“The Millennials’ Orchestra” series of blog posts are not meant to be opinion pieces, but rather founded in research, which I gathered and reported as part of my graduate Capstone project from 2012-2013. This is a personal blog and does not represent the views or opinions of my employer.
The Millennials’ Orchestra: Let the Journey Begin!
Millennial Generation Audiences
Since the summer of 2012, I have been working on my Master’s Capstone Portfolio in arts management at American University in Washington, D.C. During this time I focused my attention on Millennial generation audiences and donors and improving their engagement with U.S. symphony orchestras. Now that I have graduated, and therefore successfully completed my research project, I am excited to share it with you and hope you will enjoy reading about my thoughts and findings. As always, I encourage you to comment and share with whomever you think will enjoy my blog. Thanks for following along — I hope you’ll stay tuned for the duration and take interest in Millennial engagement in the arts!! Let the journey begin…
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The Millennials’ Orchestra:
Marketing and Development Strategies for Engaging Millennial Generation Audiences and Donors in the U.S. Classical Symphony Orchestra Concert Experience
The purpose of my master’s portfolio is to describe effective marketing and fundraising strategies for engaging Millennial generation audiences and donors with symphony orchestras and classical music performance. My work as the Strathmore Development Intern for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under the supervision of Stephanie Johnson, Donor Relations Manager, and Deborah Broder, VP of Development, is contained in the portfolio section of my capstone. Work samples demonstrate elements of orchestra management and development, as well as the Next Generation BSO initiative – a development campaign inviting donors to consider underwriting tickets for young professionals to engage in Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performances.
Several key factors point to the importance of involving and recognizing this generation as participants in the culture and fundraising efforts of symphony orchestras in the U.S. today. As with any other generation, this population group is characterized by certain distinguishable attributes and shaped by the particular life events and societal dynamics of their time. Millennials – young adults between the ages 18 and 29 (as of 2010), or individuals born between the years 1981 and 1993 – are known for being confident, connected and open to change. They have been described as the “American teens and twenty-somethings now making the passage into adulthood” with a strong desire to get involved in meaningful activities, engage in social interaction, and give to causes they care most about.
Robert Flanagan, American economist and Professor Emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, discusses the socio-economic perils facing U.S. symphony orchestras. He points to the fact that most Millennials are still finishing school or just starting their careers, and are therefore less likely to fit the traditional concert-goer mold. As of 2002, for example, the median age of people attending classical symphony orchestra concerts nationwide was 60 years and older. These audiences also tend to exhibit higher socioeconomic status (i.e. individuals having at least a college degree and an annual income of $50,000 or more). Such disparities may make Millennials feel less welcome in the concert hall and ultimately less likely to participate. Unfortunately, the absence of Millennial audiences has become a growing concerning as audiences continue to age and participation declines. The National Endowment for the Arts’ 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts reports on some of the influential factors in the marked decline of overall arts participation throughout the United States.
In addition to the financial hardship associated with the economic recession just prior to the survey (2007-2008), the NEA found that classical music audiences between 1982 to 2008 “have aged faster than the general adult population (classical music is one in a small group of performing arts disciplines, including ballet, non-musical theatre, and jazz, to experience such rapid aging of audiences).” In addition, the incidence of music education in the lives of Millennials reportedly fell by more than a third (to 38%) during that time. Greg Sandow refers to the NEA’s research in his classical music ArtsJournal blog, but emphasizes the dramatic decline in attendance by Millennials beginning in the early 1980s.
Given the decline in classical concert attendance even among older adults in recent years, and relative absence of Millennials to help sustain arts organizations going forward, waning attendance becomes not only a concern of reduced ticket sales and annual revenue[S1] , it also brings the long-term health of classical symphony orchestra performance into question. Millennials are clearly eager to make a difference in the world and symphony orchestras would be wise to develop ways of effectively and strategically engaging these individuals, making good use of their time, skills, and donations.
 Pew Research Center, 2010, Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change, In Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, edited by Paul Taylor and Scott Keeter: Pew Research Center.
Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates, “The Millennial Impact Report 2012.”
 Anne Gregor, “Financial Leadership Required to Fight Symphony Orchestra ‘Cost Disease’,” in Stanford Graduate School of Business (2012), published electronically February 8, 2012, http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/headlines/symphony-financial-leadership.html.
 Robert J Flanagan, The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras: Artistic Triumphs and Economic Challenges, 2012.
 Alan Brown, 2002, Classical music audiences, in Midmorning: Minnesota Public Radio.
 Robert J Flanagan, The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras.
 Greg Sandow, “Building a Young Audience (Proof of Culture Change).” In Greg Sandow on the future of classical music. ArtsJournal, 2012.
 Kevin Williams and David Keen, “2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts,” edited by Don Ball, National Endowment for the Arts, November 2009.
 Greg Sandow, “Building a Young Audience (Proof of Culture Change).”
 Alan Brown, 2002, Classical music audiences.
 Greg Sandow, (ArtsJournal blogger), interview by Catherine Starek, “The Future of Classical Music,” June 10, 2012.
 Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates, “The Millennial Impact Report 2012.”