The Millennials’ Orchestra: Changing Styles of Engagement

“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: Changing Styles of Engagement

The prominence and use of technology is one of the most distinguishing factors of the Millennial generation.101 Authors of the Pew Research Center’s comprehensive study Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, consider Millennials to be the first “always connected” generation.102 The increased use of social media and mobile Internet is readily apparent.103 Aaron Smith, author of the Pew Internet & American Life Project gadget survey, reveals in an interview with NPR that 96% of the Millennials in the U.S. own cellphones and are accessing information in different ways, even when compared to just a few years before.104

Carolyn Boiarsky, Journal of Popular Culture contributor, acknowledges the influence of technology on young adults, referring to those raised in the “Electronic Age” as the Nintendo or N-generation.105 The National Endowment for the Arts106 and Pew Research Center107 reveal the multimodal tendencies of the Millennial generation, reflecting their preference for more personalized and media-based creation, expression, and arts participation.108  Boiarsky also notes how members of the Millennial generation are more visually and kinesthetically oriented in a digital and electronic world.109 Westwater’s Symphonic Photochoreography110 may be one way to address such needs, enhancing the experience of symphony orchestra performance and engage Millennials through relevant technology. Symphonic photochoreography combines video projections with symphony orchestra performances to create a synchronized concert experience that incorporates classical music with dynamic, digital imagery.111  Pointing to the social nature of Millennials, Tamsen McMahon and Roger Sametz of MarketingProfs.com emphasize the need for marketing professionals to create, sustain, and evolve in the “Age of the Social.”112 It is important to note that much of this 21st century social interaction occurs online, and increasingly through the use of mobile technology.113

Regarding classical music engagement, audiences can be categorized in a variety of
ways. Henk Roose of Acta Sociologica categorizes classical music audiences based on aesthetic inclinations (or musical tastes), socio-demographics (social and demographic factors affecting status in society), motivations, and frequency of attendance. In this way, Roose recognizes three categories of classical music audiences: passers-by, interested participants, and inner circle.114 Alan Brown with Audience Insights LLC has idenCircles of Valuetified seven layers of value associated with attending live classical music performance by U.S. adults, including both intrinsic (artistic or educational; spiritual; healing/therapeutic) and extrinsic (ritual/ambiance; social interaction; relationship enhancement; occasion) values (pictured left).115 In addition to these considerations, Brown’s Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study examines how classical music consumers relate (or perceive their connection) to their local symphony orchestras.116

The National Endowment for the Arts released a new media report in 2010, discussing the influence of technology on arts participation and exploring the concept of Audience 2.0 – or the ways in which “Americans participate in the arts via electronic and digital media”117 In this report, the NEA examines participation among U.S. adults (18 to 75+ years old)118 in benchmark arts activities. “Benchmark arts activities include jazz, classical music, opera, musical plays, non-musical plays, ballet performances, and visual arts.”119 Respondents are divided into four participant segments based on their inclination, or disinclination, to engage in the arts through media, live performance, or both.120 Segments included those participating through both electronic media and live attendance; electronic media only; live attendance only; neither electronic media nor live attendance.121

Given the choice, how would you prefer to engage with your local symphony orchestra in the classical music concert experience?

*     *     *

101 Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
102 Ibid.
103 National Public Radio,”Survey: 96 Percent of Young Adults Own Cellphones,” 2010,
published electronically, October 18, 2010. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130639028.
104 Ibid.
105 Carolyn Boiarsky, “This Is Not Our Fathers’ Generation: Web Pages, the Chicago Lyric
Opera, and the Philadelphia Orchestra,” Journal of Popular Culture, 36 (Summer 2002): 14-24.
106 Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard and Alan S. Brown, “Beyond Attendance: A Multi-Modal
Understanding of Arts Participation,” 104: National Endowment for the Arts, 2011.
107 Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
108 Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard and Alan S. Brown, “Beyond Attendance.”
109 Ibid.
110 Dr. James Westwater and Nicholas Bardonnay, “Westwater Arts: Home,” http://westwaterarts.com/home.html.
111 Ibid.
112 Tamsen McMahon and Roger Sametz, “Create, Sustain, Evolve: Engaging Your Organization
to Keep Your Brand Healthy and Relevant,” In Marketing/Branding, http://www.sametz.com/news-and-articles/authored-articles/430-create-sustain-evolve.
113 Amanda Lenhart, Kristen Purcell, Aaron Smith, and Kathryn Zickuhr, “Social Media &
Mobile Internet Use among Teens and Young Adults,” In Millennials: A Portrait of Generation
Next, Washington, D.C., 2010.
114 Henk Roose, “Many-Voiced or Unisono? An Inquiry into Motives for Attendance and
Aesthetic Dispositions of the Audience Attending Classical Concerts,” Acta Sociologica, 51, no.
3 (2008): 237-53.
115 Alan Brown Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study: How Americans Relate to Classical Music and Their Local Orchestras. Southport, (Connecticut: Audience Insight LLC, 2002), http://www.polyphonic.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/2002_Classical_Music_Consumer_Report.pdf.
116 Ibid.

