I normally do not post this much during the week, but I am thinking out loud this morning. Please consider this post a draft of a more refined conversation in the future.
In terms of the performing arts, I have been seeing a great many articles about how the youth are saving the arts. Here is one from this morning: These kids are reviving the heart and soul of classical music.
The article mentions the superb playing ability of these younger musicians, and yes, it is about a youth orchestra. Yet, I am wondering, the young people who do not become professional musicians of an orchestra, are they becoming audience members?
The reports of the past indicate that the audience is mainly comprised of people that have participated in the arts either via school, private lessons, or a community outlet. The reports are surveying audiences of today. The majority of audiences of today are still Baby Boomer generation and up.
Case in point, I went to a concert last night, a chamber music concert with Glass, Verdi and Wagner. It was a great mix of new and old pieces that are rarely performed. I looked around, and GenX me was the youngest one there! There were no millennials, except onstage. There were no other GenXers except onstage. This was a concert performed in a very cool, new community venue too.
There is a great concern here. For the hands-on generations, even though they may have had lessons, may have performed in their high school plays, may have taken art classes, I have to wonder about the disconnect from those reports past. Why are they not becoming the new audience members? Probably because they are busy developing their own worlds instead. They prefer it this way for the most part. Or is it the fact that the percentage of youth that enjoy classical performances are the ones on the stage? Or maybe they are the ones in the administration background instead? Either way, they are part of the action and not part of the audience.
I remember asking a younger performer who was in town if he ever was able to be an audience member. He replied that he almost never had the time.
Another story closer to home, I have a dear friend who is coming to visit soon. We were both in our college philharmonic, both music majors, and both decided not to become professional orchestra members. When I mentioned a concert that we could go to, she didn’t respond to the concert and instead sent me a list of different activities to do. I was very surprised. Either the idea of being an audience member doesn’t appeal to her, or music has scorned her in some way where she doesn’t want to participate at all anymore (which also can happen). The Shakespeare Festival didn’t appeal to her either, but she did mention going to a movie or perhaps the new Stories on Stage format that we have here, because it was something new to her. Something new and different seems to buzz for younger people.
Programs such as “Rusty Musicians” and other hands-on programming may be needed to get these generations to transition, and I am very curious to see if the transition occurs or if they only want to go to the formats where they are part of the action.
What is interesting is that for the performances that do have younger people attending, such as the club atmospheres and the more casual formats, the younger audience may not have been arts participants in the past. They might just be young people looking for something different and fun to do as previously mentioned.
In conclusion, we need a new survey that will report about the younger generations, which is harder to obtain since they are not a part of the main audiences. If you happen to be a venue/artist/organization who is able to obtain these younger audience members, please, help us all out by surveying and reporting back to us.
Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Audience Development Specialists
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
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