I returned to Indiana a little over a year ago, after living in Manhattan for five months, as part of a sabbatical, attending concerts and other events nearly every night (and sometimes days). My purpose was to prepare for teaching a course on music entrepreneurship, and more broadly, audience development. When I arrived in NY, I thought I was looking for answers: how to get people to concerts, how to promote yourself, etc.
By the time I left I’d discovered that when it comes to developing new audiences under 40 (which is important if we want there to be future audiences over 40), no one really knows, especially when it comes to traditional classical music. Sure, there are things that work here and there, and lots of speculation. And some of those things, like multi-genre programming, more use of lighting and other theatrical elements, etc., upset some classical musicians.
It came to me that instead of finding the answers, what I had found was something infinitely more valuable. A question to shape my own work (including conversations with students, colleagues, and other music lovers):
How can we engage younger audiences without sacrificing artistic integrity?
A lot of classical-music traditionalists are concerned about new ways of programming and presenting music resulting in a lessening of standards. How do we make it work for everyone? How do we do music really, really welland do it in a way that engages new audiences?
Questions are more powerful than answers. Continuing to ask the question, even when you’ve found an answer, opens enormous possibilities.
Lots of people are engaged with the question, framed in a variety of ways. Greg Sandow has been for years, and is the person who first got me engaged in the conversation. He’s been a quite blogging role recently, with a new series of posts:
- Building a Young Audience
- Doing it
- Building a Young Audience (Second Part)
- Building a Young Audience (More on New Music)
- Building a Young Audience (More on the Culture Change)
- Building a Young Audience (Proof of Culture Change)
A friend recently pointed me to composer Chip Michael’s blog Interchanging Idioms, in which he explores, among other things, ways in which orchestras can develop an under-40 audience. Here’s a fascinating (if a bit meandering) conversation he posted on YouTube:
Finally, for today, multi-genre cellist Jon Silpayamanant, my friend and former student, suggests in his most recent blog post that for some failing large institutions, audience development may not be enough to rescue the enterprise.
Lots to think about as we imagine the future(s) for both classical music and classically-trained musicians.