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MAJOR SYMPHONY ORCHESTRAS ILL-SUITED
TO ATTRACT MTV / HIP HOP GENERATION
Plight of American Music Initiative
American Youth Symphony
Prepared by Gregory Charles Royal
Edited by Susan Veres
Table of Contents
Part One: Definitions of a New
Part Two: Stealth Crisis: Electronic
Part Three: The Elite Symphonic Culture As it
Relates to Building Young Audience Attendance…………………..…Page 8
A-Failure to Acknowledge the Existence of an MTV / Hip Hop
B- Questionable Desire to Woo Young Audiences…………………………...……Page 13
C- The Presentation of Symphonic Music…………………………………......……Page 14
Part Four: Analysis……………………………………………………Page 15
Part Five: Recommendations-A Solution…………………………......Page 16
The American Youth Symphony issues this report as part of its Plight of American Music Initiative. This Initiative, in
part, is an ongoing discussion program─taking place in middle and high schools across the country─addressing the
state of instrumental music performance and its appreciation by the MTV / Hip Hop Generation.
We view this report as significant because unlike major studies and data cited herein, it recognizes the new paradigm
that exists in our society regarding electronic sound (see definition below), MTV and Hip Hop culture and a
reconfiguring of traditional demographic segments.
The effects of this new paradigm are challenging. Previously, the research of musical tastes and behaviors went
forward on the premise that people agreed generally with what defined music, i.e. melodies, harmonies and rhythms
performed by people on musical and vocal instruments. However, the traditional parameters of what constitutes
music and a musical performance have been dramatically expanded by the MTV / Hip Hop culture. Today, the young
generation no longer differentiates between the artistry involved in playing a musical instrument, such as a violin,
versus the artistry involved in choosing a violin sample and then programming a computer to play it.
It is in this context that this report concludes that the culture, financial position and presentation of the major
symphony orchestras in the United States, with regard to classical music, are detrimental to the task of impacting the
MTV / Hip Hop Generation. We do conclude however, that the role of the youth and community orchestras is vital but
needs retooling in order to increase the MTV / Hip Hop generation’s familiarity with instrumental music performance.
Part One: Definitions of a New Paradigm
For the purposes of this report, we use the term MTV Generation to define 12 to 34 year olds, connected by similar
attitudes, lifestyles and overlapping musical interests (i.e. grunge, rap, modern R&B, pop), as set forth in the original
programming and video content played by Music Television Network (MTV).
The demographic that is reached and influenced by MTV is extremely broad having a core audience that ranges in
age from 12-34 (Hollywood Reporter May 02, 2005: MTV was front-runner in the 12-34 demos, with seven of the top
20 series this past week). At any minute of the day, the network is viewed, on average, by over 400,000 households
out of over 60 million households that receive the channel. (Hollywood Reporter May 02, 2005).
In addition to MTV’s significant ratings in the 12-34 demographic, the network also features the most popular music
and artists of its viewership (Based on Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)). According to statistics
from the RIAA, Rap, R&B and pop (excluding rock) comprise 33% of all US recorded music purchases, which
amounts to approximately four billion dollars in sales.
This enormous impact has in fact allowed MTV to have immense influence, and in fact help shape, popular culture.
The culture that it has influenced is not without controversy. With the dawn of MTV, it brought short musical films (i.e.
videos) into the homes of children, along with sexual content within these videos which many adults deemed to be
inappropriate. Their programming, featuring young adults within their viewing demographic, focused on real-life
issues and problems and strayed from the predominant sitcom models that had held true since the dawn of
television. These dramatic changes in what was accessible to young people remain controversial some 20 years
after the birth of MTV. For example, the Parent’s Television Council (PTC) released a study of MTV original
programming that revealed expletive-laden programming—both partially-bleeped and non-bleeped obscenities—
occurring approximately once every three minutes with no language warnings to parents. (Broadcasting & Cable
(August 12, 2005); or, several articles such as MTV Ratings Soar Off Gross Humor, Sex -- and That's Just the Tame
By Sally Beatty Wall Street Journal. A sample of some of their most controversial programming includes
"Undressed," a soap opera about high school and college students that delivers a nightly dose of teen sex. (Sally
Beatty Wall Street Journal).
