Thursday, March 12, 2009

How do we get young audiences to classical concerts?

Last night I went to a Young People in the Arts event at the Festival Hall - a London Philharmonic Orchestra concert, with a talk before with Tim Walker (the Chief Executive of the LPO) and their soloist for the evening Daniel Mueller-Schott. The topic of debate centred around how to get young people to come to classical concerts. One question raised was the price of tickets - was it putting young people off coming to concerts? Tim Walker stated that some tickets for LPO concerts are now cheaper than going to the cinema, so surely not! Plus, the point was raised, young people pay huge sums for pop concert tickets, so the issue is certainly not that young people can't afford classical concerts. I think it's fairly clear cost has very little to do with it, the question is much more about content and presentation and how comfortable young people feel about coming to a concert, without feeling out of place or mystified by the whole experience.
A really interesting point Tim Walker did raise was an example of a European orchestra who had asked a group of under 26s why they didn't attend concerts. The overwhelming feedback was that they didn't want to be seen to be doing the same thing as their parents! As a result, the orchestra put on the same performance of a concert at 11pm for under 26s only, and the place was full. Do you think this is the case in England too? Does classical music have an 'old people' label on it you don't want to be associated with?
Another issue raised was where orchestras performed. Tim Walker argued concert halls were the only way forward - something I disagree with. When challenged, he could only come up with "well we can't perform outside, the sound wouldn't carry." As if outdoor venues are the only alternative option?! The New London Orchestra is going to be performing at a nightclub for Peter & the Wolf, it's still got a roof (!), a box office and a decent size stage and can seat 1,000 people. The point is that it's in an area that doesn't have a lot of concert halls but that doesn't mean we shouldn't go there.

Talking of Peter & the Wolf, we're getting loads of responses to our ticket offers that went out to Newham's biggest employers - Tate & Lyle and Newham Council. Great to know there is an audience in East London for this type of event and thanks to those who've put a little comment about why they'd like to come, it's really interesting to know.


  1. Good presentation...

    Legal process outsourcing(LPO)

  2. Really interesting stuff...

    In particular, I couldn't agree more on the question of venue. There are numerous interesting and innovative spaces that could be used for performances.

    That said, it needn't always even go that far. After Peter & the Wolf at the Rex our next concert will be at the Stratford Circus. It's a designated performance space, it's not as if we will be performing on the concourse at Stratford Station or in the shopping centre!

    However, just because the venue-type is relatively traditional it doesn't mean the location has to be. If we're really bothered about reaching people, surely it's time to stop expecting that everyone will know us and seek us out and instead to get up and go and find them.