Innovations in Classical Music

Over this winter break, I had the privilege of attending one of the Tchaikovsky series concerts put on by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Naturally, the music was beautiful with an unbelievable climax in the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. However, I couldn't help but notice the population that made up the audience. The average age in attendance had to have been over 55 years.

When I got home, I decided to investigate actual statistics surrounding this phenomenon. According to a LLC study, the majority of classical music concert subscribers are 65 years or older, retired, and earn an income of $150,000 or more. Additionally, the economic collapse of 2008 had an especially adverse effect on the stability of non-profit arts organizations, including U.S. symphony orchestras.

Fortunately, many organizations are addressing this issue with innovative ways to target a younger demographic and increase their presence among audiences in the classical music world. Within the Philadelphia Orchestra's program notes, the music director described how the orchestra plans to include acrobatics and projected art along with the classical repertoire, in hopes that it will engage younger people in a visual way. Some may argue, however, that this could take away from the original intentions of composers and how they wanted their pieces to be performed and reflected upon. In addition to the visuals, the orchestra is hosting programs such as the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra where they will present an instrumental tour of the orchestra. Each instrument will play a small tune to teach the younger generation about the sounds that make up the orchestra.

nyc ballet art tower

Similar to the Philadelphia Orchestra's strategy, the New York Ballet has incorporated unique marketing strategies to target younger audiences. They've released several videos to promote their own performances as well as a tribute to 9/11 in 2013. To increase attendance for their 2013 opening, the ballet collaborated with 30 artists to create a tower 16-feet-wide by 40-feet-tall made up of 2,000 individually stacked wooden block pieces of artwork inspired by iconic imagery and the archives of the ballet. Each audience member was even allowed to take one of the blocks with them. In this sense, not only was the project an incredible artistic feat, but a marketing one as well.  The opening sold out within days of opening sale and the under-45 audience grew to 29% compared to the 20% in the national average.

It will be interesting to see how the Philadelphia Orchestra's endeavors will be received. It is reassuring, however, that these efforts are being made to improve attendance and engage younger audiences at these classical events.

(Images from and