Why are people under 40 not in your concert hall?

Symphonies are becoming increasingly aware that the average age of their patrons and ticket buyers are aging, with no real increase in getting a younger generation of symphony goers to replace them. Why??? It comes down to how we communicate with this younger generation.

If your concert hall does not have people under the age of 35, it is because of the culture you have established. They do not feel comfortable in your hall and until they do, they have no desire to attend your concerts.  This is, of course, a generalization, but overall, people under the age of 35 have a few things in common that we need to be aware of in order to effectively market to them.

There are roughly 79 million Millennials in the United States—25 percent of the population. The Millennials exceed the number of Baby Boomers (often their parents) by about 3 million. They have been through two recessions: one at the beginning of the millennium, another in the great recession caused by the mortgage crisis in 2009. These had a significant impact on the financial confidence and trust Millennials give corporations and organizations, which affects how they spend money.

Millennials tend to see themselves as conscientious with their money, making educated purchases and shunning excess. If it isn’t a good deal, they are not interested. 56% believe technology makes them more effective with their time. This group looks for speed, ease of purchase, and efficiency when choosing a shopping destination. Studies have shown that Millennials do not like brands that explicitly “sell” to them; but brands that provide new, robust, relevant information will have more success and create repeat engagement. This generation grew up in a world of choice. They know they have options in every aspect of their lives.

More than any other generation, Millennials rely on each other, sharing opinions with friends to make more informed decisions. They are a very social group. 54% believe technology makes them closer with friends and family. In order to connect to them, organizations need to be social and interactive, not just information vending.

Here are nine reasons Millennials may not be attending your concerts 

Are you online?
Most people under 40 do not remember a time before the internet. They grew up on social media; they are digital natives. The internet is not something they’ve added to their life. It has always been there. For many, it is where a good portion of their life is led. Eighty percent have a profile on one of the major social networking sites. They connect with friends (many they have never met in person), from around the world, they check out restaurants reviews before dining out and likely they are checking out what the internet says about you before buying a ticket. If you are not online – and not just a website – people under 40 will assume you are not interested in their business.

Are you inward focused?
If all your media messaging is spent attracting the people who already attend, then the ones who do not will never be interested.  The younger generations have a reputation of being self-absorbed – half have posted a “selfie” online. They also passionately support causes that inspire them. Over 80% made a financial gift to an organization in 2012. Their biggest discouragement in giving is not knowing how the gift will be used to make a difference. They want to be part of a larger cause. If that’s not you, they will get involved somewhere else.

They do not trust you
Two-thirds of people under 40 say “you can’t be too careful” when it comes to trusting people and are particularly leery of businesses. Only 19 percent felt people could be trusted generally speaking. They are cynical of those people and businesses they do not know. Younger generations will fact check your statistics and anecdotes. This is only made worse if your own facts do not match with other facts you or others have published about you. Inconsistencies scream of dishonesty.

You are not diverse enough
Millennials are the most diverse generation in history and they look for experiences that do the same. More than 40% of adult Millennials are non-white, the highest share of any generation. About half the newborns born today are non-white. If your symphony is not reaching people outside of one ethnic or cultural group, your box office has not hope of reaching Millennials.

You are too institutional
When it comes to institutions, Millennials run the other way. Political parties? Half describe themselves as independents. Marriage? Only 26% of Millennial adults have walked the aisle. Religion? Almost 3-in-10 are unaffiliated. That does not mean they cannot learn to see the benefits of those institutions, but unlike previous generations, they don’t trust them inherently. Symphonies are perceived as part of the establishment, so you will need to break this mold before you can gain their trust.

You focused on Sales, rather than social connection
The younger generations are all about social connections as evidenced by the rapid growth of social media. But they don’t want to see marketing. They prefer to engage with entities they resonate with, so if you are not engaging with them, they are not interested in you. Engagement is not telling them about your next concert; it is telling them why the concert will be interesting. 

Millennials are multi-taskers
This entire generation grew up with MTV, music videos and concerts that were filled with a variety of stimulus. Contemporary music concerts have lights and video, beyond the music. Many also include places to dance and become physically active while enjoying the concert. The idea of just sitting and listening to music is not something that interests the younger generation. If they want to just sit and listen to music, they’ll play it on their iPod or mp3 player. Concerts need to be more engaging, more stimulating to reach the younger audience.

Automated and last minute decisions
Everyone from McDonalds to Goldman Sachs have found that Millennials are not only willing, but more interested in automated transactions. They are comfortable purchasing tickets via websites, including on their smartphones. They are more willing to self-checkout the grocery store than their older counterparts. Many of their decisions are also last minute, wait to see what all their options are before actually making a purchase or committing to an evening’s activity. You need to provide Millennials with a way to purchase online, and if you really want their business, a way to do so up to the very last minute.

You don’t offer real community

They recognize the need to connect, but they’ve chosen to do it through affinity groups and not institutions. Using social media, they have cultivated relationships with people next door and around the world who share their viewpoints and perspectives. They want to have the support of their friends. Seventy percent of Millennials are more excited about a decision they’ve made when their friends agree, compared with 48% of non-Millennials. Connecting with people and products are an important part of their world. 

If you want Millennials in your concert hall you need to start thinking and acting more like a Millennial. 


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