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The Millennial Alumni Research Project

Millennial Alumni

It’s hard to believe that I’m coming up on one year post-graduation from American University’s Arts Management program and the completion of my Capstone Project, ‘The Millennials’ Orchestra – Marketing and Development Strategies for Engaging Millennial Audiences and Donors in the U.S. Symphony Orchestra Classical Concert Experience.”  During the research process, my understanding of the Millennial generation as a whole and their inclinations to give was greatly enhanced by the studies and articles published by Achieve, Pew Research Center, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  I became a big fan of these Millennially-charged fact tanks, so you can imagine my nerdy delight when I found out my Alma mater was selected to partner with Achieve and the Chronicle of Philanthropy in the 2014 Millennial Alumni Research Project.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in partnership with Achieve, will research the attitudes and engagement preferences of young alumni (Millennial generation graduates age 22-32). Through research surveys, focus groups, and user testing, institutions of higher education will have a better understanding of how alumni prefer to be involved and ways to connect and seek their support.

Flickr photo, ITU/Rowan Farrell

Flickr photo, ITU/Rowan Farrell

As a Millennial alum, I received an email asking me to participate in the survey.  I was excited to help out my school and contribute to the continued learning around the Millennial generation. Of course, I had to say yes!

I clicked on the link, taking me to the online survey.  In an appreciative and upbeat manner, the general purpose of the survey, as well as the length of time I could expect to devote to completing it, was explained upfront:

Thanks for agreeing to take the 2014 Higher Education Millennial Alumni Survey!  Your university is partnering with the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Achieve to understand the interests and preferences of Millennial alumni.  The survey will take approximately 10 minutes and we thank you for your time.

The survey began with a couple of simple, demographic questions, asking me to identify my gender and birth date (to verify that I fall into the Millennial age-range, I suspect).  Having completed the introduction, I was informed that the survey would be broken into three main components.  Compelled to know more, I continued with the survey.

As I completed one section and entered another, I received a clear message indicating the section/topic change.  I appreciated these mile-markers, not only for the reminder of the topics, but also for the structure of the survey.  Before we go any farther, however, you’re probably wondering what these mystery topics were all about…

  1. Alumni Attitudes
  2. Alumni Giving
  3. Alumni Involvement

As you might expect, I was asked a variety of questions about my interests, career development as it relates to my degree, giving preferences, and involvement with my Alma mater post-graduation, among others.  By the end of the survey, I was invited to participate in their on-going Millennial Involvement Focus Group and agreed.

It will be interesting to take part in this focus group over the next several months and exciting to read about the results of this research initiative.  We’ll have to stay tuned!

The research findings of the Young Alumni Engagement and Attitudinal Study will be released at MCON14 on June 18-19, 2014 in Chicago, IL.

MCON14

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Defining A Contemporary Generation

“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: Defining A Contemporary Generation

Millennial Engagement with U.S. Symphony Orchestras
Members of the Millennial generation are noticeably lacking in the audiences of symphony orchestra concert halls.[1] Based on my research and personal experiences, I believe that developing a better understanding of the Millennial generation, and working to identify and establish effective marketing and development strategies tailored to their preferences and needs, may lend to greater success and stability for U.S. symphony orchestras in the 21st century.  The literature review to follow addresses some of the pressing issues facing symphony orchestras in the U.S., provides insight into the Millennial generation mindset and behaviors, shares examples of innovative programming and forward-thinking adaptations, and reinforces the importance of Millennial engagement.  First, however, it is important to consider how the term “Millennial” is commonly referred to and understood from various points of view.

