What is your audience at concerts?

April 11, 2018, 12:34 PM · I have noticed that in Denmark the average age of people at classical concerts is above 70 (!), especially if an event is free. It is quite often, that we are the only one below 30.
Back in Russia (10 years ago at least), the classical and jazz concerts would be 20-30% full of students. And if the event is free it would be full of children. It was quite normal to go for a concert/theater at the first or second dates. For parents (mid age people), it is usual to go to a performance in conservatorium to celebrate something etc. But here we see mostly old and very old people, almost zero teens, and zero children. Usually my son is the only one child, if we do not go with friends.

What about your orchestra? Who comes to you?

Replies (21)

April 11, 2018, 12:48 PM · Usually family and friends.
April 11, 2018, 12:51 PM · In Italy, audience for ordinary classical concerts is made of citizens born between 40s’ to 80s’, and rarely those who born after 80s’ and 90s’(mainly pupils from conservatory I think), very young children are extremely rare and hard to be found at auditorium.

I think globally the art of classical music is shrinking and decaying irreversibly, this phenomenon is more prominent in western countries with lower birth rate and lower immigrant rate and countries once have strong tradition in classical music. Young kids love pop music naturally and they often watch Eurovision Contest at television, because they have more choices than older generations, and they are easily attracted by more interesting trend available. I remember that in old days the annual application and enrollment for instrument course of an average conservatorio in provinces would be 250 or more, and today the number merely stands at half, which can be ascribed to both low birth rate and waning of classical music.

April 11, 2018, 1:28 PM · You think the average age for classical music attendance in general is high, you should see it for chamber music here! :-)
April 11, 2018, 2:19 PM · In this area (DC/Baltimore), it really depends on the nature of the concert. Broadly, I would say that it skews old and young -- folks who are 60+, and families (often Asian) with children. The latter tends to especially populate the concerts given by violinists and pianists (whether concerto or recital) -- presumably tiger moms taking violin/piano-playing junior to see the greats.

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, audiences were more diverse in general, including in age. My community orchestra there played Sunday afternoon concerts, and we had a decent audience of families (and tons of kids at our family concerts).

For my community orchestra here, our audience is mixed. Friends and family of players (so call it Gen X and older, for the most part), and then church members and their friends from the church where our concerts are held. Our concerts are on Sunday evenings, which means if people bring kids, they're generally older kids.

My chamber-music performances tend to be attended by seniors. Some of them are during weekday daytimes, which means that you get a busload of retirees (sometimes literally).

April 11, 2018, 2:22 PM · Most, if not all, of my symphony concerts are for charity and generally attract a wide mix of all ages. My chamber orchestra concerts, whether or not for charity, tend to have an somewhat older audience - perhaps middle aged to put it charitably :)
Edited: April 11, 2018, 3:34 PM · Here it varies widely depending on the program.

Sacramento has a bimodal age distribution to begin with. Until about 10 years ago, the population tended to skew older as young people left as soon as they could (the film Lady Bird sort of implies this of Sacramento in 2002-03). Starting around 2007 or thereabouts, the city started to see a large influx of young professionals and young artists and began to develop a vibrant local arts scene. Nonetheless, for the entire time, it has been in the shadow of the Bay Area when it comes to attracting big-name performers. So there are really two audience mentalities: there's an older audience segment that's used to Sacramento being a cultural backwater, and a younger "artist colony" segment of the population.

The Sacramento Philharmonic caters almost exclusively to the older demographic. The entire 2017-18 season contains only about 10 minutes or music composed after 1940; otherwise the entire season consists of old warhorses. This is typical. Whenever I've attended concerts, there have been a handful of college students in the back of the hall, and otherwise I hardly see anyone under 60.

My semipro orchestra gets an audience that varies by concert. Look at the biggest piece on the concert program, and you'll know exactly what the audience looks like. If it's a Beethoven symphony, the audience will be a mixture of elderly people and a few families, and the hall will be sold out days in advance. On the other hand, when we play off-the-beaten-path music (e.g. Nielsen's 4th, Ives's 2nd, Strauss's Don Quixote) the median age of the audience drops considerably as the older people will not have bought up all the tickets first! I would guess that for these concerts most of the audience was between 20 and 40 -- the "artist colony" portion of the overall Sacramento audience. There are still some older people, but more like a third of the audience rather than the overwhelming majority.

It may also have something to do with the millennial generation having easy access to all the old warhorses via recordings, and wanting to hear something different. Audience members under 40 are also the ones who most often thank our music director for his efforts in curating the selection of lesser-known pieces.

For chamber music, the audiences usually skew very old for the classics, but I've gone to chamber music concerts where new music was played, and even if it was in combination with more familiar pieces, I've often been the oldest person in the audience (I'm 35 now).

April 12, 2018, 3:37 AM · Skewing pretty old around here, even for a community orchestra concert. Some exceptions in that case, of course, as family and friends come to support, but overall still old.

Similarly for a chamber music venue, but one notable exception to what others say here: The age of the music is not an issue. The audience is there for the music, and will often 'get' modern music much better than might have been expected with age assumptions.