This controversy that has, and continues to surround MTV, remains a huge influence on its demographic as their
viewership supports in its numbers MTV’s notion that they are featuring the realities and interests of these young
HIP HOP GENERATION
For the purposes of this report we use the term Hip Hop to define modern attitudes, lifestyles, fashion styles and
music that come directly from the Black community, although Hip Hop has no true age cutoff and crosses all racial
and socio-economic boundaries of the people who participate in the culture.
Hip Hop as a culture and as a music (i.e. rap, modern R&B a.k.a. Urban) can directly fall under the umbrella of the
MTV Generation, but not necessarily. As a major lifestyle and musical genre, it is large enough (Rap 12.1% and
R&B Urban 11.3% of all record sales in 2004) to be defined as its own distinct segment and subcategory within the
MTV Generation─this is why we use the term MTV / Hip Hop Generation.
Hip Hop, which represents attitudes, lifestyles, fashion styles and music, comes directly from the Black community.
However, the participants cross racial, economical and educational lines as demonstrated by those purchasers of its
recorded music. (Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) 2004 Consumer Trends Chart)
There are obviously factions of various young music genres that do not fall under the MTV Generation umbrella,
some factions within Hip Hop included. There are many participants of Hip Hop that do not subscribe to the collective
commercialism or morality of MTV because they believe it not to be “hardcore” enough for their history, their
sensibilities, or their realities, or they simply may not have access to cable television.
The size and economic impact of most non-subscribing factions are not in our view, economically significant or
influential enough to warrant a distinct category outside of the MTV Generation umbrella, however, Hip Hop is the
exception. Hip Hop is such a large, notable and influential culture independently, that the non-conforming factions
within it are also significant and must be distinguished.
MTV / HIP HOP GENERATION
For the purposes of this report we use the term MTV / Hip Hop Generation to mean generally, all purchasers of music
in the United States between the ages of 12 and 34. Please see distinct definitions above.
Stealth Crisis: Electronic Music
The history of new music in America is well documented. New music has traditionally resulted from some social or
stylistic revolt as in bebop or rock and roll. The critique surrounding these musics has always involved a judgment of
its musical content (i.e. language, stylistic nuances, etc.)
For the first time in our history, critique of a music, i.e. the MTV / Hip Hop Generation’s music, unlike its
predecessors, goes well beyond debates over its content. Significantly, the very manner in which the music is
created and the ramifications of that process has been called into question. Although electronic instruments have
been around since the 1890’s, their ultimate pervasive usage has taken a hundred years to be realized, and as a
result, the MTV / Hip Hop Generation has essentially introduced a new frontier─a culture of electronic sounds.
Note About Electronic Sounds
For the purposes of this study, we do not consider guitars basses, manually played keyboard synthesizers (not
samplers which can be sounds in keyboards of actual musical instruments) or other altered or amplified musical
instruments, as electronic sounds.
Types of Electronic Sounds Defined
1. Previously recorded music on phonograph records, tapes, CDs or any other medium, inserted into an artist’s song
as a musical backdrop. Called sampled music
2. Previously recorded single sounds of a musical instrument, including strings, horns, drums and voices. Called
3. Sounds set forth in numbers 1 and 2 that can be manipulated, via computer software or manually such as DJ
mixing, to give the illusion of an actual human performance via a computer, keyboard, drum machine, turntable or
A rapid acceleration of electronic instruments in the commercial marketplace began around 1979. That year Roland
introduced the Boss DR-55 drum machine, one of the first programmable rhythm machines. This is significant
because it allowed the user to create their own rhythmic patterns or beats. The cost of this machine was under
$200. Then in 1981 Linn introduced the LM-1, the first drum machine to use digital samples, or digital recordings of
actual drum sounds. Suddenly the sound of real, live, drummers (though the music was not actually being played
live) was being heard on the records of big named artists such as Prince and Nine Inch Nails. This development
alone changed the entire landscape and possibilites within the music industry. (“Drum Machine” Wikepedia)
Around this time, in the mid 1970’s, with the development of rap music, snippets of an instrumental portion of a
particular record were duplicated multiple times and played in succession, called looping, to give the illusion of a
continuous music track over which an artist would rap. The record samples of James Brown became widely used in
this regard by rap artists for drum beats and instrumental and vocal riffs.
