Chris raises several interesting ideas. Family pricing is certainly a strategy we have considered in the past. I think it is more important now not only because of the economy, but also because of a related reduction in music programming in schools. We will miss out on the opportunity to build future audiences if today’s children are not exposed to classical music. Making it affordable and advantageous for families to come to concerts together will help young people gain an appreciation for classical music, which will be reinforced by the experience of sharing it with parents and grandparents. In addition to favorable pricing, orchestras should also include a pre or post concert experience geared to the entire family, and also perhaps some handouts or take-away materials to reinforce the musical experience at home.
Attracting the Under 30 crowd has also been a long-time goal of the classical arts. I agree with Chris…pricing is not the only barrier to success here. Young adults enjoy entertainment differently than the older generation. I recall taking my niece when she was in her late teens to a symphony concert in a summer venue. She had been exposed to classical music often during her youth, and also played a musical instrument. At the completion of the concert, I asked her if she enjoyed it. Her response was that she liked the music but had difficulty sitting still and “doing nothing” during the concert. Today’s younger adults are so used to multi-tasking and to getting their music and information electronically, that the traditional live concert is more difficult for them to enjoy. We need to develop different concert experiences for different attendees to better meet their lifestyles and expectations.
On a related note…an article in Sunday’s New York Times “Americans Flock to the Movies Seeking a Silver-Screen Lining” reported that movie attendance has jumped more than 16%, even as ticket prices rise and people are being more frugal when it comes to entertainment dollars. One explanation given in the article is that people are seeking an escape from the stresses caused by the economy and also want to be with other people who may be facing the same situation. Symphony orchestras certainly can provide similar opportunities in the concert hall, and need to reach out to distressed people through sharply reduced ticket prices and a “feel good” experience. This type of investment will help fill empty seats in the concert hall and will most likely pay off in building future audiences.