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Audience age and the arts


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#16 dirac

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 03:42 PM

I'm sure you didn't, Watermill. And I would love to see some of the programming you describe back on network prime time, for example. (Today, Leonard Bernstein would be exiled to PBS or Bravo.) I do have a problem with Schlender's statements –not just rejecting the Youth At Any Cost stance, but writing young people off; and I don't accept that ballet or opera is something you necessarily "graduate" to when you're older. (Or that, if you don't graduate to it, you suffer from some kind of arrested development.)


Those prosperous older white folks aren't necessarily going to concerts or the ballet because they're "intellectually and emotionally ready" or looking for "inspiration" -- to return to the Herald piece. Often, they're going to see and be seen, and because they have deeper pockets. I listen to some of these people during the intermissions, and they're no deeper or brighter than anyone you might meet at a jazz concert. (They're also frequently unadventurous, preferring Mozart and Brahms because theyare familiar and bear the cultural equivalent of the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.)

#17 BW

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 05:29 PM

Where to start on this article? Since I'm not from South Florida, but New York, I suppose my views are a bit Northern...

I think there are an awful lot of generalizations in this piece.

Yet, first I'd like to start with an observation:

1. ''In Miami-Dade, a large part of the population base has come from areas where arts are viewed a little bit differently,'' says Pete Upham, director of marketing and communications at Miami City Ballet. ``For example, contributions, they're government-funded. So these people aren't used to contributing. And contributions really have to make up half of our income.''

I suppose Mr. Upham is implying that the vast majority of Miami-Dade's population hails from points farther south...as in Cuba, where the "state" funds the arts?

Now onto the specific points that caught my eye:

2. "But a recent survey of the opera's single-ticket buyers found that young patrons tend to shun the commitment of a subscription series, instead buying single tickets on short notice. That led the FGO to develop the ''Diva Deal,'' a discount admission program targeted at patrons between the ages of 21 and 35...''We'd not only be addressing that behavior [of buying tickets on short notice] but addressing a definite need for a more reasonably priced ticket for people who are just beginning their careers,'' MacKinnon says."

Sounds like a great idea to me - let's submit this to our "own" ballet companies and see what they say!?:)

3."The orchestra recently surveyed its audience, Schlender says, and found that ``they come for the music and not for social reasons. They come for emotional and intellectual stimulation. They come for inspiration and not escape.''

''Sometimes,'' Schlender continues, "younger people do want something a little edgier. They want something a little more contemporary. But who's buying the tickets? . . . You can put on something by Philip Glass but then there are empty seats in the audience. It doesn't necessarily turn into dollars at the box office.''

Hmm, I don't know about you however I do not believe that Philip Glass is exactly on the cutting edge of today's young person's horizon. The people I know who attend Philip Glass concerts tend to be in their late mid 50s to later 60s and even early 70s...OK, I know that there are some modern dance companies that use his music but a straight concert?

And then, just after saying that the audience members come for "emotional and intellectual stimulation." and that "They come for inspiration and not escape" - the author of this article writes that Schlender feels that "The more he studies his audience... the more he believes that most young people just aren't intellectually or emotionally ready for Mozart, Bach or Brahms." Seems to me that Schlender is a bit at odds with himself here.

My vote goes for "Diva Night" AKA "Prima Ballerina Night" (what's the masculine form?) and doing a really well though out survey to figure out who their audiences really are or could be.

I agree that deep pockets are awfully helpful when it comes to subscriptions... However, if the arts organizations wish to "grow" their audiences then I think somehow they have to teach them the importance of "giving"...along the lines of NPR and PBS...AND create at least a week with in each season, or make some viable attempt at lowering ticket prices for a short time, and advertsiing this in an appropriate manner.

All this being said, we all know that everyone spends their money on different things. What makes one person scrimp on their wardrobe and subscribe to a season of ballet, while they live in a tiny apartment or on the "wrong side of town" while someone else chooses to spend their funds on country clubs and a $175 little black handbag with someone's name on it? Who knows? :rolleyes:

#18 Calliope

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 06:03 PM

I think I'm against the research of audience demographics.
If you put out a good product the audience will come naturally.
Take the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", while it probably won't win any Oscars, it's not a big budget film, but it's been around for almost 5 months now. It was all done by word of mouth, starting out with a marketing campaign in Greek churches! I saw it only 2 weeks ago, b/c someone told me it was good.
I can't tell you the last time someone told me to go to the ballet b/c it was good.

#19 BW

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 06:30 PM

Calliope, the reason I think a demographic study well created and well executed could be worth while is to show the administration who really does come to their programs. I do go regularly - not as often as some of the balletomanes here:) but I do subscribe to both the NYCB (usually just their winter season) and ABT's spring run at the Met...and then I fill in with other types of companies when possible or single tickets but I am far from the deep pockets corporate type...and I can't be alone in this "type".... so maybe this would be worth knowing for their marketing and membership/fundraising departments?

Actually I can think of a number of times I've been told to "go see" such and such ballet because it was "so good" or so and so was so"wonderful" - and I'm thankful for the good advice I've gotten by word of mouth!:)

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 08:14 PM

BW, thank you for finding the Diva program :) I think that's a good idea, too -- and a way of adapting a usual procedure so that people who don't usually go to the ballet BUT WANT TO are given a way to do it. (It sounds similar to New York City Ballet's Fourth Ring Society, which I also think is a very good idea.)

I think that's the key -- I agree with Calliope that if you have a good product, that's the most important thing, but I don't think people will come naturally. They have to know about it, and they have to feel comfortable -- with the theater, with the process, with everything. The first time I went to ballet at the Met I was very nervous. I felt as though I was going into a strange church and wouldn't know the hymns, nor when to sit and when to stand. I think this is the key to reaching young and minority audiences. If you don't feel comfortable going to the Met, or wherever, you need somebody to make it easy for you. I wish they'd go into colleges and say, "Hey, curious about the ballet? We're all going on Friday, you get a student rate and we can meet here about 20 minutes before you leave and I'll tell you something about what you're going to see. And if there are any questions, we'll answer them." I think that's the way to get people who aren't your usual audience to come, not saying, "Gosh, what do those folks like??" And then do a ballet to a pop composer because "they" will all read about it in the paper and flock in droves. I think the past 15 years have proven that it doesn't work that way.

#21 Estelle

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Posted 24 September 2002 - 02:09 AM

Originally posted by Alexandra
BW, thank you for finding the Diva program :)  I think that's a good idea, too -- and a way of adapting a usual procedure so that people who don't usually go to the ballet BUT WANT TO are given a way to do it.  (It sounds similar to New York City Ballet's Fourth Ring Society, which I also think is a very good idea.)


It reminds me of something which was done by the region or the city when I was a student in Lyon: there was something called "chèque culture" for students, you could buy it once or twice a year for a very low price (less than the equivalent of 10$, I think), and it gave you something like one cinema ticket, one opera or dance ticket for some institutions (Lyon Opera, Maison de la Danse...), one museum ticket, and a reduction on the price of a book (in a large list of bookstores) equivalent to the price of the whole stuff. So I knew some people who bought it mostly to get the cinema ticket or the book, and then decided to attend an opera or a ballet because anyway it was free (I had just started my dance pages then so some people asked me for advice about the programming of the Maison de la Danse). I don't know if that program has ever created ballet or opera fans, but I think it was a good idea. Of course it was subsidized quite a lot by the region or the city, but perhaps some cultural institutions could do similar things (a bit more expensive perhaps) to try to enlarge their audience?

Another convenient idea was a ticketing system of the Lyon Orchestra, which was a bit like the "Diva night": people under 26 could buy a four-ticket card, and those tickets could be used by between one and four people to get tickets for their performances on the day of the performance (the best remaining seats), so it was quite convenient when a group of friends wanted to attend a performance. The first performance of the Lyon Orchestra I attended was thanks to that system, three friends of mine had planned to attend and had asked me if I wanted to be the fourth one...

The only problem with such systems limited to people under a given age is that when you get older but your income remains the same, you suddenly realize that ouch, it's expensive :)

#22 Calliope

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Posted 24 September 2002 - 11:43 AM

In the 50's and 60's did they do outreach programs?
I'm assuming ballet made money back then that companies are still around.

I liked your Met comparison, Alexandra, it is a bit like going to a new "church". But with ballet, you have the Nutcracker that can "break the ice" so to speak and I think that's when most young people go first.
I still think the younger generations are marketed to way too much. I think where you market to them makes a difference. And how, if you market ballet as an art form, you won't draw in much of a crowd, they already know that. But if you market it as entertaining, you run the risk of insulting those people that think of it as an art form!
I'm still waiting to see advertisements before the movies for the ballet.
I'd be interested to see what the financial demographics are according to seating.

#23 Mel Johnson

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Posted 24 September 2002 - 12:15 PM

Ballet companies did do outreach programs in the 50s and 60s, only they were called "tours". Ballet Russe would usually use trains, Ballet Theater would use buses, the Joffrey, famously, started with one station wagon! Ballet would play then in towns where ballet has not been seen since the days of the bus-and-truck tour, for various reasons, but still, companies don't tour like that any more!:(

#24 PK

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 05:55 AM

Being someone who likes other arts as well as ballet,I always can't help notice the lack of young people in the audience.I don't feel ballet is an elite art(now opera is!).It's so obvious the arts are not of first importance in the USA.I see classical music not being written anymore-only in a small way.There are few classical composers left.What are the first subjects to go in our schools?Music and art.The future of the arts is in our young people.We aren't doing a good enough job reaching out to them with the arts.The Pennsylvania Ballet is doing some eye-catching advertising to draw in a younger audience.I recall Septime Webre promoting "Beer and Ballet" not long ago for the Washington Ballet,Miami City Ballet has some unusual programming grabbing a new audience.We need to spread all the arts more. Ballet needs to be more affordable and available and on television and brought into schools and to youth!

