Tag Archives: younger audiences

“People don’t come because they don’t care.”

An article hit me in the face this morning.  Wham!

Arts: Misreading the declining audience problem

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,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

Please consider supporting ADS so we can continue our work.  Donate here! 

***Purchasing my book will help support ADS and our mission.***

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Are the youth wanting to be artists only?

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,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

Please consider supporting ADS so we can continue our work.  Donate here! 

***Purchasing my book will help support ADS and our mission.***

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‘SEE’ the power of music for arts audience development!

We are leading up to the Classical Music Webinar on Friday! Today we have a guest post by Catherine Starek.  Catherine is a graduate student with the desire to promote the arts to younger audiences.  She came across a particular type of program, symphonic photochoreography, that is being used by some orchestras with great results.  The following is her personal experience and opinions about this presentation and how it might be one answer for reaching out to new and younger audiences.  Enjoy!

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Do you ever wish you could ‘SEE’ the power of music?
bv Catherine Starek

If you answered yes, you aren’t alone. Some symphony orchestras are exploring innovative audio-visual performance options, such as James Westwater‘s symphonic photochoreography.

What is symphonic photochoreography? James Westwater explains: “Symphonic photochoreography is an innovative art form that engages audiences worldwide with evocative, multi-image photographic essays choreographed and performed live to selected works of classical music.” Learn more>>

bso_WestwaterKCC_grid

Baltimore Symphony performs a Westwater KCC piece.

I have attended two such performances, combining video and live orchestra.  The first was a performance of the Wizard of Oz by the North Carolina Symphony.

Every summer, the NC Symphony performs in Cary’s beautiful Koka Booth Amphitheatre. It is a lovely space with an expansive lawn, acres of surrounding forest, and a uniquely designed wooden stage situated next to Symphony Lake.  Members of the NCS staff roamed throughout the crowd, dressed as various Oz characters for the concert and screening of the Wizard of Oz.  The children’s  faces lit up with glee at the opportunity to meet Glinda the good witch, participate in the pre-concert “instrument zoo,” and stretch out on the lawn with their family for a picnic.  It was absolutely delightful.

North Carolina Symphony at Koka Booth (or Emerald City), July 10, 2010

Once the concert began, familiar sights and sounds flooded my senses. Hearing the music live was so exciting and the North Carolina Symphony performed with excellent precision and dynamic passion. The music coordinated perfectly with the moving images on the screen (sound track removed, of course). This was not only one of the most memorable concert experiences I have ever had, it made me appreciate the great talent, musical expression, and dynamism of the North Carolina Symphony musicians even more.

Video Games Live was another spectacular audio-visual performance experience. The Music Center at Strathmore located in North Bethesda, MD presented Video Games Live during their 2010-2011 concert season.  The multi-media extravaganza featured renowned video game composer, Tommy Tallarico, and incorporated members of the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale.  This too was an interactive audience experience.  Some of the highlights included Guitar Hero play-offs, an audience costume contest — although this time, instead of mini Dorothy’s and flying monkeys, Nintendo characters such as the Mario Bros and even Tingle from the Legend of Zelda co-mingled in the hall — and a Video Games Live soundtrack and poster raffle.

Tingle, missing his balloon – Strathmore presents Video Games Live on April 7, 2012

The concert itself incorporated dynamic, rock concert lighting, video game screen shots projected on three enormous screens on stage, and the National Philharmonic performing video game music live.  Members of the audience ranged across all generations and people young and old found common ground with video games they had grown up with and loved.  I felt like I was in a sports stadium.  As the concert progressed, the audience would interact with the performance onstage (without the fear that normally accompanies the interruption of an orchestra).  People would laugh, cheer, clap and outright holler with approval. You could tell everyone was having a great time.  It was another exciting concert that I will never forget. (Read about the entire experience here>>)

What does this mean in terms of audience development,especially among younger audiences?

