Someone, please just bring the water to the horse

There’s a lot of talk about what kind of audience classical music has
and wants. Generally speaking, I think we want young people with
disposable-enough incomes who like to go out and have a network of
friends in their cities or towns.

That stated, the industry
expects the members of this coveted demographic to change their current
routines to accommodate it. I decided to conduct a highly-scientific
focus group – i.e. e mailing my sister Aliza and her three roommates – on the

Aliza –
Marketing Coordinator, Dauphin
Brianne – 
Group Strategist, Saatchi & Saatchi
Cammie –
Operations Analyst, QVT Financial
Katharine –
Analyst for Strategic Planning, American Express

All 23 years old, college-educated and living in New York City.

– – –

How much money do you spend on a normal night out?
Aliza: $40-$60.
Brianne: Probably at least $40 or $50 when you add in cost of cabs!

What was the last thing you bought over $30?
Aliza: Jack Rogers (shoes).
Brianne: Summer dresses.
Cammie: Dinner.
A bathing suit.

What time do you normally eat dinner?
On weekdays probably between 7:30 and 8. Weekends a bit earlier, more like 6 or 6:30.
Katharine: 7:30.

Have you ever seen the New York Philharmonic?
Aliza: Yes.
Brianne: No.

If yes, what did you see?
Aliza:  The first concert in Central Park this summer.
Philharmonic in the Park.
Sadly, I can’t remember (it was years ago).

If no, do you have any desire to?
I would love to go again!
Brianne:  Not really. Maybe if other friends were going. But it definitely wouldn’t be my suggestion for an outing.

How much would you pay to see a classical music concert?
Aliza: $50 – $75 depending on the concert.
Brianne: Depends who I’m going with. Maybe $25-30.
Up to $125.

you go to a concert by yourself, or would you want to go with friends?
On a date? With someone who knows about classical music?

I definitely would not go to a classical music concert by myself, but I
would go with friends or on a date (although I don’t think I would be
dating any guys who would take me to a classical music concert unless
they were my sister’s friends).  I would prefer to go with someone who
knows about classical music because I like the back stories about the
orchestra, the piece, the time period, etc..
Brianne:  Wouldn’t go by myself. I’m not really the type to go to movies or concerts or anything alone. I’d probably want to go with friends who had the same level of knowledge/appreciation about classical music as I do, which isn’t much. Definitely don’t want to feel intimidated or judged by the person I go with!
I’d rather go with someone, whether it be a friend, date or classical music aficionado.
I would not want to go by myself, but beyond that I would be open to
going with anyone (friends, a date- why the heck not?, and it wouldn’t
really matter if they did or didn’t know about classical music).

What is the biggest obstacle to seeing a classical concert in your mind?
a) price – concerts are too expensive
b) location – who hangs out in midtown?
c) timing – we go to dinner at 8 pm
d) comfort level – I don’t know anything about classical music

Aliza: I would go for A, those tickets get to be super expensive.  Anytime it’s free or not too expensive I’ll go.
Brianne: I guess D. I’m not sure it’s really all about comfort. I’d say it’s more that I just don’t really care for classical music. I’d rather do something else.
Cammie: A.
I think the biggest obstacle is that it seems that it requires a lot
of advance planning and it might be difficult to get people to go.

If you’re looking for something to do on a Friday night, where do you look?
Aliza: Time
Out to see if there’s any new shows or restaurants to try or I talk to
friends and make plans that way, through things they know about.
Brianne: Out to dinner, a movie, or typical bar scene.
I usually talk to friends or do something low key on a Friday like the movies or just going to dinner.
Katharine: Usually I talk to friends and occasionally look at Time Out.

Would you go see a movie/concert/play because it got a good review or because your friends told you it was good?

Probably more so if my friends told me it was good because they have
similar interests to me, but if it’s get a good review and I happen to
stumble upon it, I would give it a try.
Brianne: I’d trust my friends over a good (or bad) review.
I usually give more weight to recommendations from friends over reviews.

Which websites do you look at every day?
Aliza: Yikes, this is where it starts to get embarrassing…Perez Hilton, People, Gawker, Jezebel, NY Times.
Brianne: NY Times, Bitten, Times style section, Iconoculture (trends website my company subscribes to).  
MSNBC, CNN, Facebook, Gmail/Google,
Sadly, the only sites I look at everyday are work-related (financial
websites, payments blogs, etc.).

What was the last time you heard classical music in any setting? (movie, elevator – anywhere)
Last night, I watched “Talented Mr. Ripley”…LOADS of classical music, I mean, they’re in Italy!
Brianne: Restaurant at lunch yesterday maybe? Can’t say I really pay attention to it!
My iPod.
Over the loudspeakers at the Tampa airport on Sunday night.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “classical music”?
Aliza: Big concert halls with huge orchestras…sorry Amanda, Wordless hasn’t changed that yet!
Brianne: Requires concentration to appreciate it!
Cammie: Um,
I’m not sure. I listen to classical music when I really need to
concentrate, or want to relax. I guess it makes me think of culture
Katharine: Bow ties.

Many thanks to my hip and trendy lab rats for their answers.

– – –

Highly-scientific conclusions and suggested solutions:
(CV = coveted demographic)

of the CV have money to spend, but they spend it on social activities.

Make performances social activities, but in a natural and logical way.
That is, don’t just slap an “under-30” party onto a performance and
expect the CV to come. The advertising has to match the concept, has to
match the places it’s advertised, has to match the programming. Figure
out who throws the best parties in your community and co-sponsor an
event with them. Also, make it easy for the CV to plan social events
around your concerts. Sell tickets and dinners-for-two at a local restaurant together, offer
intermission drink ticket add-ons when people are purchasing their tickets,
and encourage the bar across the street to give out a free drink for
every concert ticket post performances.

of the CV have money to spend, but they spend it on [SPOILER ALERT!] products they see
advertised in the magazines and websites they read.

Hold (actual) focus
groups and find out which blogs/publications the CV reads in your
community. Advertise there. I have thought about gossip/fashion sites for advertising, but not about the financial sites/blogs that Katharine mentions.
It’s possible that most of those are too national to be useful for
local marketing, but worth looking into anyway. My lawyer friends
read this obsessively, for example, and I think I will suggest advertising upcoming classical albums there. Also, I’m glad Brianne mentioned the Times Bitten blog: it would be cool for a classical label (or any label, actually) to work with a site like Epicurious to pair music with recipes. Playlists for dinner parties, soundtracks for preparation, etc..

of the CV (at least in New York City) eat dinner around 7:30 pm.
classical music/theatre/dance performances are at 8 pm.
performances earlier or late. The NY Philharmonic has “Rush Hour”
concerts at 6:45 pm, but they’re geared toward commuters, not the CV. (When work ends, come experience a different kind of rush. Head over to
the Philharmonic for an evening of music that’s guaranteed to move you.
Concerts last about an hour. So by the time the last notes die down, so
has rush hour.

It’s perfect – a one hour concert at 6:45 pm! I’m not saying my sister
and her roommates wouldn’t want to go to a full-length concert, but the Philharmonic already has a program in
place that fits their schedule; it just isn’t marketed to them. Something I’ve thought about a lot is the idea of a “two-night stand”. That is, present the exact same concert at a classical venue at 8 pm, and then again somewhere else (a club downtown, for example) at 10:30 pm. Same program, same ticket prices, same artist, see who comes.

of the CV take recommendations from their friends over what they’ve read in the newspaper in deciding what to do and where to spend their money.
…so if you don’t get the big preview in the paper for your performance, it’s not the end of the world. Reach out to young community leaders – heads of church groups, student body presidents, groups/club leaders at local universities, etc. – and involve them in the process of promoting your performances organically.

