Submitted by: Manhattan School of Music
by +-John-Morgan Bush (mentor: Ar Adler)
In response to The Savvy Musician Challenge #2
Attracting New Audiences. Classical and jazz performances often appeal to only a small segment of our population, typically aficionados. Design a chamber music experience (4 players or less) that will engage new and untraditional audiences. Describe your target demographic(s), why they will be interested, the event design, and marketing strategy.
Right now, it is in the hands of kind but aging concert-goers that the future of live music rests. If we want more than gray heads in our audiences, we cannot continue to use gray-headed marketing techniques. Simply put, this is a matter of adaptation, and growth. Live performance today has the potential for growth never before seen. There exists a huge portion of our society that is simultaneously curious for new things, yet unfamiliar with live classical or jazz music performances. We can cultivate that curiosity. We can revitalize our art. But for growth like that, we must employ techniques that are drastic and will change the face of live classical and jazz performances.
Step 1: Consider who we want attending our performances.
Have you thought of who exactly you want in your audience besides family, friends, and fellow musicians?
In order to launch any good business model, you need a target demographic. People want the product you are selling. Let’s be honest, music has a commercial side. The more we ignore it, the more damage we do to ourselves. We need middle-class young professionals ranging from mid 20s to early 40s to fill our seats. This new demographic includes young people who are open to new ideas, interested in self-development and self-cultivation, and are still working toward cultivating personal tastes. They are flexible and malleable. It is because of this open mind-set that we can hope to plant the seeds for a love of the arts and music that can continue to grow over the years; ultimately leading to financial patronage of the arts when these potential concert goers are established in their careers.
Step 2: Now we know who we want in our audience, we must make them aware of our performances.
Let’s call this new, young group GenY for Generation Y. GenY’ers are all about what is in, and what is now. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google, texting, websites, e-mail, iPhone applications, blogs, and the Internet in general are where GenY turns for what it needs to know and to search for what is out there. If we are not plugged in to this media, how can GenY be expected to go out of its way to find us? If we launched major campaigns on all of these various electronic resources, not only would we be able to reach our target demographic, but we would also begin to transform our image from old and outdated to a thriving, vital force in the modern world.
Step 3: Great! Now we have exposure directed toward a particular demographic, but how do we present ourselves to this new public?
The answer is in a completely different way. Many GenY’ers have the misconception that classical music is exhausted and outdated. Today everyone wants to know; how does this relates to me and how I feel? We have to meet that need, whether or not we deem it necessary.
Too many musicians have developed the idea that their art is not related to their audience. This comes across in dull and boring publicity, posters that portray classical music as an elite phenomenon, lack-luster radio shows, and the total lack of publicity on television and the internet. We need new, tangible forms of advertisement that meet today’s over-the-top-fireworks-in-the-sky-to-the-nines standard.
GenY would appreciate huge billboard advertisements with witty designs, and edgy color-saturated graphics. We could flood the market with e-media, videos of interviews with musicians, recordings of rehearsals, short documentary films and interviews that provide intriguing background on the composers or music that sparks interest in GenY. In short, we need materials that get people fired up and not burnt out.
Step 4: We’ve gotten their attention; they have bought a ticket– now we must deliver.
If we have worked so diligently to change how GenY looks at what we do in our chamber music and orchestral performances, then we must also make the performance itself fit those themes. Gone are the days of an audience sitting rigidly and uncomfortably silent.
New conversational performances that build deep relationships between the performer and the audience are the way of the future. Our concert halls and traditional venues are not the problem here. We don’t have to take our art into crowded bars and other unconventional places to be heard. What scares people away from our concert halls is the old worn-out concert etiquette of a bygone era. Silence between movements? No one speaks on stage? No explanation of a piece beyond jargon-riddled program notes? Why do we persist in these exhausted rituals?
The audience paid money to be a part of the performance that evening. People pay money to see major motion pictures because a good movie takes them on a ride to which they somehow relate. That is the goal we must achieve in our own performances in order to bring GenY back to the next show.
We know our music is of good quality. We feel the power contained within it. Musicians appreciate music because we are so well educated about it. It is imperative to educate our audiences about the music to give it context and to make the music relevant.
With regard to programming, we must present musical selections in our concerts with obvious and interesting relationships. This helps the untrained listener appreciate a group of works rather than only one piece on the program. In other words, they must make a connection or we lose them. That is what everything prior to the performance is geared toward: from the marketing to introduction of the music on stage, to the performance itself; we must set the stage and prime the listener for the actual live experience.
We cannot expect our audience to do the homework. Our goal in giving performances is to engage the audience in creative ways so that they may join us and feel like a part of the concert experience. The window is small, the task is enormous, but nevertheless this is our challenge.
Manhattan School of Music’s Office of Career Development is dedicated to helping young, emerging musicians establish a pathway toward their career goals. We assist students by providing career advisement and employment opportunities while fostering an entrepreneurial approach; filling their career “toolbox” with practical knowledge that can be incorporated into their career strategy immediately.