An Important Note on Terminology
Researchers often refer to the Millennial generation in a variety of ways and use these terms somewhat interchangeably (e.g. Millennials, Millennial generation, Generation Y, Generation Next, NextGen, and younga(er) people/population/cohorts).  Characteristics of a specific generation (Millennial), therefore, are often conflated with the more general age category (young).  Each generation exhibits characteristics and behavior shaped by the prevalent attitudes, expectations, and events of the time.  The Boston Consulting Group, for example, has identified six different groups of Millennials based on consumer behavior.[2]  Listed in descending order of prevalence, these segments include: Hip-ennial (29%), Millennial Mom (22%), Anti-Millennial (16%), Gadget Guru (13%), Clean and Green Millennial (10%), and Old-School Millennial (10%).[3] Future generations of young people may or may not display the same characteristics associated with present-day Millennials.

Inconsistency also exists in defining age ranges of the Millennial generation.  While similar, the minimum and maximum boundaries of age tend to vary from source to source.  According to the Case Foundation, for example, Millennials are “people born between 1978 and 1993, or individuals who are currently 15 to 29 years old,”[4] while members of the Boston Consulting Group consider them as individuals “aged 16 to 34.”[5]  JiWire researchers, specializing in “mobile audience insights,”[6] consider Millennials to be “American consumers between ages 18 and 34.”[7]  Achieve’s Millennial Impact Report 2012 focuses on young adults between the ages of 20 and 35.[8] Finally, Pew Research Center’s Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, and corresponding report Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change., define Millennials as young adults, ages 18 to 29.[9]

Defining a generation solely based on age quickly becomes irrelevant as time passes – what is true at the time would not hold true in the following year.  It is more easily and consistently understood as a range of birth years.  The figure below is a comparison the five most recent generations by age (as of 2011) and by birth year.  The original version of this age timeline can be found on the Pew Research Center website as an interactive graphic.[10]

Pew Research Center: A Portrait of Five Generations

A Portrait of 5 Generations

The Pew Research Center’s 2010 report, “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.,”[11] is based on information collected during a two-week survey in January 2010, involving more than 2,000 adults across the country.[12]  Millennials accounted for 830 of the total 2,020 sample group, enabling a more detailed analysis of Millennial attitudes.[13]  Additional Pew Research Center survey findings supplement the 2010 report, including the 2009 survey on changing attitudes toward work (Oct. 21-25, 2009 with 1,028 respondents, 18+ years old) and generational differences (July 20-Aug. 2, 2009 with 1,815 people nationally, 16+ years old).[14]  Surveys from their ongoing Internet & American Life Project provide supporting social and demographic information for the chapter on technology.[15]

Given the large sample size, national scope of the research, and multidimensional approach, one would expect Pew Research Center’s understanding of the Millennial generation to be highly credible and reliable.  Contributing to the larger report series – Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next – the Pew Research Center’s 2010 report looks at the values, attitudes and experiences of America’s next generation: the Millennials.”[16] It has been my mission to discover how Millennials value, perceive, and prefer to experience classical music performed by symphony orchestras in the United States.

*     *     *

Coming soon…a look at the issues facing U.S. symphony orchestras and some of the factors influencing Millennial participation.


[1] Greg Sandow. “Building a Young Audience (Proof of Culture Change).”
[2] Boston Consulting Group and Barkley and Service Management Group, “The Millennial Consumer: Debunking Stereotypes.” In BCG Perspectives: Boston Consulting Group, 2012.
[3] Michelle Lamar, 2012, New Research: 6 Distinct Segments of Millennials Identified, Social Media Today, retrieved from socialmediatoday website: http://socialmediatoday.com/michellelamarspiral16/490841/new-research-6-distinct-segments-millennials-identified.
[4] Alison Fine, “Social Citizens BETA,” Case Foundation, 2008.
[5] Sonia Paul, 2012, Millennial Consumers: Engaged, Optimistic, Charitable (STUDY), in Mashable Business.
[6] JiWire, 2012, Mobile Audience Insights Report, Q2 2012.
[7] Lauren Indvik, 2011, How the Millennial Generation Uses Mobile (INFOGRAPHIC), Mashable Tech, http://mashable.com/2011/10/13/millenials-mobile-infographic/.
[8] Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates (JGA), “The Millennial Impact Report 2012.”
[9] Pew Research Center, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
[10] Pew Research Center, “Interactive: A Portrait of Five Generations,” http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/02/24/interactive-graphic-demographic-portrait-of-four-generations/.
[11] Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
[12] Ibid, “About the Report,” i.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”

How Millennial Are You?