Members of the CV feel comfortable at classical music concerts.

This is both news and not news to me. On the one hand, I strongly
believe that we underestimate the proverbial “new” audiences’ ability
to sit still and refrain from texting during classical concerts. On the
other hand, I assumed that my sister and her roommates would have felt more
comfortable going to a classical concert with someone who knew about
the genre. Apparently not!

Members of the CV still think of classical music as completely high-brow.

Thoughts on that, in no particular order: concert dress, advertising
campaigns, artist photos, album covers, presumed dress-code at
concerts, exclusive donor events, lack of funding and performance
opportunities for new music ensembles, over-generalization of the art
form in popular media.

Note: In my “What is the biggest obstacle…” question, I just realized that I didn’t even give them the opportunity to say they just don’t like classical music! I’m all, THAT IS NOT AN OPTION. In actuality, however, that’s something no amount of marketing can change: I don’t like Rachel Ray, no matter how many refreshing-looking iced coffees she promotes. It is interesting to think about, though: just “not liking” something that is completely omnipresent but often accepted as background music or cell phone ringtones. Another post for another time.

Update – 7/24, 2:30ish pm: It was brought to my attention via e mail that Lincoln Center will be presenting two concerts of The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen with Paavo Järvi conducting on March 2, 2009; the first concert is at 7:30pm and the second is at 10:30pm. The programs are different. They are also presenting a free concert with The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen the following Wednesday, March 4th, in the middle of the day. Additionally, Jordi Savall’s Lincoln Center concerts in October and February of 2009 are slated to start at 9pm. Good stuff. 

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  1. says

    This was very interesting to me, what with me being in the CV, myself. The references to friends’ opinions wasn’t a surprise, but the understatement of facebook and myspace were. Granted, they are old enough to be just a touch too old to have benefited from the ramp up of the initial sites mentioned, but even still, only one-out-of-four mentioned it. Perhaps my being immersed in the collegiate environment has OVERstated the use of those sites, but … Hmm …
    Interesting overall. As someone who is reading this blog voraciously and preparing to launch my own ensemble, there have been outstanding ideas in here. Thank you!

  2. says

    I’m curious about how much the CV goes out to hear music? (any kind of music) I’d like to understand how live music fits into this larger lifestyle marketing question.
    Personally, I believe most people (let’s focus on young people, i.e. your CV above) go to hear music primarily as a social event – not an artistic one.
    I play in a rock band, a jazz group, and a “new” music group. For any/all of these ensembles to find an audience, we have to go to the places where the audience is already (i.e. clubs and bars). The audience is there for a social experience. A band that’s a decent draw then becomes a more attractive social destination – their show is “the place to be” on any given night.
    In this arena, I think new music groups have an advantage over strictly classical music, since the material can be more easily designed /adapted to work in “alternative” venues.
    My own experiment in this arena, The Low End String Quartet, is currently in progress. Check back in a few months and we’ll see how it’s working 😉

  3. Wendy Rosenfield says

    Hi Amanda,
    I’ve blogged about Perez Hilton so many times he’s like an unofficial ArtsJournal blog. Glad to see he showed up on someone else’s page–I was starting to get worried! Anyway, I’ve been enjoying reading yours. Great concept for a blog.
    Wendy Rosenfield
    (Drama Queen)

  4. says

    My local symphony orchestra has just employed a new graphic designer which I feel shows potential to add to marketing towards the younger people. Take a look at a couple of his images so far:
    Brahms & Shostakovich
    Landscapes – A concert with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, the Bernstein Seranade, and Smetana’s Ma Vlast
    Dvorak’s New World
    Previous to this, the advertising would be a portrait shot of one of the main artists. Now it’s nice to see a photo of the artist, but it doesn’t really attract you to the concert if you’re just glancing over it. These images actually attract attention and draw the reader to find out more about the concert.
    Rockin’. I like these, especially the new world symphony one. -AA