By the 1980’s, digital samplers like the Fairlight, and less expensive models that could sample acoustic instruments,
voices and other sounds to be played through a musical keyboard, became widespread.
The ramifications of these very ingenious technological inventions introduced a new paradigm by the late 1980’s that
can be described as follows.
1) Musicians, including classical musicians, who played in recording studios and bands, immediately became less
employed to the point were many left the field of music (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Musicians, Singers, and Related Workers, on the Internet at http:
//www.bls.gov/oco/ocos095.htm (visited February 21, 2006).
2) Up and coming artists who under previous circumstances could not afford the necessary musicians to record their
own music could utilize electronic sounds to realize their dreams.
3) Up and coming artists who were not musically proficient enough to perform on some or any instrument, or read or
write music, could now produce music by sampling select sounds or previously recorded records as background for
their vocal or rap performances. In the case of single sounds, they would sequence (or program) them by playing
them slowly, by ear and note by note, on a keyboard or drum machine . They could then correct any mistakes using
perfector functions within the devices and then speed up the sequences to simulate “perfectly played” performances.
4) Musicians, particularly keyboardists and drummers helped perfect the craft of fooling the public by injecting human
mistakes and tendencies into the sequences so that the music sounded even more real.
5) Awareness and subsequent usage of these relatively inexpensive devices trickled down to young people who took
advantage of the above scenerios to make their own music. For the first time, they could bypass the necessity of
playing a musical instrument or reading or writing music.(Gregory Charles Royal, musician, producer of Ariel Hot 100
The fact is that electronic music for many young people born after 1980, many of whom are now college graduates,
is the only music they know as performers, consumers and appreciators.
The orientation of the MTV / Hip Hop Generation is key to shedding light on their perspective of what constitutes the
making of music. The answer seems to be─ by any means necessary.Accordingly, making music in an electronic
manner does require a certain technical proficiency, and therefore it can hardly be said that the music “producers”
within the MTV / Hip Hop Generation who produce music in this way are any less intelligent than producers who
employ traditional means. It is simply a completely different process within the expanded parameters of music
In light of these facts, which are not anecdotal, it is our view that any strategy to woo the MTV / Hip Hop Generation in
considering and appreciating traditional ways of making and performing music, to a degree that is artistically and
economically significant , must come from the industry from which they are accustomed. In other words,
traditionalists must respect their way of making music while simultaneously convincing their music industry to
appreciate and promote traditional methods. (Please see the Analysis portion of this report for more information)
The Elite Symphonic Culture As it Relates to Building Young Audience Attendance
“In the entire mass of data about the American orchestra, there is less concrete information about its audience than
any other aspect.” Philip Hart, Orpheus in the New World: The symphony orchestras as an American cultural
institution—its past, present, and future 1973
We conclude that there are several reasons why the major symphony orchestras are ill-suited for instituting or
maintaining any change in the MTV / Hip Hop Generation's musical attitudes. They include:
A) Failure to Acknowledge the Existence of an MTV / Hip Hop Generation
B) Questionable Desire to Woo Young Audiences
C) The Presentation of Symphonic Music
We also conclude that the nation's youth and community orchestras could dramatically institute change if armed with
the commercial marketing and management resources which will be discussed in the Recommendations section.
First, an examination of the elite classical music culture via studies, data and the major orchestras themselves, calls
into question their ability to grasp that a vast, distinct and powerful demographic and culture exists outside of their
Second, that same examination which reveals the financial condition of the major symphony orchestras, calls into
question a bona fide interest in appealing to a young audience at all.
Explanation of Supporting Data
In sorting out the studies and data, we turn to the work of Alice Wang who conducted extensive research in her thesis
entitled: The American Symphony Orchestra: Renewable Audiences or a Dying Institution? April 3, 2003. Wang
notes that a 1994 study, popularly titled the Magic of Music, commissioned by 15 orchestras and the John S. and
James L. Knight Foundation was "perhaps the most comprehensive and well researched audience study on
orchestras and audiences thus far". The study examined the future of classical music and classical music audiences
through the case study of 15 orchestras. The study based its data on more than 11,300 random sample telephone
interviews, a national telephone survey of 2,200 adults, and a 1,500 orchestra ticket buyer survey. Over 10,000
responses were counted. The entire study took two years. (The American Symphony Orchestra: Renewable
Audiences or a Dying Institution? Alice Wang, April 3, 2003). The formal title of the Knight study is John S. and James
L. Knight Foundation, Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study: How Americans Relate to Classical Music and
Their Local Orchestras (Southport, CT: Audience Insight LLC,2002)
In addition to examining the Knight Foundation study, Wang in her thesis also:
1) Examined studies on the topic undertaken by sociologists and economists.
