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  • Writer's pictureJulian S. Scott

I don’t care what you do—I probably will not attend a (insert a music genre you dislike) concert

Updated: Oct 30, 2022

I spend a lot of time pondering how “classical” performing arts organisations (particularly the ones I am involved in) can be more genuinely accessible, inclusive and enjoyable in order to expand our collective audiences. It's my observation that many organisations are twisting themselves into knots with slogans and buzz words, but little authentic and actionable substance. If the goal is to bring in new faces outside of their traditional audience compositionmost are clearly falling short right now.

I also wonder how many organisations have truly reflected on who their actual and potential audiences actually are, and if they open the proverbial door wider, will anyone actually walk in? If you don't know who is sitting in your seats todayit's hard to know who to reach out to and how to fill those empty seats tomorrow.

My take is most current classical audiences compose of the four main groups:

  1. Insider—student, amateur or professional musician or BTC (behind the curtain) contributor

  2. Inclined—grew up in musical or artistic family, has a family member or friend who performs, and/or played/s an instrument

  3. Inquisitive—for whatever reason wants to learn more about the performing arts or become more “cultural” or perceived as more “cultural”

  4. Incidental—guest of any of the above with no innate interest

Given these four primary audience groups, there is a lot of work that can be done to better welcome, engage and sustain each over time based on their unique needs, interests, and expectations to help ensure they come all come back again.

I read the other day in a post from industry expert Aubrey Berguer, 9 out of 10 first-time attendees don’t return. The smart bet then is to start here and figure out who they are, why they don’t want to come back and what can be done about it. But, you cannot do this if you don’t understand who they are and why they have not opted to come back (and it's likely connected to why many won't come in the first place.)

Ideally, these conversations will point most organisations in the right direction so they can focus their very limited resources on solutions that will actually make an impact by engaging and retaining their current relationships. Once one gets this right, it’ll be a whole lot easier with these insights to start building new, more inclusive and authentic relationships.

All this to say, as an absurd example, if the country music industry decided to try to target someone like me to go to a concert, it would probably be a fruitless effort. It’s just not "my thing" no matter how hard they may try—well, except Dolly Parton. Who doesn’t love Dolly? Right?

We need to get real and acknowledge classical and “Western-inspired” music as well as related art forms simply may not be everyone’s “thing.” The challenge here, or really the opportunity, is to make sure if it is someone’s “thing,” our doors are open and we're ready to meaningful welcome them back in again or for the first time.

How we do that is a whole other conversation!

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1 Comment

Nov 05, 2022

Where do we start? random sampling? It's quite true. I always ask the people around me, about why they are there, what they think. Your ratios are correct. If a person came alone, unless you were a chatty Kathy like me, they wouldn't engage with anyone. It's a very intimidating crowd, but we don't want it turning into a AA meeting either. What's the solution?

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