Time for a rant! The obsession with attracting the younger audience, making music cool and hip with hip advertising, funky clothes and punky billboards is the same as trying to sell a Yugo by putting a great stereo in it. After a while they will realize what it is and buy a bicycle and an ipod because it will go faster! Worse, it might be discrimination….
Billboards I have seen:
Try A Few New “Bars” Tonight!
Young people are not fooled by this stuff, and so if they try it once and don’t like it then the chances are you might lose them forever…oh but we at least tried… No excuse!
We blur the lines of discrimination without getting caught out. If we do a series for the Young People then are we going to turn away the …Old People? Are we saying that old people are not welcome? If this kind of series and marketing fails (as they mostly do), then the message sent is:
We are doing a series just for you, it’s young hip and cool. The other series we do is not for you, it is for the more traditional audience
Therefore when it fails we have just told the young person, that we now have no series for them to attend…and believe me they wont!
We need to create series that appeal to everyone, the same goes for the marketing. Creating a series and engaging the venue that you hold it in as an all encompassing experience should be the goal. It is a stretch to think that a single demographic can make a series successful (except for the occasional special concert such as Video Games Live). Those who want to learn, can learn, those who want to be uplifted, can be uplifted, those who want to be entertained can be entertained, and those who want to meet someone, and have a social experience, should have a place available to go in the Hall if they don’t feel like seeing the concert after intermission. It is not compromising when you please everybody!
Classical Music is not Rock & Roll, Pop, or Hip Hop…so marketing departments need to get over it and stop trying to pretend it is. Many in the arts world don’t think they are legitimate art forms anyway, so it is lunacy that we use them to try and trick people into attending our concerts! True art forms or not (for me they most certainly are), one thing is for sure, they are true to themselves, and that sincerity is what engages people. Classical music also has this sincerity and also can provide an emotional uplift that is unmatched by virtually any other art form. Here’s an idea….USE THAT.
We try so hard to look for new audiences, that in the end when it fails we shout…
Well I guess they must be stupid, that’s why they’re not coming.
No, they are not coming because we are stupid to think we could fool them. Newsflash, not everyone likes caviar either, so does that make them unsophisticated? NO, IT MEANS THEY DON”T LIKE CAVIAR!!!!!
Instead of us trying to trick someone into buying a ticket, how about us trying to make music a relevant part of their life. Those other genres are doing just that. Our focus needs to shift to accessibility rather than niche markets. Seriously, a concert series with a cheaper ticket price for the young makes it a more expensive series to put on since revenue is so minuscule, so in year two cuts to the series need to be made….wait it never usually gets to year two. The fact is, that even if we sold every seat to every concert, we would still need to raise a lot of money to break even. It is just not economically sustainable…but it is so much fun coming up with those billboards…Get over it!
If we are going to target the young, the smart way to do it, is to target the next generation of philanthropists, political leaders and board members since we will need more dollars from them later on. I am glad to hear that some orchestras are forming these groups (our Young Patrons group is called Crescendo). No one is ever going to abandon the traditional concert in favor of these quirky ones, so integration makes the most sense. Since there are empty seats, then we only gain by trying to fill them by offering great deals for students and first timers and not blow our budgets on series that cannot possibly break even. As an exception, a series such as Chicago’s Beyond the Score has a chance to succeed because it uses programming that is being presented elsewhere in the season, meaning it is incorporated into the existing rehearsal schedule, very smart! Check out the cool video content available here
The other thing that is infuriating to me is the fact that we are not marketing to the true demographic that we can actually make some inroads into. In part 5, of the Knight Foundation’s Search for Shining Eyes report, Fresh Thinking, scroll down to Pointing to New Paradigms to reveal some astounding statistics that could really help. This one stood out to me:
Time to get out the old year books and see if anyone in the school choir is still living in the area!
Quality does not mean accessibility. I am so tired hearing the words, “if they just come once they will be hooked forever”. This has not born out otherwise these new audience initiatives would have worked and we wouldn’t have to keep rolling them out. We place such heavy emphasis on marketing our accessibility and yet we actually have done very little about it in reality. If we are going to tell everyone we are accessible, then let’s become accessible first!
So let’s flip the idea and read what a letter might be like to attract Symphony subscribers to a Hip Hop series:
Dear Symphony Subscriber,
There is a new virtuoso Rapper named Forte Cent, who’s specialty is Fine Classical Rap….his concerts have an intermission, there are supertitles (or lyrics will be on the provided PDA), late comers will have to wait till a song is finished before being seated, no one is allowed to applaud between songs, no one is allowed to leave before it is over and oh yes food and drink is not allowed. So please buy a subscription.
Oh yeah, that will cause a surge in sales because Hip Hop is the new Classical right?….Let’s not go the way of the Yugo!