Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Audiences at choral concerts: who are they?

This is a revised version of a post that first appeared as Who is our audience? in July 2007.

I had my final concert with Woven Chords last Saturday. I’ve been leading the choir for the last ten years so it was a rather bittersweet occasion.

Of course, as always, we had hoped for a full house packed with an enthusiastic audience. But we ended up with around 60 keen punters trying very hard to fill the 350-seat auditorium!

old ladies

Little old ladies by Arty Smokes

As I walked through the audience before the concert started, I was very aware of the sea of grey perms that filled the seats. Our audience was full of “women of a certain age” – again!

The vast majority of our audience at any concert seems to be well over 60 and mostly female. This is also reflected in the choir itself and in the workshops that I run.

Sometimes the choir manage to persuade their children to come along, and almost without exception, they thoroughly enjoy themselves. So why can’t we attract a younger audience?

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with having an older audience, but it would be nice to have a wide spread of ages, genders and nationalities. (This also applies to the choir and workshops: we sing songs from many different countries and cultures, and yet we attract mainly white, middle-class women singers).

Is it perhaps the words “choir” or “concert” which put younger people off? (see Avoiding the ‘C’ word: choir) Do they simply have something better to do on a Saturday night? Is the make-up of our audience simply a reflection of the make-up of the choir? (see Is your audience just friends and family?) In which case, why can’t the choir attract younger people and people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds? (see Singing across the age divide)

There is a wider question here. It’s not just about trying to get a younger audience, it’s trying to get an audience at all! The fact is that audience numbers are waning for choral concerts, and those who do come to ours tend to be already connected to the choir in some way.

How do we reach more people? When we do manage to persuade people to come, they end up having a great time. But the refrain is often “That’s not at all what I expected!”.

Next week I will be starting a series on Finding an Audience starting with identifying what it is your choir has to offer. Following on from that I’ll look at how we describe what it is we do and how to get that message out there.

What’s your experience? Do you manage to get a wide mix of audience members and healthy numbers?


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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