2) Interviewed marketing directors from numerous orchestras directly.
3) Obtained data from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) 1997
Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) study and examined it and the Knight Foundation study for
information on the age of audiences.
4) Analyzed data from eight American orchestras (The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Boston Symphony Orchestra,
The Pittsburgh Symphony, The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, The Atlanta Symphony, The Brooklyn
Philharmonic, The Portland Symphony, and The Philharmonic Orchestra of New Jersey)
5) Garnered information through individual orchestral market survey data and personal interviews with individual
orchestra marketing directors.
(The American Symphony Orchestra: Renewable Audiences or a Dying Institution? Alice Wang, April 3, 2003)
Without taking a position on the conclusions set forth in Wang's thesis, we are confident that her research is
thorough and the compilation of references is representative of the elite classical music culture. Therefore we
incorporate by reference to Wang, the references listed in her bibliography attached at the end of this report. In
addition we incorporate by specific reference, other supporting evidence not included in Wang’s thesis.
Alice Wang’s thesis can found at: http://www.princeton.edu/~artspol/studentpap/undergrad%20thesis3%20Wang.pdf
Important Facts About the Symphony Orchestra Market
1) There are 295,734,134 people in the U.S.; 275,238,654 age 5 and up
2) 53,014,315 are 5 -17 19% of the population age 5 and up.
3) 69,059,276 are 18-35 31% of the population 5 and up
4) 153,165,061 are 36 and older 56% of the population 5 and up
1-4 (US Census Bureau 2005 Projections)
5) 15.6 % of adults 18 and over or about 35 million people attend one classical music concert per year. (National
Endowment for the Arts: Survey of Public Participation in the Arts 1997)
6) The majority of audiences attending major symphony orchestra concerts hover around age 50 and above. (The
American Symphony Orchestra: Renewable Audiences or a Dying Institution? Alice Wang, April 3, 2003)
7) About 16% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 attended a symphony orchestra concert in 1997 or about
11million people. (National Endowment for the Arts: Survey of Public Participation in the Arts 1997)
8) Recordings of classical music represent about 2% of all records sold in America, or about 240 million dollars
annually compared with 11 billion dollars for the entire industry. (Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
2004 Consumer Trends Chart)
9) The majority of American symphony orchestra concerts are sold to subscribers, leaving only a small number of
tickets available for single ticket buyers (exact number undetermined) (The American Symphony Orchestra:
Renewable Audiences or a Dying Institution? Alice Wang, April 3, 2003)
10) 98% of subscribers are over the age of 35 and 2% are below (John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Classical
Music Consumer Segmentation Study: How Americans Relate to Classical Music and Their Local Orchestras)
11) The majority of single tickets are purchased by people 35 and under (exact number undetermined) (The
American Symphony Orchestra: Renewable Audiences or a Dying Institution? Alice Wang, April 3, 2003)
Note: There are conflicting reports about the increase in revenues and audience growth amongst various studies
and authorities; however, these conflicts are relatively minor for the purposes of this report. The differences primarily
relate to statistics that may or may not have been adjusted for inflation and population growth, e.g. Symphony x's
audience has increased 10% but such a statistic may not have taken into account that the overall population also
increased by the same percentage making Symphony x's actual percentage gain 0%.
Failure to Acknowledge the Existence of an MTV / Hip Hop Generation
The body of Wang's research produced no study, statistic, or commentary that even suggests that there is a
massive, distinct, culture in the 12-34 demographic (i.e. MTV / Hip Hop Generation). To the contrary, her research
reveals that the premises and objectives of symphonic marketers are to woo a homogeneous population which is
seperated merely by age, wealth and career.
