New World Symphony's New Study Confirms Success of Alternative Concerts
The New World Symphony, America's Orchestral Academy (NWS), has announced the results of the study it initiated in 2009 to determine the efficacy of alternate concert formats in building new audiences for classical music alongside audiences for traditional presentations. The results add to the body of research that informs programming decisions of classical music organizations and presenters as they address the changing demographics and lifestyles of American audiences. Of equal importance, and as an additional consequence of this study and their participation in it, the Fellows of the New World Symphony will carry the techniques and sensibilities of-and an expanded appreciation for-audience engagement with them into their professional careers.
NWS systematically tested three alternate performance formats: 30-minute Mini-Concerts; late-night, mixed-genre lounge-style events titledPulse: Late Night at the New World Symphony; and hour-long Encounters that integrate scripted narration and video into the performance and include a post-concert reception for the entire audience. The study found that these alternate formats attracted more than double the number of new patrons than traditionally formatted programs, while also increasing audience diversity.
During the survey period (2010-2013), alternate performance formats accounted for 10 percent of the overall concert offerings, but 31 percent of first-time ticket buyers. In addition, 42 percent of the first-time attendees that were introduced to the New World Symphony through an alternate format made an additional ticket purchase, either to another alternate format or to a conventionally formatted concert.
Over the past two years, NWS, a post-graduate orchestral academy, partnered with five U.S. professional orchestras to conduct research on audiences attending their alternate performance formats, providing a nationwide sample of audiences. Research partners included the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, Memphis Symphony Orchestra and San Diego Symphony. Generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Kovner Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the study was conducted by the New World Symphony and leading research and evaluation firm WolfBrown.
"At the New World Symphony, we are always exploring the relationship between excellence and inclusion," stated NWS's Founder and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas. "As we engage these new audiences, we are guided by our vision statement: The New World Symphony sees a strong and secure future for classical music and will redefine, reaffirm, express, and share its traditions with as many people as possible."