Eric Felten has a very interesting piece in today’s Wall Street Journal about advertisers who pitch to the 18-to-34 cohort, and why they’re foolish to do so. This paragraph is particularly relevant:
A few years ago the Chicago Symphony commissioned a survey that found the average age of its concert-goers to be 55. But the orchestra’s president, Henry Fogel, didn’t fall for the actuarial fallacy. Instead he checked similar research done 30 years earlier and found that the average age at that time was also 55. “There is simply a time in one’s life when subscribing to a symphony orchestra becomes both desirable and possible,” says Mr. Fogel, now president of the American Symphony Orchestra League. Acting on this insight, the Chicago Symphony is wooing boomers who, though they may still enjoy their old Beatles records, long for a new musical experience. The orchestra has targeted new subscribers by advertising on, of all places, a local “classic rock” station.
Read the whole thing here. I think Felton is dead right, but as one who has blogged aggressively about the need for arts organizations to target and capture a younger audience, I should point out that in the context of symphony orchestras and opera companies, “younger” means “younger than 70,” not “18 to 34.” And when it comes to creating a younger audience, don’t forget that arts education in the public schools is in decline. The question everybody is asking, or ought to be asking, is this: how hard is it to persuade people of a certain age (i.e., mine) to make a serious commitment to an art form about which they know little or nothing going in?
I just wrote a piece for Commentary (I’ll link to it when it’s available on line) about how I became interested in the visual arts. I am an adult convert–I didn’t start looking at painting and sculpture until I was 40 years old. So it can happen. But I was an aesthete going in: I was already habituated to the notion of seeking pleasure through high art. If the Chicago Symphony is counting on there being enough people like me in Chicagoland to pay its bills in the coming decade, I have a feeling that they’re whistling Schoenberg.