#25 Calliope

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 06:53 AM

I don't know that it's enough to only introduce it in schools. Companies would have to really work with schools on curriculums, I'd bet there's as many teachers out there that haven't been either. But it has to be the family, it's not enough to just introduce it. It's like drug education, not enough to just say no, you have to go beyond the school. And the cost of tickets make it tough for a family of 4 to go to a ballet once in a season.
I think the arts are so selective and it's why they get neglected in education. They're such personal tastes/decisions. Sooner or later I'm sure you wind up with controversy over a piece, whether it's ballet, music, painting....
I think marketing should be aimed as a family experience, offer discounts to people that bring kids, that will do far more than watching a videotape.

#26 Old Fashioned

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 03:32 PM

I second discounts.

#27 piccolo

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 03:58 PM

Oh, there is so much to reply to here, I don't even know where to start.

When is someone emotionally ready to see ballet? I grew up in Japan and my parents did what all the other Japanese parents did, which was to take their children to art & culture events. Any time we went to the ballet, theatre, symphony, etc. my brother and I were far from the only kids in the house. We were brought up on it early and we both feel very comfortable with it. Now that we're adults, I like the ballet & theatre and he enjoys musicals & orchestras -- we gravitated towards our favorites. But we were exposed to the arts and this is what is missing today.

I think taking someone and introducing ballet (or opera, etc.) to them is one of the best things we can all do to support the arts. People must be exposed to the art, understand the art and have a positive experience with it. Then, when money and time allow, they will go back to it.

I work for an opera company and while our Education programs reach out to school-aged children, we don't have a particularly young audience. (Which is true for most opera companies in the country.) Now, opera tickets are expensive. We wanted to know -- is there a need among 20 and 30-somethings for opera tickets? Is it something that if you are exposed to as a child, you will go to once you start a job and have money or do you not bother until "you turn off the rock music one day" and start attending in your 50s. Well, let me tell you how our experiment is working: We have started 2 programs that bring the price of an opera ticket to $20 or less and each time we've offered the deal, we are flooded with orders from the 20 and 30-somethings. There is a need!

I realize that ballet is different from opera but before saying more. I'm taking a break and will check in again tomorrow.

#28 Calliope

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Posted 08 October 2002 - 09:47 AM

I'm going to add a late post to this.
I just finished a book call "Snobbery: The American Version" by Joseph Epstein.
An interesting book and reading it, I wondered if I was a snob, but...
He talks about the decline of the social classes and how the decrease in the "old family money" WASP-ish times have affected the arts. Whereas ballet, opera and art galleries used to be "high brow arts" now belong to the "common man" who can afford to go but afford to choose not to go back. And how the audience is still made up of the "old wealth" but's it's dwindling due to the "choosy" more cultured public.
He talks about going to a concert and hearing a mediocre piece being played "badly" yet the audience goes wild (thereby making him a snob, but only because he looks around thinking that these people know nothing ) He also goes on to talk about how marketing is done so much differently now. It's publicity, publicity, publicity and that's why you will get bonanza crowds to museum openings, but you won't be able to keep the same amount of the crowd coming back to see the same paintings on the wall. In essence creating gaps between the groups that go to see and the groups that want to be seen.
I just thought it was an interesting commentary.

#29 Alexandra

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Posted 08 October 2002 - 11:00 AM

Hmmm. From your summary, it sounds as though this is about snobs, written by snobs. :(

It's so difficult to talk about these things without offending someone, or tiptoeing around and not offending anybody, and not saying anything. The arts have always been for the educated, people with leisure time, but not only for the wealthy, unless he considers anyone who owns a house wealthy. The middle class has always been part of the arts audience -- and since the early 19th century, often chastised by the avant-garde (of whatever generation) for being "middlebrow" -- that which is not quite High Art, definitely not Pop Art, and which the avant garde and the High Art people consider Bad Art.

Yes. Interesting commentary :)

#30 Farrell Fan

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Posted 08 October 2002 - 11:54 AM

I'm not sure, but I think this is the same Joseph Epstein who used to be editor of The American Scholar. (I have no scholarly qualifications, but Alice was invited to subscribe by virtue of having been Phi Beta Kappa at Smith College way back when. Do I qualify as a snob for mentioning that?) Epstein ran into trouble as editor for his alleged lack of receptivity to article submissions by women and minorities. I confess, though, that I used to enjoy reading his regular essays in the Scholar, attributed to "Aristides." He was a master of the essay form. I'm surprised that Epstein extols the monied upper-classes, because Aristides used to frequently celebrate his Jewish middle-class upbringing. I have a feeling the subject of this book may have been suggested by an agent or publisher. But maybe I'm giving him too much credit.


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