An examination of Wang's research further reveals that the industry is torn between different schools of thought
regarding low attendance by young people.
The two primary schools of thought regarding low attendance by young people are– Life Cycle and the Subscription
Dilemma. Before we explain these schools of thought it is important to note that each refutes any theory that there is
actually only one remaining classical audience that it just getting older, "graying", and will eventually die out. This is
important because such an acknowledgment of graying could, in fact, explain the low attendance by young people
which may only worsen with time.
Jack McAuliffe of the American Symphony Orchestra League, and marketing directors Ed Cambron of The
Philadelphia Orchestra and Charlie Wade of the Atlanta Symphony, subscribe to a theory to explain a drop in
classical concert attendance by 30’s adults called Life Cycle. This theory has also been supported by the findings
of two National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) studies and one American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) study.
The theory explains the current drop off in attendance by 30-somethings in that they actually attended a decade or
so ago in their 20's but left the symphony as they are currently busy tending to their careers and children and that
they will return to the symphony as they approach the age of 50. Such a return will materialize as the hustle and
bustle of their lives subsides─although they could return earlier in their life cycle should circumstances permit. (The
American Symphony Orchestra: Renewable Audiences or a Dying Institution? Alice Wang, April 3, 2003)
The Subscription Dilemma
The other theory concerning the inability of marketers to attract more young concertgoers is the dilemma created by
It is generally accepted and further supported in a Knight Foundation study Classical Music Consumer Segmentation
Study: How Americans Relate to Classical Music and Their Local Orchestras that the majority of American symphony
orchestra concerts are sold to subscribers. The study also found that ninety eight percent (98%) of subscribers are
over the age of 35. The remaining 2% are part of an age group of 18 to 34 year olds who, outside of this percentile,
according to Wang’s research, are primarily single event purchasers. (What is unclear is the total number of
subscription buyers verses single ticket buyers). These young single ticket purchasers attend the symphony, at best,
in small numbers nonetheless (National Endowment for the Arts: Survey of Public Participation in the Arts 1997).
The purported dilemma is that marketers, who have limited advertising budgets, must conduct direct market
campaigns necessary to retain and/or increase their more stable and lucrative subscriber bases. In accomplishing
this, they cannot also direct resources toward wooing young ticket buyers who primarily purchase single tickets. This
is because advertising to single ticket buyers purportedly requires media campaigns, i.e., print and television etc.─an
entirely different marketing scheme than that of direct mailings and phone calls.
Questionable Desire to Woo Young Audiences
The financial position of major symphony orchestras, i.e. orchestras representing large metropolitan populations, as
non-profit concerns, are surprisingly healthy. Many have gross receipts in excess of 150 million dollars, which
includes endowments, ticket revenues, grants etc. (Examination of IRS form 990 of various orchestras)
Interestingly however, ticket purchases, including subscrpitions, comprise, on average, about 20% of these gross
receipts. Considering that tickets purchased by the young minority concertgoers are already included in that figure,
developing radical strategies to woo additional young concertgoers may not be worth the effort. In essence, the
radical efforts needed to make a small increase in young audiences may not be worth the small increase to their
bottom line. This mindset is further underscored by the fact that the prevailing schools of thought do not believe
audiences are dying out anyway.
There is a perception that the major orchestras have extremely tight budgets because they regularly solicit financial
support from the public. However those financial concerns may have more to do with the salaries and fees
orchestras choose to pay rather than a true bugetary crisis. For example, the San Francisco Symphony pays its
executive director over $350,000 per year and many of its its musicians make in excess of $170,000 per year─this
pay scale is not uncommon amongst major orchestras. (Examination of IRS form 990 of various orchestras)
Norman Lebrecht in his book, Who Killed Classical Music? Maestros, Managers, and Corporate Politics (Secaucaus,
NJ: Carol Publishing Group), blames financial woes on the music business, managers of orchestras, and highly paid
“star” soloists and maestros who, because of their high fees, produce a sometimes unbearably high financial strain
on the orchestras.
The Presentation of Symphonic Music
…“One reason for the general discontent with orchestra life is the lack of flexibility. This lack of flexibility is not only
visible artistically, but also in presentation”
-Pierre Boulez Wheatland Foundation, The Evolution of the Symphony Orchestra: History, Problems, And Agenda.
