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Chasing Audiences: Too Much Emphasis On Youth?

It’s pretty obvious that museums — and most other places as well — chase the young. They see gray hair in their galleries and fear that no one will replace them if they don’t do something about it NOW. 

I’ve always had some doubt about that — many people, I believe, don’t have the time for art or the inclination for it until they reach a certain age, which — anecdotally — seems to be somewhere in the 40s, give or take, after most people’s children have developed some independence.

Now comes a survey which agrees that society is too youth-obsessed. According to a firm called Euro RSCG Worldwide, which survey people in 19 countries, “63% of consumers around the world believe that society’s obsession with youth has gotten out of hand.”  Results in the U.S. clocked in at exactly 63%, though the response ranged from 78% in Colombia to 45% in Belgium.

“Interestingly,” an article on Marketing Charts said, “this view is shared by 6 in 10 Millennials (aged 18-34).”

7,213 adults took part in the survey, but ages were not stated in the report, nor was the margin of error.

This survey was more about aging itself — e.g., “55% of the respondents said they look younger than most people their age” — than it was about choices. But it still makes me wonder. Older people — and here I mean 40s and above — seem to resent the attention given to young people, even perhaps at some museums. Museums have to deal with that, making sure that they present a balance of activities and, with luck, a lot of programming that appeals to all ages.

I really love it when I go, say, to the Frick or the Morgan and see people of all ages. And I dislike it when I see costume exhibitions full of young people who never set foot in art exhibitions. Likewise, with diverse audiences for both, say, Jacob Lawrence and, say, Titian.

Chart Courtesy of Marketin Charts


  1. Robert Fraser says:

    YES!! Finally a voice of reason. I’m a professional symphony orchestra musician and I get very frustrated with news reporters always repeating the same tired litany: “bankruptcies, economic downturn, aging audiences.” Why is an aging audience seen as a problem? Funny, nobody looks out at the crowd at the Electric Daisy Carnival or a Justin Bieber concert and says: “Where are all the over-50s?” It’s pure ageism, nothing more. Of course, we still develop programmes aimed at youth, and educational concerts, and I wish we had resources to do more of this – but we’re delusional if we think that our subscriber/donor/board leadership base is going to dramatically shift to the younger generation. One of my symphony’s past board presidents said that he’s always loved music, but he never had the opportunity to attend regularly or get involved in the organization until his children had grown.

    Thank you for posting this. Your readers may be interested in this link – it’s to a podcast from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of a programme about advertising called “The Age of Persuasion.” This episode was about ageism in advertising and it says a lot about the history of how our culture became so youth-obsessed.

    Thank you for letting me vent. Bob Fraser, Bass Trombonist, Victoria Symphony and Secretary, Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians.


  1. […] de demain. Dans un billet récent, la blogueuse et journaliste indépendante américaine Judith H. Dobrzynski s’interroge à savoir si les musées (à propos desquels elle écrit) ne sont pas trop […]

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