Alex Ross of the New Yorker wrote an absolutely brilliant summary of the recent studies by the League of American Orchestras and the National Endowment for the Arts on the state of classical music audiences. It’s in print in the magazine’s February 8th issue, which is unfortunately behind a paywall. But Ross blogs about it here. (Disclosure: as a member of the relevant board committee of the League, I was involved in internal review of the League’s report.)
In this week’s column, I mention an alarming graph that shows a comprehensive downward trend in generational participation in classical music. Here is the graph, in all its scary glory. It comes from the League of Orchestras’ Audience Demographic Research Review, using data from the National Endowment for the Arts and a further analysis by the McKinsey company. You can see clearly how various generations experienced a bump in participation as they got older. The so-called Generation X, however, has yet to exhibit an upward spike as it moves into middle age. Every classical organization in America should print out this graph, pin it on the bulletin board, and ponder what is to be done. If the light-gray line doesn’t reverse direction in the next ten years, those organizations may begin to fold.
There is, in fact, reason to hope that such a reversal will take place…
I would urge anyone who’s interested in the two reports he discusses (and that ought to be everyone who’s likely to read this blog) to run, not walk, to the nearest bookstore and buy a copy of this week’s New Yorker, as well as to read Ross’ blog post in its entirety.