How Millennial Are You?  This is what Pew Research Center – an organization known to track, analyze, and report on “numbers, facts, and trends shaping your world” – is asking American generations.  As an emerging arts leader (one who’s researching the Millennial generation and working to identify and describe fundraising and marketing strategies to effectively engage this generation in symphony orchestra concerts and events), I was excited to take THE QUIZ in order to gauge my overall Millennial-ness.

As a member of the Millennial generation, I scored 86 out of 100 (see below).  Questions asked relate to the type of data collected by Pew Research Center for their landmark project: Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next.  From politics and values, to media and digital life, as well as demographics and social trends, Millennials have been deemed “Confident. Connected. Open to Change.”

How Millennial are you? Take the quiz!>>  

HowMillennialAreYou?PersonalScore12.08.12

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Engaging Younger Symphony Audiences and Donors in the Classical Music Experience

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Engaging Younger Symphony Audiences and Donors in the Classical Music Experience

Millennial generation – “Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials – the American teens and twenty-somethings (ages 18-29) who are making the passage into adulthood at the start of a new millennium – have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.”[1]

YouTube Symphony Orchestra
Sydney, Australia 2011

It is no secret that symphony orchestras are facing hard and changing times.  In addition to the challenges posed by the struggling economy, symphony audiences are continuing to increase in age as overall attendance continues to decline (Alan Brown’s Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study and Thomas Wolf’s “The Search for Shining Eyes”).  This decline has been most dramatic among young adults over the past thirty years.  Without adequate numbers of younger people to eventually replace current audiences, the future of symphony orchestras in the US has been called into question.  Despite the doom and gloom of bankruptcy announcements and foreclosures in the world of symphony orchestras, some organizations are managing to adapt and survive through innovative programming and by offering greater opportunities for audience engagement.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony, and Detroit Symphony Orchestra have gained attention for their ability to engage 21st century audiences in the concert experience through 21st century means – the BSO’s Off the Cuff and Webumentaries series; Brooklyn Phil’s Beethoven Remix (click here for finalists) and collaboration with Mos Def; San Francisco Symphony’s Keeping Score and conductor MTT’s TEDTalks; Chicago Symphony’s Beyond the Score; and Detroit Symphony’s webcasts.  I believe that engaging the Millennial generation as members of the audience and as donors will increase the potential for these symphony orchestras, as well as other arts organizations, to maintain and sustain future success.  Not only would this help fill an ever-growing void in audience attendance, it would also lend to renewed interest and excitement in orchestral work and foster future generations of support for music and the arts.

As a member of the Millennial generation, I am excited to meet and talk with other Millennials who are passionate about symphony orchestras, classical music, and the arts.  As arts managers we must know how to attract and engage these individuals in ways that resonate with their rapidly evolving interests and needs (Pew Research Center – Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next) , while retaining the current audiences and donors already supporting our organizations.  In general, Millennials are eager to get involved, take on leadership roles, and contribute time and money to philanthropic efforts in nonprofit organizations (see Millennial Impact Report).  Symphony orchestras are beginning to take notice and placing greater emphasis on engaging these younger audiences and donors in exciting and relevant ways.

It is an honor to be the guest host of #ArtsMgtChat in the upcoming discussion The Millennials’ Orchestra: Engaging Younger Symphony Audiences and Donors in the Classical Music Experience.  I look forward to hearing your ideas on engaging Millennials in the performing arts!

Discussion questions:

  1. As an arts consumer and arts manager, what are some of the major barriers to symphony orchestras and classical music?
  2. What are professional symphony orchestras doing well to engage the Millennial generation?
  3. What role(s) do Millennials play in and for your organization?
  4. How much priority should Millennials be given in the nonprofit arts?
  5. What marketing strategies does your organization have in place for targeting and attracting younger audiences?
  6. Does your organization have development programs and/or opportunities for younger donors?
  7. How important is mobile and social media technology for engaging audiences and donors?
  8. How have you been involved with music in your life?

[1] PewResearchCenter, 2010, Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change, In Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, edited by Paul Taylor and Scott Keeter: Pew Research Center.