LETTER: Initiatives to attract a younger audience; AGENDA What do you think? Contact details are atthe bottom of the facing page.
Dear Sir, Terry Grimley's recent article highlighted an interesting comparison, but it told only part of the story of the wide variety of ages and social groups represented in the CBSO's audiences (A fresh impetus to attract an audience of all ages, Post Culture, Nov 16).
The audience for our triumphant special concert on Sunday November 11 was far from typical of our audiences as a whole. This was a unique free event, designed to introduce our core supporters to our next Music Director, Andris Nelsons. As such, nearly all the tickets were issued to our existing members and subscribers, whereas at all our other concerts, our traditional - and yes, older - subscribers are now outnumbered by single ticket buyers, from all age groups.
It is also worth noting that a commercially-promoted West End show - especially one marketed as raunchily as The Car Man - has always, in every city, appealed to a younger audience than symphonic music.
But young people are frequent attenders at the CBSO's concerts - and the CBSO runs a range of initiatives designed to introduce them to symphonic music.
This season, over 1000 school children will attend CBSO symphonic concerts at Symphony Hall under our Audiences for Tomorrow scheme. On top of this, our acclaimed Family Concerts introduced orchestral music to a further 6,248 audience members last season, a further 6,722 children came to our Schools' Concerts and an additional 1,071 younger children attended our Key Stage 1 concerts at CBSO Centre. And that's not all: last season we introduced "Note-lets" - a series of concerts specially aimed at the under-fives. The two "Notelets" concerts planned for next month have sold out already.
Concern about the age of the audiences for classical music is, in fact, a very real issue all over Europe and the USA - although Terry is quite right to note that the picture is potentially rather different in China, where western classical music is a radically new artform. But we do regularly address the issue through concerts aimed at younger age groups: in the last five weeks alone the CBSO has collaborated with Guillemots, played for an audience of over ten thousand in Birmingham Opera Company's La Traviata at the NIA, performed a sold-out Family Concert and an evening of James Bond themes at Symphony Hall, presented our 100-strong Youth Orchestra, and given the above-mentioned free concert to introduce Birmingham to our new Music Director-elect, Andris Nelsons.
All this is in addition to our usual programme of world-class performances of the classical symphonic repertoire.
The CBSO's marketing is also much more varied than Terry's short article can do justice to.
In fact the CBSO is a world leader in targeting new audiences through new technology - we were the first major symphony orchestra to produce a regular podcast and to offer on-line sampling, and e-newsletters and other targeted campaigns sit alongside our more traditional marketing methods. The strategy is working. Last season we sold more tickets than ever before; this season's ticket sales are currently 2.6 per cent ahead of our sales at the same point last year.
And finally - what's wrong with older people anyway? We're happy to embrace audiences of any age who are up for sharing our passion for world-class music in a world-class hall. Even so, I hope it's clear from the above that we're anything but complacent on the issue - and Andris Nelsons' arrival should give our efforts an even stronger impetus.
Chief Executive City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra