than leaving it up to the individual. The Playground in Denver does a performance called "sound painting" where the conductor guides the ensemble through the performance making decisions as to where the music is going. This same concept could be done in the concert hall with a full orchestra. The under 30 crowd is going to see this type of performance as a unique experience. They are open to new ideas and willing to experiment.
Film and Game music is hugely popular. People under 30 make up more than half of the film going audience. Films (and now video games) are leveraging their music as additional forms of revenue. People associate their fond memories of the film with the music and love reliving those moments in the concert hall. John Williams and Howard Shore have their music regularly performed by symphonies around the world, to sold out audiences. But there are many more film composers than just these two.
Composers (like myself) are writing new music all the time, but are (sometimes actively) discouraged from writing for the orchestra because orchestras don't typically play a great deal of new music. More than 90% of a classical concert season is taken from the existing canon of music from more than 100 years ago. Premieres of new works happen only once or twice a year and often those are from fairly established composers. This composer will often be from another city, and be a stranger to the local audience. In addition, hearing one work one time does little to help an audience grasp a composer's voice. New composer's remain unknown quantities to audiences.
Younger people are used to knowing details of the lives of their favorite musicians. They watch 'behind the music' TV, read interviews and interact with their musical heroes on a level that just doe not occur in classical music. Orchestras could leverage the time of new composers by having the composer speak before (and after) the concert and getting them on local talk shows and on the internet -- make them someone your audience is going to want to meet and that audience will come to the concert.
Baltimore Symphony does a concert where non-professionals get to perform along side the professionals. What a great idea! Professional sports teams often have "feeder" teams. What about having a local orchestra of college students which perform their own concerts but then perform a couple of concerts as part of the major symphony? You'd not only be encouraging better performances out of the younger performers, but you'll get all their family and friends wanting to attend and more interested in the parent organization as well.
Again, the idea is to think outside the box in ways that are focused on the under 30 crowd. Program music they listen to, program new music they haven't heard but is conceptually something they would be interested in, and get them involved in your organization.