April 12, 2018, 3:48 AM · Well, classical music is not really popular between children-teenagers. Second, of these want to go to a concert, chances are they have no money and then they can only go when their parents can go with them. Third, if you're not passionate about classical music, going to a 2 hours concert doesn't look like a good plan. Yeah, your parents can "force" you to go, once, twice may be, but very few will understand and enjoy it.
Then 20's are always kind of broken, hahaha, and again, only the passionate ones will go.
My point is, if you find an assistant under 30, it's probably because is a musician.
What I don't understand is how people when they get old start to assist to classical concerts, when these very same people were not going to concerts when they were young.
April 12, 2018, 4:25 AM · I think the age of the music matters more here because the older people in the audience are so used to living in a cultural backwater (even though it isn't one any more) and rarely having the opportunity to hear the great masterworks in their city. The younger people listening to the lesser-known or newly-composed music will probably continue to be open-minded about new music when they get older, because they tend to be more immersed in the burgeoning arts scene here and have a more cosmopolitan outlook. It's mostly a result of the giant shift in the local culture in recent years, not age per se.
April 12, 2018, 11:18 AM · In Rochester, NY, the Rochester Philharmonic plays to a nearly packed house of gray hair. As others have noted, classical is dying. You can hear equal or better performances on music streaming services. Classical performance will only survive if soloists return to improvising, as they did in original performances in the 1700s and 1800s. Mozart was the greatest improviser of his time, and was a 'rock star'. Music has to be alive, in the sense of unpredictable like a sports performance, to be interesting in a concert setting.

Rochester has numerous jazz venues. Audiences are middle aged - 30 to 50. The 10 day Rochester Jazz Festival draws 200,000 people from all over the east coast. People are willing to pay for music performances (e.g., $30 - $75 per seat at the Festival), but the music has to be alive - not something you can hear streaming via your mobile phone.

April 13, 2018, 6:48 AM · I love the moments after the concert when people come backstsage and say "I'm tone-deaf but I really enjoyed it!" or again "You looked great!".
Edited: April 13, 2018, 1:13 PM · Mike wrote “but the music has to be alive - not something you can hear streaming via your mobile phone.”

Interesting. If anything acoustic non amplified orchestral music is the one that benefits most from being heard live. Amplified music is fundamentally the same as recorded music, but the general view that classical music is “dead” (I.e. boring) is also not that uncommon in the general younger population unfortunately. This also brings up the fact that the show-business aspect of concerts is what seems to bring the (perhaps relatively younger) crowds, not so much the music for the love of music sake, which most classical concerts are. André Rieu’s orchestra success is a prime example of how show business draws the crowds, where the music would otherwise not attract as much attention when delivered in the more traditional fashion.

Addendum: what is considered a good seat at a classical concert is generally more driven by the acoustic quality of the location than stage visibility, whereas it is the other way around in a showbiz concert (which are so loud anyway that you need earing protection!)

April 13, 2018, 1:42 PM · We're fans of chamber music and the audience for those concerts is decidedly geriatric with a smattering of younger folks who are young musicians.
April 13, 2018, 6:23 PM · I went to a concert last night, noticed the crowd again, and marveled at those still going -- surmounting the steps and the state of their own bodies with shuffling, canes, walkers and each other. I think they put many younger people to shame with that effort.
April 13, 2018, 9:41 PM · Younger people will be old one day doing the very same as these older folks I suppose! Maybe it takes a lifetime to discover the beauty of classical music. That said, the "pop" program offered by the local symphony still remains the most popular of their concert series. Much fewer can take modern experimental repertoire.
April 13, 2018, 10:11 PM · My audience as an ensemble is usually between their early teens and older parents (as I'm a high school student who participates in several).

The reason why younger people don't participate in concerts put on by major Philharmonics as much anymore is because all they'll play are the same ten warhorse composers to appease their wealthy (old) sponsors. I'd rather not see something overplayed live that I could hear if I switched on the radio.
Last summer, when my chamber orchestra went to Europe, we found some open seats remaining for a Mahler Chamber Orchestra concert in Dresden. Most of us were put off when we heard that they were doing Beethoven 2 and 6, but then got super excited as a collective when we saw the Berg Violin Concerto programmed (played by Christian Tetzlaff).

If they just changed their programs to be more engaging to a relevant audience, then a lot more young people would attend.

April 13, 2018, 11:03 PM · Andrew, are you in the Camelia orchestra or the sac philharmonic?
Edited: April 14, 2018, 1:59 AM · Camellia Symphony. I'm not a pro by any means, though I'd like to be good enough to compete for a spot in Sac Phil 5-10 years from now!

Also principal violist in Rancho Cordova Civic Light Orchestra, and formerly principal violist in West Sac Community Orchestra (where I believe I had one of your students in my section).

April 14, 2018, 5:19 AM · Roger wrote: "Maybe it takes a lifetime to discover the beauty of classical music."

I have wondered the same thing. Pops concerts and the warhorses are immediately accessible to new concertgoers. A lot of people new to classical music start out listening to Strauss waltzes and Beethoven 5. I think as they learn more, they will seek out other programming, but that takes time.

20, 30, 40 years ago, people were also saying that audiences were full of elderly people and that classical music must be "dying." (As Mike and others have said). But I think, unless they're all 105+ years old, the old people going to concerts today would have been young in the 1980s.

April 14, 2018, 8:03 AM · I premiered a piece for violin and piano at a big contemporary music venue in Brooklyn recently. I invited one of my teachers/friends, who plays in the Met Opera Orchestra who is in his late 40’s. During the reception, after congratulating me, he commented that 1. He was shocked that he was most likely the oldest person in the crowd and 2. That it was a sold-out show. He said, ‘Shit, maybe classical music isn’t dead!!’

I believe most of the people in the audience were either composers, performers, or young creative professionals of some kind. While inteoducing myself to audience members and thanking them for coming, I met filmmakers, graphic designers, people who developed apps for a living, etc.

April 14, 2018, 10:07 PM · Joshua Bell, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Staatskapelle Weimar, and the Minnesota Symphony have all come to the University I'm studying at this year and tickets sold out far in advance for those. There's even a fairly lively crowd when the school symphony plays too, and faculty soloists tend to draw a fairly large crowd as well!

Not everyday that you get to hear Josh Bell in concert for $10 with a student ID just across the street from where you live!


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