Classical Music

Survey Results: Get Out Much?

How often are you able to get out?  If you’re like a lot of people these days, going out to a concert is reserved more for special occasions thanks to busy schedules and tight budgets.  One thing I hoped to discover in my survey was whether or not folks ever got out to see a performance that had at least something to do with classical music, whether that be a symphony concert, an opera, or ballet.  Here’s what I learned.

The first question asks where our survey takers have ever been, which musical ensemble performances had they attended.  Please remember that this is one of the questions to which respondents were allowed to choose more than one option.  That means each individual answer is in relation to the total number of respondents (177) rather than in relation to the other options.  In other words, the percentages won’t equal 100 and the number of responses won’t add up to 177!

Question 3: For which of the following musical ensembles in the Columbus area have you attended performances? (Check all that apply)
Columbus Symphony Orchestra 113 64%
Ballet Met 74 42%
Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra 47 27%
Opera Columbus 45 25%
Other Option 42 24%
I do not attend concerts or musical performances 32 18%
New Albany Symphony Orchestra 7 4%

113 out of 177 respondents, or 64%, had attended at least one performance of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. That’s not altogether surprising as 1/3 of these surveys were filled out at the CSO booth at the arts festival, but it’s definitely great to see!  74 respondents, or 42%, had attended the Ballet Met.  We had lots of other fun options as well since 42 people had attended performances that were not specifically listed such as:

* Columbus Jazz Band

* Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus

* Picnic With the Pops

* CAPA Summer movies

* Ohio State University ensembles

* Columbus Dance Theater

* K-12 concerts (My nephew Ben’s first concert was a good one!)

Folks in Columbus like their arts organizations and fortunately, we have a lot to choose from!

One person mentioned that since New Albany Symphony Orchestra was only “semi-pro” it didn’t belong on this list.  Quite honestly, I didn’t care if any of the ensembles listed were pro or not.  (NASO was there simply because I’d heard of it.)  That was irrelevant to the question. What was relevant was whether or not people have actually attended and it rather looks as if most people have.  Only 32, or 18%, stated they don’t attend concerts or musical performances.


How long has it been?

The next questions asks what concerts were attended within the past year.  I was a little disappointed in the results, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed, right?

For the record, it would probably also be a good idea to again mention that this survey was filled out or shared by a fair number of orchestra musicians who have naturally attended 4 or more concerts within the past year!  That’s OK as I did, too, but I sure as heck wasn’t on stage. That gong would sound in no time if I tried!

Combine that thought though with the 1/3 of the surveys that were filled out at the CSO booth at the Arts festival, it only makes sense that the majority of the respondents have already attended CSO performances.  The troubling part is that they haven’t done that recently.  The results on this particular question troubled me a little bit. Looking at all these responses, I was left with one main question: Where is everyone?  Where’d they go?

Question 4: How many classical music concerts with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (i.e. not Pops) have you attended in the last year?
0 108 61%
1 26 15%
4 or more 20 11%
2 17 10%
3 6 3%

Roughly the same number of respondents who said they have previously been to CSO performances have not attended any within the past year.  That begs another question: why not?  Where are they?  113, or 64%, had indeed attended CSO classical music performances in the past, yet 108 out of 177, or 61%, have not been within the last year. Seriously – where did they go?  Some probably just have never been and those 108 who haven’t been to a CSO concert in the last year are not automatically  part of that 113 from the previous question, but at least half of them are.  Where have they gone?

What can be done to bring them back?

I think we may have just found the $64,000 question.

4 thoughts on “Survey Results: Get Out Much?

  1. You asked about attending CSO concerts in #3. In #4 you asked about CSO Classical concerts in the past year. Those who have attended CSO concers at some time or other may have attended pops concerts, and even if they had attended pops concerts in the past ear they may not have attended classical concerts.

    • Thanks for your comment! You’re absolutely right in that folks may have attended pops concerts which is why though I specifically excluded that in the question.

      “Question 4: How many classical music concerts with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (i.e. not Pops) have you attended in the last year?”

      I was asking about classical music concerts because when I go to those concerts, I sit in a section that is typically filled to only about 10-15% of its capacity. Rear balcony – has about 500 or so seats and usually has about 50-75 patrons at concerts. That’s where I sit and maybe it’s my geeky side coming through, but I usually count them!

