Audience Development and the symphony orchestra-do you really want GenX?

This morning my thoughts are on the symphony orchestra, the musicians and the audience.  I recently went to a CMF concert where the musicians were mainly GenX’ers (27-43), but the audience was still mainly Baby Boomer and Silent generation (44+).  Why is it that orchestra’s seem to have no problems with refilling the performer seats, but have all the troubles of filling the auditorium seats with this age group?

Please allow me the ability to ramble a bit on this blog.  I hope my thoughts will lead to some useful solutions in the end.

Since I am GenX, I will be referring to this group as “we.”  We tend to have some disposable income at hand so GenX is a prime target for all of the arts.  However, are the arts seriously looking at what makes our generation tick and how to connect with us?  I am seeing a little more out of the comfort zone marketing to attempt to lure us, but for the most part, same old same old structures are still in place, and they do not work for us.

So here is a nutshell view of what the majority of GenX tends to lean towards:

1. We like it bold and quick.  If you don’t capture our MTV attention spans within the first few sections, you lose us.   This means that information needs to be short and sweet, filtered, bulleted, bold, colorful, and daring.  Once you have our attention, you have our attention.

2. We rarely tend to commit to package deals, unless they are flexible and convenient and/or something irresistible is a part of the deal.  Subscriptions are dying due to this lack of commitment from my age group.  I admit that I rarely buy subscriptions.    However, I do see that we tend to purchase season passes if we really enjoy something.  The Season Pass is different than a subscription.  For one, we can use it anytime we want as opposed to subscriptions that are mainly set concert packages with set dates.  Another reason Season Passes work is if they have some extra value attached to it.  My age group loves to buy if we can use the pass in more than one way.

3. My age group will go to a concert if there is a fun social activity attached.  Why do you think we purchase $50-$300 tickets to a rock concert?  We get to hang out with our friends and be a part of the scene.

4. With GenX, loyalty is built when relationships and trust are built.  We are the age group that may have had some exposure to the arts as kids, but it wasn’t pushed as a mainstream activity like it was for the Baby Boomers.  Why do you think typical marketing is not working for this age group?  Audience development is important to get the GenX crowd coming to your events.  Transparency and trust are needed to build relationships, two things that marketing alone isn’t very good at establishing.

5.We tend to listen to ourselves and our friends more than the media.   Find bright GenX’ers to be a part of your team. Getting GenX to become part of the audience means getting GenX’ers as staff and volunteers to help with the relationship building.

Lastly, to address the interesting point of young performers vs. young audience, I feel the big reason GenX may not be attending is the fact that GenX likes to participate.  If you take a look at our generation as a whole, GenX likes to be a part of the action, either as individuals or sometimes in groups.  We like to get our opinions out there; we like to make a difference; we like to tell people about new things that are happening.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at Twitter and Facebook.  I’m fairly certain that the majorityof the users are GenX (and GenY).    Some of the other users are people attempting to get in touch with GenX.

So, with this said, if you add more audience participation to the mix, GenX would really like it.  Going to a concert that forces us to be quiet the entire time is not what most of us consider fun.  Being a part of the concert is more fun.  I do believe there is a way to incorporate audience participation without offending the older generation.The neat thing is, when more audience participation is incorporated, most of the audience, regardless of their generation, has a great deal of fun and the concert will be more memorable, which helps build audience for future concerts and events.    This audience participation element also is good to use at your special events and gala to attract GenX to become donors and volunteers.

All in all, it really isn’t the fact that my generation doesn’t like classical music, it’s more due to the fact that the way classical music is sold and performed is not our bag.  The proof, look at internet sales.  Younger generations are buying classical music online.

If we don’t have a say in what and how we buy, and if there is no avenue for participation, most of us will not spend our hard earned money on a product that does not take our desires into account.

If you want to reach us, it may be time to make the changes that will reach us.

Until next time, may your audiences be happy and loyal ones, and if they are not, feel free to contact me!

~Shoshana~

Shoshana Fanizza is the founder of Audience Development Specialists. Her mission is to introduce artists and arts organizations to their existing and potential audiences and to help them to form more rewarding relationships.

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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