The presentation of symphonic music is important during the actual performances, as well as in the media.
Presentation during the performance does not directly affect someone not in attendance, however, it may influence
an attendees’ decision to return and their opinion of the performance which they might share with peers. This can in
turn have a dramatic impact on word of mouth promotion.
Attire of Performers
The formal attire of orchestra performers is contrary to the casual or "stylish" attire worn by performers in other music
Physical Nuances of Performers
Note: We make no inferenses as to the actual intent of the symphonic performers.
The conductor, the "leader", of the orchestra performs with his/her back to the audience, though this was not always
the case before the 19th century. (Chicago Symphony Orchestra Classical Music Glossary). The principal
performers, i.e. the orchestra itself, are not positioned towards the audience but rather towards the conductor.
In other genre, the leader─either a vocalist, rapper or instrumentalist─is facing the audience. Likewise, the band is
also facing the audience. The rare exception to this is, coincidentally, on occasion an auxiliary orchestra is utilized
to augment a band. These orchestra performers are again not positioned towards the audience, for example, a pit
orchestra on an award show.
The reading of music by symphony orchestras is also contrary to the practices of musical performers in other genres
(except the jazz big band which is not a significant percentage of the American recorded music market at less than
Cultural Traditions of Symphony
As stated in Part One, Wang's research produced no study, statistic, or commentary which remotely suggests that a
massive and distinct demographic even exists ( i.e. MTV / Hip Hop Generation). The belief that a younger potential
concertgoer is distinguished from the older attending audience merely by age, wealth and career is contrary to the
evidence presented herein.
That said, the climate of the major symphony concert setting with all of its formalities, including attire and applause
etiquette, forces all participants and potential participants into a conforming environment rather than an adaptive
environment. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the belief that symphony orchestra concerts require a
certain regimented behavior. Norman Lebrecht, in his book Who Killed Classical Music? Maestros, Managers, and
Corporate Politics, asserts that younger Americans are deterred from attending the symphony by high prices,
presentation, and ambiance. These formalized behaviors are actually contrary to the behaviors required in other
genre. Even in jazz, though some settings are formal, a vast amount of major performances are informal allowing the
audience to freely express its appreciation and determine its own attire and ambiance.
Part Four: Analysis
Schools of Thought
It is the focus and conclusions of the schools of thought (outlined above in Part Three, Section A) that signaled the
first red flag in our findings: the major symphony orchestras are ill-suited for instituting or maintaining any change in
the MTV / Hip Hop Generation's musical attitudes.
Generally, these premises demonstrate a view of the marketplace that is either naive or perilously introspective.
These schools of thought are fatally flawed in that they both assume that the reasons young listeners are not
attending is because they can't get there (Life Cycle) or that they are not aware of the concerts (Subscription
These schools of thought do not even consider that classical music or its presentation is simply not appealing to
young listeners who have, in essence, created a new musical landscape that on many levels renders the music and
presentation of the symphony irrelevent. Nor does it take into account that this generation’s culture is not accepting
of the formalized ambiance surrounding symphony orchestra concerts.
Our conclusion in this regard is supported by the statistics on recorded music consumption and cultural orientation.
As presented earlier, the MTV / Hip Hop Generation is defined and quantified, in part, by its music purchasing
choices; it is also defined by the production choices of the artists and labels which produce the music that they buy.
These production choices, we can surmise with a certainty, do not include classical musical style or any significant
acoustic instrumentation in the year 2006. Currently, the symphony is not even a player on the MTV / Hip Hop
Note: As no consumer trend or statistic can identify 100% of a demographic, it is a certainty that there does exist a
small percentage of the MTV / Hip Hop Generation who do attend concerts, or have attended at least one concert.
However, that small audience has remained arguably flat for several years.
The second red flag in our findings is that major symphony orchestras are ill-suited for instituting or maintaining any
change in the MTV / Hip Hop Generation's musical attitudes due to their inflexible mode of presentation. It is an
absolute fact that the symphony orchestra and its conductor are the “performers”, as are a headline vocalist, rapper,
instrumentalist, singing group or band. However, we conclude that the symphony orchestra's presentation,
irrespective of its stylistic musical differences, runs contrary to other genre in American music. If the orchestra, by
virtue of the way it is set up, inherently alienates its audience, relative to other performers who are perceived to
perform to and for their audiences, how can it reasonably expect to change the hearts and minds of a generation
uninterested to begin with? Likewise, if the environment of the symphony in terms of its etiquette and norms is so
vastly different then that of the MTV/ Hip Hop Generation, what would compell them to ‘hang out’ there?
