The survival of the orchestra in its current form is in question -- not the music they play, just the form of the orchestra, and its role in the concert hall.
Orchestras are struggling for money, but the problem isn't the music they play; it's how they market themselves. They are approaching pops audiences with the same approach as they do lovers of Mozart or Beethoven. Summer concert goers are drastically different from the regular season audience as are the way orchestras play/perform their Summer shows verses their Winter ones. New forms of communication and media are being given the same marketing brush as previous forms of printed media. But, like the difference between Summer and Winter, the audience is different.
Studies show people under the age of 40 are 80% more likely to get their news from the internet than they are from printed media. Less than 5% of the people under the age of 30 even list printed media as a source for their news. When choosing what restaurants to go to, and what concerts to attend, social media plays a huge role in the decision process. Social media allows people to, at a glance, to not only see what's available (and there are LOTS of choices), but to see what other's think. Feedback from the "average Joe" has more weight than a critic's review. As a reviewer, I hate to think my days are numbered - but honestly, the younger crowd is more interested in how many people like something than what one particular person says.
What this means is orchestras need to engage with their target audience --Social media is the tool(s) of choice. But are they really engaging their target audience?
Posting a news release to their facebook page or tweeting the same information is just attempting to deliver the same message they've been sending out for years in a new media. Even if an orchestra has 10k followers on twitter, the chances of any of these users actually re-tweeting any of the "press release" type-tweets to their audience is pretty slim. Users on Twitter value personal information and a 'peek behind the curtain'. Press releases they can see on their news feeds.
Over the past month I've been watching what orchestras say on Facebook and twitter. Few are saying anything other than marketing-speak. Some of them even go so far as to publicize events 2, 3 & 4 months from now. While, yes, it's a good idea to get the word out early, social media is a very "now" form of communication.
It's also social, which means to get people engaged orchestras need to engage with users. IF someone says something nice on twitter, re-tweet it with a thank you. Get people IN the organization involved chatting about events, both before and after. The more people talk about something, the more people will be talking about it.
Marketing is changing, however, I don't see many orchestras changing their message. Yes, they're using new forms of media but they aren't saying anything new or engaging in a new way. If the audiences are dwindling, it's time to change the message, join the conversation and engage.