Symphony Series Topic: Attracting Younger Audiences [part two]
Symphony orchestras are experimenting with all kinds of tactics in attempt to attract younger audiences and fill those empty seats during performances, and we’ve rounded up some of the most popular ideas for your consideration. Not all of these ideas will work for every orchestra, but they can still offer valuable insight into what younger audiences are looking for, and they may spur other ideas that are a better fit for your orchestra and community. Here’s what we found.
- Go to the people and play for free. Performing at special events in your community shows that you are part of your community and presents your artform in an open and accessible environment for everyone to enjoy. It also exposes some members of your community to music they may otherwise never hear.
- Play in unusual locations. Get out of the hall. Flee the forum. Choosing an offbeat location adds a level of uniqueness to the experience that has broader appeal with a younger crowd.
- Simplify ticket sales. Younger generations don’t plan activities months in advance. Many have a spur-of-the-moment approach and will use their phones to find things to do. Online ticket sales and last-minute discount tickets are perfect for this crowd.
- Provide a variety of locations to buy tickets. (And be thoughtful about the locations, too.) If I’m having dinner at my favorite local restaurant on a Saturday and see that I can buy last-minute tickets to the symphony, guess what I’ll be doing that evening.
- Shorten programs. Speed and efficiency are modern expectations, and shorter attention spans are the unfortunate consequence. Shorter performances can keep inexperienced attendees from fidgeting in their seats.
- Lengthen intermissions. Thirty-somethings are often looking for opportunities to socialize, and this frequently involves food and drink. Giving them time to do more than go to the bathroom at intermission can be a good way to get them to come back and bring friends.
Partner with other attractions in your community to create “experience packages”.
- Make time for social media. Taking selfies during a performance is definitely a no-no, but designating a time before the performance, during intermission, or after the concert is over is a great way to appease the selfie crowd without causing major disruption. It will also organically boost your presence on social media.
- Promote your orchestra throughout your community. Connect with local bars, restaurants, hotels, and other community businesses that your target audience patronizes. Sponsor special events that show community support and build awareness. This applies to online communities as well.
- Offer deals and discounts for people under 35. Seniors enjoy discounts. Why not thirty-somethings?
- Offer discounted tickets for open rehearsals. The less formal nature of a rehearsal plus a cheaper ticket might do the trick.
- Designate performances for specific age groups. Performances just for families with young children can alleviate the stress of disapproving stares if a child misbehaves. It also establishes an appropriate expectation of audience behavior for the orchestra.
- Play familiar music. Movie scores, TV themes, cartoon themes, Disney themes, rock, pop—make the music more accessible while still finding a balance between traditional and contemporary.
- Make tickets more affordable. Attracting younger people with less disposable income is going to be tough if you’re pricing your tickets for retirees. Also, you’re competing with other forms of entertainment that are far more affordable. Apples and oranges? Yes. But for the first-timer, you can’t place yourself so far out of reach that it exceeds their grasp.
- Make a day of it. Partner with other attractions in your community to create “experience packages” that include a hotel stay, meal at a local restaurant, museum tour, or other activities that work together and make planning simple.
- Engage them when they do attend. Make a point to have ushers greet audience members and welcome them to the performance. Inquire if they are first-timers and offer to answer questions and guide their experience.
The more ways you can get your orchestra connected to and involved in your community, the more opportunities you’ll have to understand what they want and need to make music a long-term part of their lives.
If you have a strategy or tactic that has worked to build younger audiences for your symphony orchestra and you’d like to share it, please email your ideas to Yahna McFalls. If we like your idea, we may share it in a future blog post.