In today’s Wall Street Journal “Sightings” column I write about the California Symphony’s new millennial outreach initiative. Here’s an excerpt.
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Everybody in the fine arts is asking the same question: How do you persuade millennials, accustomed as they are to the split-second convenience of hand-held on-demand entertainment, to get off their couches and see your shows? Some of the shrewdest answers are coming from the California Symphony, which has redesigned its website in response to the input of under-35 concertgoers.
The California Symphony is a regional ensemble based in Walnut Creek, a suburb of San Francisco. Its official mission is “to become a 21st-century orchestra, making classical music relevant to those we serve, bringing in new audiences along the way.” To that end, the management has launched “Orchestra X,” a new program aimed at “a group of millennials and Gen-Xers that could or should go to orchestra concerts…but for whatever reason just doesn’t attend.” Locals who fit the profile were invited to attend the first concert of the season, paying just $5 to get in. Those who accepted the invitation visited the orchestra’s website, then wrote down their responses to the site and the concert. Afterward, they came to a pizza-and-beer party at which they “report[ed] back on their experience—the good, the bad, and the ugly.” The results were subsequently published on Medium, a youth-oriented app that runs stories written by its readers….
What the California Symphony discovered, in short, was that “almost every single piece of negative feedback was about something other than the performance.” Another key discovery was that it’s single-ticket buyers, not veteran subscribers, who are most likely to use the orchestra’s website. They’re less experienced in the sometimes arcane ways of classical concertgoing—but far from stupid: “We can be informative to smart, curious people who want to learn and want to know very much why each concert is special without dumbing it down. Casual and approachable does not equal dumb.”
Go to californiasymphony.org and you’ll see how the orchestra is responding to millennial input….
What is most striking about these changes is that you don’t have to be under 35 to appreciate them. Now that public-school arts education is on the way to becoming a thing of the distant past, they’re common-sense responses to the unmet needs of potential concertgoers of all ages…
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Read the whole thing here.
A video featurette about the California Symphony’s Young American Composer-In-Residence program: