More ASS in clASSical: The secret to enlightenment….BEER!

How could we have missed it, the answer to what ails Classical Music is in fact…..ale!  If all else fails then isn’t alcohol always the answer….hmmm.  This according to Louise Jury the “chief arts correspondent” for the London Evening Standard, which I remember as the paper (when I was a student in London) I never needed to buy simply because no one commuting home (it is sold outside tube stations) would ever keep it, so I always had my choice of copies to read!  Again here we go with the inane and the ridiculous and the worst of it is that it is not an original idea, and it has already failed before….

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has a series for the “young” called The Night Shift and it seems to be thriving so kudos for that, but the article by Louise Jury tries to sum up that this kind of series is what is needed to fix Classical Music based on the research gathered from….3 orchestras!:

Live classical music must change if it is to attract younger audiences, research reveals today.

What is needed is a less formal concert atmosphere, chats about the music from the conductor and cheap ticket prices that include a free beer.

Again there is nothing wrong with this series although the dirt cheap tickets, small venue (915 seats), plus the beer equals to very little revenue so economically it is hardly a viable argument that it will save us!  Halls are not built for this kind of thing which is actually one of the big problems.  Designers need to take into account the different kinds of audiences and build the ultimate accessible venue, which is what my Audience Connection students final will be about.  The problem is not about attracting younger audiences, it is about attracting the older audiences who have disposable income and can hopefully help endow the future.  Our most successful age group is the 45 to 65ish set and we get such a tiny fraction, but because it is not cute or sexy to market to them, we instead go after the young ones, who have little disposable income and who wont become donors….or even subscribers….until they are in the 45 – 65 age range!

The numbers don’t make sense which is why nearly all of those “young people” concert series invariably fail.  Plus (and I have said this repeatedly), it can feel very discriminatory to an ‘older” person if you indicate that the new series is not for the “old people”.  Couple that with telling the young person that your regular series is not for them, meaning that when the new series fails, you have already told them to stay away, and THEY WILL!  PSSSSST don’t tell the chief arts correspondent but there is this rumor that older people like beer too, and they wouldn’t mind it being included in their ticket price!

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that this series works not just because it is well thought out, well marketed and is a complete event, but it is a niche event and it is very cheap to attend…and that wont save Classical Music (which in itself doesn’t need saving).  Back to the hall point, now if there were a way to have a section where you could bring a beer in and/or text message etc…., then you are accounting for multiple demographics and the so called “traditional” concert might have a fighting chance.  I must say I am all for the talking between pieces, I do think there is a place for that because it is a personal connection to the audience.

In Buffalo there was a series Beer and Jeans which became such a booze fest that it became beer on and in jeans!  It failed.  Then came New Attitudes which offered  free martini’s on a Friday night!  So to get the “free martini” it cost $25 for the ticket and then $7 to park….it ended up with an average attendance of less than 400 in a 3000 seat hall but the Orchestra (and myself) loved the martinis!  It failed and it lost so much money that it was cheaper to cancel it and give up the sponsorship dollars that supported the series!

We are great at the superficial, but not at the effort it takes to build lasting bonds, the grass roots marketing needed for sustainability.  I believe a chance to volunteer, network, meet someone, feel comfortable even spend time with family are where we should focus on building our younger audience base. By creating those opportunities in the context of our regular concert settings, (and every once in a while offer something that goes between the lines) we are not blowing huge holes in our budget for the sake of “cool” and the programs have a chance of succeeding.  We shy away from the “traditional” but would it be “cool” if attending a concert became a a family tradition which is a true way of bridging the generational divide.  There is a veritable graveyard of cool, cute, sexy, fun marketing programs and concert series for the young and for everyone that may appear to be succeeding, there are hundreds that fail.  I would say with advances in health and technology no one is “old” anymore, or they don’t have to be, so STOP EXCLUDING THOSE OF AGE, simply because if they like the series, they may actually support it with sustainable dollars.

However in the “spirit” of the discussion, I have decided to assist Ms. Jury and come up with some titles for alcohol related series, please feel free to add any:

Delius and Drunkeness

Let’s get Drunk with Franck!

Richard Wagner with your Goldschlager

Svodba  with a dash of  Vodka

Gwynneth Walker meets Johnny Walker

Rach on the Rachs

The Rossini Martini

Publishers series:
Getting Boozy with Boosey
Have a Shot on Schott

7 thoughts on “More ASS in clASSical: The secret to enlightenment….BEER!”

  1. The sad thing, is that this marketing idea has been proved unsuccessful too many times. I remember our Casual Classics concert program in the 1990s…. guess what? It failed then, too.

  2. Have to agree with Silagh. I have spent half my life ‘educating’ the young ear and one thing is painfully obvious. Early introduction of the listening experience is pivotal to developing an appreciation for classical music.

    Schools could play a significant role here, but contemporary thinkers in academia have changed all that and alas! we are now beset with a whole generation launched into a cultural desert, thanks to ignorant teachers.

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