      On the other hand, my survey was very informal and very unscientific (was limited to 10 questions, was sent out and also shared by my friends, etc.) It definitely had its limits, but it also gave me a good place to start, which was – for me – the point. Plus, it was conducted in June – a month after the classical season ended and right before the Pops season started.

      So you’re right, but by that same token, why DO we still have so many empty seats at the classical music concerts? For my part, the conversation is just getting started!

  2. The poor attendance at classical concerts is a concern to many interested in classical music. Greg Sandow has been on this for several years. He is writing a book about the aging of the audience at classical concerts.

    In Kansas City the new concert hall has been a great stimulus to attendance, and Michael Stern as music director of the sympony has energized the music a bit. So a concert experience is better in many ways than it was about 10 years ago when I started going to KC to hear the symphony, (I live in Columbia, about 125 miles to KC,) The new hall (separate oprera house and orchestra hall, shared lobby and ticket booths) was largely made possible by the Kauffman Foundation. Not every one can get together $220,000,000 to pay for this. The symphony is the successor to the philharmonic, which went broke about 30 years ago. The board leaders of the symphony are very much aware of the danger of not living within one’s means, as too many orchestras are learning these days; they are very active in raising money.

    I don’t see any prospect of reversing the aging of the audience or the thin attendance at concerts, Here in Columbia we have a small professional orchestra in the summer. The classical concerts seem to draw about 1/2 or 2/3 of the audience that the pops concerts get; I should not comment on this too much as I gave up on the pops concerts about 6 years ago.

    I hope you will say more about your concert experiences. I just found your blog (through Adaptistration.) The donation puzzle you describe reminds me these organizations are nonprofit for a reason: they cold not hope to make a profit if they tried. Intensional bankruptcy seems to be their plan.

    Yours, Robert E. Harris

    • Thanks for the website – I’ll have to check it out this weekend. I’m glad you found my blog – Adaptistration is a great site. I’m learning a lot thanks to what Drew writes there. I actually penned a post there for Take a Friend to the Orchestra week this year. It showed my tongue and cheek attempt to credit classical music for the success of collegiate athletic teams!

      I fully plan to write about more concert experiences. I just don’t have tickets for one until October. I just renewed my 4-pack of tickets and bought one for the season opener (Mahler’s 2nd Symphony). I plan to get two more tickets – one to each Mozart concert in the Southern Theatre) and if I can swing it, a ticket to hear Lang Lang. The number of concerts I attend is strictly dictated by my budget. This year’s season tickets were thanks to a Visa gift card I received at Christmas!

      I agree with what you said about reversing the aging of the audience in classical concerts – unless orchestras decide to start advertising somewhere other than the print version of the paper. I wrote the CSO an Email asking about where all they advertised back in April and after two follow ups, I just got a “thanks for your Email, sorry it took a while to respond. I’ll address your questions asap.” That was April 22 and I’ve not heard a thing since then. I also asked about group ticket sales thinking I could get my Peace Corps alumni group together in the fall. In that same Email, I was given a wrong number. Not good.

      It’s tough – my generation (Gen x) and the one after doesn’t read the print version of the paper unless we’re visiting our parents or grandparents, so advertising there just reaches the demographic already buying tickets.

      I put out an offer to write a blog on behalf of the orchestra. It’s been received well and folks are in favor because they like the idea of regular attempts to reach the public at large. That said the it’s an idea that’s still pending. Plus, each person there, under the CAPA umbrella, is responsible for more than one organization – whether that be the Symphony, Opera, CATCO, etc. They’re spread out and don’t have the ability to concentrate on just one organization. They need someone who can concentrate all their efforts on the Orchestra.

      The downward trend with regard to attendance though – I firmly think that can be reversed. Many ideas are easy and inexpensive (or free), they just need to be attempted. Granted if I write a blog for them, I can’t write some of what I put in here – such as three posts about the inefficiencies of their online donation system, but it needs to be said. You should see the offline comments I’m getting! I believe in the CSO. They’re really good and as the longest standing arts organization here in Columbus, they deserve our help. And besides, I love classical music so for selfish reasons I want to keep them around!

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