Gary Brain, a composer and conductor based in Paris,emailed about the French classical music audience. In my previous French audience post, I’d talked about a French government study that, supposedly, showed that the audience in France is quite young, and I contrasted that with official French numbers — from the French ministry of culture — that show an older audience, just as we have in the US.
Gary and I had tried to figure out what this discrepancy might be — assuming, of course, that the young numbers are legitimate. Maybe they’re true in Paris, but not in the rest of France. The official statistics I found would be for the entire country.
This is the long email I got from Gary, reproduced with his permission. He and his colleagues are sure that the audience in Paris has gotten younger.
But note a mystery. Someone did hand out flyers at many Paris concerts — I’ve heard about them from a number of people — saying that the audience now was young, with a median age of 38. Where did the flyers come from? And what’s the evidence for that median age figure?
If anyone can shed some light here, I’d be grateful:
I dined with some fellow conductors last night and a couple of orchestra managers. I brought this subject up. The managers were adamant. IF the survey was completed by the Cultural Ministry then it certainly be for all of France.
They suggested that the survey could have been done my the Education Ministry on behlf of their music departments, conservatoires, universities, colleges etc.
Or by the department of the Mayor of Paris whose arts bill is awesome. Or it could have been done by the venues themselves….
The entire table was though totally adamant that they had all noticed a huge shift in audience age. We even see 12 year olds with their parents. Quietly enjoying the performance.
France always has had a thriving culture with a massive following for the arts not for the rich but for the people, this attitude is very important here.
They mostly agreed on the education department as they spend massive money on touring artists into schools and I daresay they wanted to see if this had any spinoff effects from their investment. I know that’s how I was hooked onto classical orchestral music. I believe these students will not just come once but will become part of their lives.
In France kids are searching for something more in life. Pop culture fills only part of the gap. As I told you they do offer the best seats for just twenty euros but the kids have to wait in line fore three hours or more to get the crumbs that are sent back by the concert agencys that sell the tickets. So it’s a real effort for them which is not just handed to them on a plate.
Here amongst the general worker, if they ask what you do and you reply I am an orchestra conductor they look at you as if you were God himself. It’s the same right through their society. When I first came here I was stunned by this attitude. If you go to a doctor, surgeon whatever and they ask for your profession and you give mine, their attitude is exactly the same.
Norman Lebrecht recently wrote in a major British daily that Paris was rapidly becomming the world’s capital city for music. Probably because the funding is so generous. Also sponsorship is, in whatever bad times France had, also generous. They see the “arts” as being more important in many ways than sport. That is a fundimentaly different attitude to other western countries. Especially Great Britain where sport is the dominent culture. I can’t speak for the USA except to say that at Bloomington Indiana, the football team were the “gods”.