An article hit me in the face this morning. Wham!
I needed it too. Despite all the attempts to change the experiences to fit new audiences’ preferences, we do have an underlying problem that we should be focusing on. Here are a few quotes from this article:
With the turning of the calendar now to September, orchestras and opera companies begin their new seasons and a simmering anxiety about declining audiences bedevils executives and their boards.
Inevitably some organizations act on the widespread but generally erroneous assumption that people don’t attend orchestra concerts because of the formalities of the concert hall, the ways in which patrons dress or behave or because the concert experience itself isn’t “diverse” enough.
Change of attitude
It’s not, however, the experience of attending an orchestra concert that needs modification, as if encouraging patrons to cheer and whistle between the movements of a symphony is all that’s needed for sell-outs. Rather, it’s the public attitude toward orchestral music that needs to be cultivated.
The decline comes not from the formalities of the concert hall experience, but from the erosion of the idea that classical music is worth knowing. People don’t come because they don’t care.
…It will require much more [than pop cross-overs and informal dress and presentation]. It will take a strong conviction that the effort is worth it and the courage to explain the ways in which orchestral music is more richly rewarding than some other musical forms. Such conviction however, is increasingly difficult in today’s egalitarian culture that insists all art forms are of equal value.
Absent that conviction, only the music that’s most aggressively and shamelessly marketed will get into the ears of children. And then not only orchestras will be the losers.
The article sites two instances of audience development efforts being executed successfully to outreach and connect with potential, new audience members.
The underlying issue is that people do not have the benchmark arts as part of their everyday lives anymore, and this is why they don’t care about us. In order to get people to care, we need to care about taking the time and effort to outreach and show them why our arts matter, and why the arts would matter to them personally.
I have always felt that shifting the experiences and experimenting with new presentations can be used as a gateway to an art form. As mentioned before, it could be time to evolve in several ways since our world is changing. I do agree though that informal this and that may not do the trick if the underlying problem of apathy is still there.
This is one of the many reasons why audience development is crucial for today. It’s not about the spin, it’s about getting people to care again, to realize that the arts can open them to a knew way of thinking and feeling. It’s about the good stuff of why we are artists in the first place. Sharing what really matters and outreaching to people that are ripe for this sharing is the way to go.
It’s about getting to know people again, building relationships, and sharing what truly matters, the arts! So, although I feel it is time to experiment and potentially find some new rhythms of producing arts, it is more crucially important to reach and connect with people again. This will make all the difference in the world because these efforts will bring care back into the equation. We certainly want people to care about the arts again. Right?
Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Audience Development Specialists
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
Please consider supporting ADS so we can continue our work. Donate here!
***Purchasing my book will help support ADS and our mission.***