The themes running throughout the majority of comments about this type of format run from interactive and intergenerational, to dynamic, exciting, and more.  Concerts that stimulate both the visual and audio senses, at least in my opinion, seem stickier.  Highly memorable and interactive.  Finding common ground with so many members of your community is exciting in itself and I think these concerts provide a forum that makes this possible.  It’s not just music, it’s a concert experience...a shared concert experience that becomes a story that audiences want to share with their family and friends.

With innovative partnerships, dynamic multimedia, and exciting, multi-sensory audience experiences such as these, I encourage symphony orchestras to continue thinking outside of tradition, push their creative boundaries, and connect with their audiences in a variety of ways that are relevant and interesting to them.  This means you have to know your audience, which takes time and stems from strong relationships.  With audio-visual performances to facilitate social interaction and common ground, and enthusiastic, dedicated arts organizations, I think symphony orchestras in the U.S. and abroad have a lot to look forward to on the audience development horizon.

As Ms. Fanizza of Audience Development Specialists would say:“Cheers to happy and loyal audiences!”

What do you think of these “unconventional” performances? Do you think multi-sensory performances are distracting or enhancing to the symphony orchestra experience?

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Recommended Reading

More than Meets the Ear: Orchestras dive into the wide, wide world of multimedia performance.This issue of SYMPHONY Magazine “highlights how orchestras utilize and benefit from multimedia, such as Westwater’s photochoreography (article cover photo).”

The League of American Orchestra’s SYMPHONY magazine.

To read the article, click here>>

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Catherine Starek holds a bachelor’s of music education degree from UNC-Wilmington and is pursuing a master’s of arts management at American University in Washington, DC. She is completing her graduate research on the Millennial generation, and effective strategies for engaging younger audiences and donors in the U.S. symphony orchestra experience. [:O)]
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Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

FacebookTwitterLinkedin

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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Audience development for orchestras…younger audiences

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You want young? Start listening! Audience development for arts conferences…

Due to funds, I am only able to go to one conference a year.  I hope this changes in the future.  I love being a part of conferences since the energy is contagious, and I am able to meet some fantastic people. If I were invited to speak at one of these conferences, I might have said…

Twitter has been so incredible for following conferences around the globe. Hashtags have become priceless in this respect.  I am glad I can be a part of the conference experiences, even if I am a fly on the Twitter wall.

The recorded keynotes have also been helpful.  Recently I was watching the final keynote for the League of American Orchestras conference, A Call to Action by Clive Gillinson. His actual speech begins about the 30 minute mark.  I loved what he had to say since it was forward thinking.  Become a part of the community and ask what you can do for them rather than what can be done for your organization, etc.  However, the delivery, the presentation and how he was dressed, was very formal and old school.  I tweeted that I wanted to see him in a Hawaiian shirt, or something equally bright to be in fashion with what he had to say.  I also have been thinking that in order to “get outside of the box,” perhaps we need to let our hair down more at these conferences instead of being so gosh darn formal.

Which brings me to the “You want young?” part of this post.  We all need/want younger audiences, right?  Many times, at these conferences, we hear from the older generations.  Very few conferences have younger speakers as a main event.  Are we listening to our younger generations?  Are we allowing them to get their viewpoint across to us?  If we want younger audiences, maybe we need to start listening to our younger participants.

This means that having a few keynotes presented by the younger generations would be most helpful.  I am all for learning from the experienced, but the younger generations have experiences to share as well.

In general, I do not feel we are listening to the younger generations as much as we could.  We attempt to figure out what they want, but are we really listening to what they want? Are we listening to their perspectives?

Perhaps we are afraid that what they want is something we would not like to offer.  Perhaps the older generation is afraid that they will no longer be valued if we allow younger generations time on the soap box.  These are fears we need to overcome if we truly want to be relevant to younger demographics.

GenY has personal experiences to share that are full of creativity and positive energy.  Why limit their share time to a breakout session?