We conclude that because of all of these factors that are so ingrained in the symphonic culture─the schools of
thought regarding attendance, the questionable desire to attract young people, and the presentation of symphonic
music─the major American symphony orchestras are ineffective and thus detrimental to a progressive attempt to
attract young audiences (We direct you to a section in Wang’s thesis called A Mélange of Commentaries in which
various authorities opine).
Part Five: Recommendations-A Solution
We believe that an available path currently exists for symphonic music to reach the MTV / Hip Hop Generation in a
significant way─via the youth and community orchestras of America.
This is possible primarily because youth themselves are the core participants and those organizations are
structurally flexible enough to institute changes within their marketing strategies and presentation that can make a
difference right now.
We have compiled the final two sections on concepts and maketing plans.
Think Like a Business─Because You Are One
[A] RAND study…recommends that orchestras focus on a marketing strategy which heeds more attention to the
demand of the audience rather than the supply. “The Performing Arts: Trends and Their Implications.” RAND.
Online. Dec. 2002.
1) Must be willing to abandon the failed marketing strategies of large symphony orchestras who may have different
social and musical priorites and who possess complex financial stuctures.
2) Recognize that youth orchestras do not have to change their mission of providing an enlightening experience to
youth by teaching them classical music. However, they must also institute an equal mission of making the experience
for young listeners interesting and comfortable.
3) Understand that commercial marketing is the new world order in garnering widespread musical allegiances among
youth and that fostering a long-term welfare culture of survival by grants, donations and tuition makes you less
creative, savvy and resourceful in the commercial marketplace.
4) Recognize that your greatest financial comodity is the orchestra itself.
Sample Marketing Ideas:
Creating Commercial Alliances
The following marketing ideas are designed to allow an orchestra to utilize its greatest asset, ITSELF, to attract
national artists to work with the orchestra.
Institute a program whereby at least two concerts in your season will be dedicated to youth in which you will convince
an MTV/ Hip Hop artist to perform with your orchestra as an artist or MC:
1) Take a survey of the youth in your community about THEIR favorite artists. NOT that of the local radio station.
2) Contact the record label of the artist to speak with his/her manager or publicist. Present your proposal as a way
for them to help youth and boost sales in that area. Many times artists will do worthwhile engagements gratis or at a
3) Figure out your costs just as a commercial promoter would. Your advantage would be the reduced cost you will
contract the artist for and the reduced cost associated with the venue where you presently hold your concerts.
4) Make sure you get the artist to address the young audience on the importance of your mission.
5) Make sure the orchestra performs, if possible, as an auxiliary to their band. or tracks Make sure the orchestra is
the opening act as well.
6) Rethink the attire of the orchestra and the concessions offered in the lobby to make the experience more
comfortable for the young audience.
7) Get the artist or his/her manager to refer you to other artists for future performances.
To convince an MTV/ Hip Hop artist to allow your orchestra to perform on his/her recording:
1) Take a survey of the youth in your community about their favorite MTV/ Hip Hop artists.
2) Contact the record label of the artist to speak with his/her manager or publicist. Present your proposal as a way
for them to help youth and offer to pay the expenses of the youth who will be involved in traveling to the recording
city. This would be an exciting fundraiser for the youth in your community.
The realization of this recording can provide great moral incentive for other youth, and create commercial
performance opportunities whereby the organization can seek revenue from subsequent performances.
3) Figure out your costs just as a commercial promoter would. Your advantage would be that the record label would
not absorb the cost and fundraising for your orchestra to record with an artist that the youth respect, would not be
We are happy to further discuss these suggestions and other ideas to engage youth in the performance and
appreciation of instrumental music. Please contact the American Youth Symphony at 202 546-8849 or
The American Symphony Orchestra: Renewable Audiences or a Dying Institution? Alice Wang, April 3, 2003 http:
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