GenX, being the oldest of the younger generations, has an interesting perspective and most are not afraid to share what they think.  They can be brash, but rather refreshing.  They can serve as a wake-up call if we allow them to speak to the general assembly.

The other younger generations rather participate than sit quietly with hands folded in their seats.  They will, however, listen to peers.

Conferences can be valuable for the sharing of new ideas, but in order for us to move forward, perhaps the conferences need to be more forward thinking in how they present and who is chosen to speak.  All generations have something special to offer.

I hope in the future to see more diversity in our conferences if this is what we are truly striving for. I am grateful to see some exceptions, but for the most part, older white guys are still ruling the roost.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

FacebookTwitterLinkedin

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

Although we are not a non-profit, if you would like to support ADS to continue our work, you can donate here.

My eBook

New eBook!  The How of  Audience Development for the Arts: Learn the Basics, Create Your Plan

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Welcome Wednesday for audience development: How to get young people through the door

Hello and welcome to our first Welcome Wednesday.  I am welcoming guest bloggers to bring other perspectives about audience development to you.  I came across this post via a twitter conversation.  Have you ever wondered how to reach out to a younger audience?  Of course you have, right?  Please welcome Melissa Hillman, Artistic Director of Impact Theatre in Berkeley, CA.   She has given me permission to repost her published entry for Theatre Bay Area’s Chatterbox.  Enjoy!

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Put Down That Remote: Getting Young People Through the Door

by / Melissa Hillman
Originally Published 2011-04-01 for Theatre Bay Area’s Chatterbox

“How do you get so many young people into your theatre? How can we do that?”

I’ve been asked these questions over and over and over. And over. The real answer is: I’m not sure. All I can tell you is what we’ve done, how we’ve done it and what I think you can do to better your chances of attracting the 18-35 audience. Will it work for you? I don’t know. Did it work for us? Yes, indeed.

Bear in mind that you need to do all of these things, all at the same time. This isn’t a pick-and-choose situation.

1. Do the kinds of plays young people want to see.
I am astounded by the fact that some larger theatres seem to believe young people should *always* be willing to translate, and blame self-centeredness, lack of interest in culture, lack of education and general boorishness when the 18-40 crowd don’t turn out in droves for a production of Dinner with Friends or Love Letters. Yet these very same theatres won’t slot a new play by an emerging playwright for fear of their subscribers’ reactions. They expect young people to translate, and heap condemnation upon them when they don’t, but they see older audience members’ potential lack of interest as their due. (P.S. Believe me when I tell you that 65 is the new 35. Many older Bay Area theatergoers are more adventurous than you think. TRUST. Moving on.)

While it’s always a good thing to have an active interest in the stories of people not in your age group (or ethnic group, or regional group, or religious group, etc), everyone longs to see their own stories, hopes, dreams, fears, realities and fantasies reflected in honest ways. Young people are no different. The key phrase here is “in honest ways.” A play by an older playwright with roles for young actors may or may not speak honestly to your desired potential younger audience members. Some older writers write very well for younger characters. Many do not. Large numbers of young people are not going to spring for tickets to a show that portrays them as mindless, boorish assholes. Find plays that speak honestly about the lives of young people in some way.

But how do I do that, Melissa?

I’m so glad you asked.

There are over 400 theatre companies in the nine-county Bay Area. We do more world premiere plays than almost any other region in the country—last I checked we ranked third. Yet it’s very common that staff from theatres who purport to want young audiences don’t come to world premiere productions at small theatre companies. How many emerging playwrights have you read this year? If the number is under 10, you’re slacking. Impact Theatre, my company, has produced a world premiere by, and/or entirely introduced to the Bay Area, these playwrights: Sheila Callaghan, Steve Yockey, Prince Gomolvilas, Enrique Urueta, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Liz Meriwether, Lauren Yee, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Joshua Conkel, Trevor Allen, Jon Tracy. This is a partial list—I stuck to people you’ve probably heard of. Most importantly, we’re a tiny dog on a very, very big block. There are a wagonload of companies doing precisely what we do. Find them. See their shows. Spy on the playwrights they use. Companies like mine are your R&D department.

Find directors who can make classic plays relevant and interesting—because they are. There are directors all over the country who draw loads of younger audience members into theatres to see Shakespeare, and a bunch of them are directing at these aforementioned smaller theatres.

2. Be realistic about your pricing.
It’s always annoying to hear people say, “But they’ll spend $60 on a concert ticket! Why won’t they spend $60 on theatre?” It’s like wondering why someone would drive all the way across country to be with her beloved but not drive just as long in the hope that she will meet a hot stranger in a bar. People drop bucks on concert tickets because they already know and love the artist and have every expectation of seeing a great show and having a great experience. Condemning those people for refusing to drop a similar amount of money on a show they may know little about that will, let’s be honest, likely bore them because it’s aimed entirely at someone else, is a bit much, yes? If you’re going to condemn the under-40 crowd for not dropping $60 on your play about middle-class, middle-aged white people and their midlife crises, you should also condemn Grandma because she’s not stocking her DVD collection with $60 of Robot Chicken.

So keep your ticket prices accessible. Some companies do an under-30 rate, which, quite frankly, I’m not wild about. That 30-40 crowd is young enough to need enticing into your theatre but old enough to be on the brink of having enough money to become donors and subscribers. You want them. They’re routinely ignored and that’s not going to pay off in the long run for your audience building. Make an under-40 rate if you must. Make some performances pay-what-you-will. Make your less attractive seating areas $20 for the first few weekends. Whatever you need to do, do it.

3. Market to young people.
If you’re not active on Facebook and Twitter, you need to be right now. Learn how to use these powerful tools properly. This isn’t a social media marketing post, so I’ll assume you can figure out where to get this info and move on. The blog on your website is going nowhere unless you’re pushing it with Facebook and Twitter, by the way.

Find ways to make your outreach to young people honest and, most importantly, unpretentious. One of the main things keeping young people out of the theatre is that they’re afraid they won’t fit in—they’ll feel awkward and out of place. As my friend’s dad was fond of saying, they’re afraid they’ll “stand out like a sheep turd in a bowl of cream.” You want to make them as comfortable as possible. A big step towards that is to use your marketing to make them feel welcome. Not pretend welcome, as in, “We want to sell you tickets,” but truly welcome, like “Come over and play with us! We just got a new toy!”

Theatre is not medicine. We don’t go because it’s good for us. We go because we think it’ll be awesome. Make sure you’re approaching your marketing properly. “It’ll be awesome” + “You’re totally welcome and will be comfortable” + “We’re not stuffy and pretentious” will go a long way. Make sure you’re delivering those goods onsite as well. Nothing drives someone away from your company forever as efficiently as an undelivered promise.

And that’s pretty much it. This is what I believe has worked for us over the past 15 years. I hope it’s successful for you as well. We all need to work together to build audiences for our future as an artistic community. There’s not a single one of us that exists on an island. We’re all in this together. [:O)]

Melissa Hillman is the Artistic Director of Impact Theatre in Berkeley, CA. She holds a PhD in Dramatic Art from UC Berkeley, where she was twice awarded the Mark Goodman Prize for Distinguished Theatrical Talent. In addition to Impact, Melissa has worked with Magic Theatre, A.C.T.’s MFA program, and Central Works Theater Ensemble. She’s taught at UC Berkeley, CSU East Bay, and the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, and currently teaches at the Berkeley Digital Film Institute.

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If you would like to be a guest blogger for our Welcome Wednesday series, please contact us!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

FacebookTwitterLinkedin

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

Although we are not a non-profit, if you would like to support ADS to continue our work, you can donate here.

My eBook

New eBook!  The How of  Audience Development for the Arts: Learn the Basics, Create Your Plan

Participatory Classical Music Webinar – Recording

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