The Role of Emotions in Building an Audience

Have you ever had the experience of walking out on stage, and seeing a hall packed with happy excited faces?

And perhaps also the experience of walking out on stage, and seeing only a smattering of live humans engulfed by a sea of empty seats?

Sure, playing to a full house can be a little nerve-wracking, but playing for an empty hall, after all the work you put into preparing for a performance?

Oof. That can be pretty demoralizing.

So how do you get people to come to your next performance?

Building audiences

I attended a music conference this week, where the theme centered around engaging and building audiences.

Many interesting and smart folks working in various segments of the industry shared a range of ideas that they have found to be helpful in developing an engaged and loyal audience.

So what is the secret ingredient?

Is it a strategy for “breaking down barriers” between audience and performer?

Enabling listeners to make a personal connection with the performer?

Programming more new music? More commissions?

Shorter programs?

Free parking? Alcohol?!

And the answer is…

Well, it appears that there is no single correct answer, because some of it depends on who the audience is.

It also seems that there are two qualitatively different questions being asked, requiring somewhat different approaches.

As in, (1) How do we get people to show up for a performance? vs. (2) How do we get those same folks to come back for our next performance?

Both are important questions, but the second, is arguably the more important – in that it has to do with developing and sustaining a career in the long-term.

To that end, forward-looking performers, presenters, and managers have identified a range of strategies that seem to make a difference (at least for their particular audience).

Keynote speaker Eric Booth also shared a number of interesting ideas, but the one that resonated most with the psychologist part of me was…emotion.

The impact of emotions

A wise person once said to me that at the end of the day, the only currency that matters to us is how we feel.

Maya Angelou herself once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Indeed, events that evoke strong emotions tend to be remembered better (and more vividly) than non-emotional events. (It’s a rather interesting literature – here’s an overview if you’re curious).

So if we want to be remembered (and talked about a day, week, or month after the performance), it behooves us to find a way to ensure that we engender in each member of the audience, a strong emotional experience. A “personally relevant connection inside the music” to borrow Booth’s words, that will bring them back – ideally, with a friend or two in tow.

For some, great music and top-notch playing might be enough to evoke a memorable emotional experience, worth seeking out again and again.

But for many, that alone may not be enough to engender the kind of emotional experience we crave. (And what serious artist is ever content with doing “just enough” anyway?)

So is practicing more and playing 2% better the key to enhancing the emotional experience and making a transformative difference? Probably not.

Is educating an audience via program notes or pre-concert lectures, and giving them the ability to recognize sonata form, going to heighten the emotional experience and lead to droves of raving fans? Not likely.

Might there be some emotion-inducing gimmicks or tricks, perhaps? Nope; that kind of thing comes across as inauthentic and is a huge turnoff.

So how do we foster a deeper connection between each listener and our art?

There is more than one way to engender such an emotional connection, and this is part of the art of being a performer. An opportunity to be creative and find ways of creating deeper emotional experiences (and more memorable memories) for one’s listener. To illustrate, Booth shared one simple example of how little things like speaking from the stage and sharing the right story can make a big difference in “priming” an audience to have a more meaningful experience of the same performance.

I have to admit to being a little unsure where he was going as he went through the demonstration, but it all came together at the end and definitely had its intended effect on me.

Check it out: The Red Wheelbarrow

Next steps

I’m curious. What have you tried that seems to draw people in, and provide an emotional experience that they remember and talk about days after the fact?

Or, what have you seen others do, that has engendered a strong emotional response within you?

Maybe this is silly and it’s a sign I’ve gone overboard with my Apple obsession, but despite seeing this commercial only once, I still remember how it made me feel, and how I was compelled to share it with a few folks (heck, I guess I’m doing it again now): Apple ''Misunderstood'' commercial

photo credit: Libertinus via photopin cc

Ack! After Countless Hours of Practice...
Why Are Performances Still So Hit or Miss?

For most of my life, I assumed that it was because I wasn’t practicing enough. And that eventually, if I performed enough, the nerves would just go away and everything would take care of itself.

But in the same way that “practice, practice, practice” wasn’t the answer, “perform, perform, perform” wasn’t the answer either. In fact, simply performing more, without the tools to facilitate more positive performance experiences, just led to more negative performance experiences!

Eventually, I discovered that elite athletes are successful in shrinking this gap between practice and performance, because their training looks fundamentally different. In that it includes specialized mental and physical practice strategies that are oriented around the retrieval of skills under pressure.

It was a very different approach to practice, that not only made performing a more positive experience, but practicing a more enjoyable experience too (which I certainly didn’t expect!).

If you’ve been wanting to perform more consistently and get more out of your daily practice, I’d love to share these research-based skills and strategies that can help you beat nerves and play more like yourself when it counts.

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33 Responses

  1. So how do we foster a deeper connection between each listener and our art?

    The one thing that is the most important but that is NEVER EVER said, and in fact often the opposite is said … is to respect your audience. If you think the public is not worth connecting with, then you won’t succeed in connecting with them.

    If your attitude is, “That bunch of philistines who can’t possibly understand my art, why don’t they come?” then … you aren’t going to have much of an audience.

    And that can be something that classical music has trouble with, given that so much of its message can get lost in, “Look what I can do! You can’t do this! This will never be you!” And the message that classical music can “uplift” people seems to assume that they started out pretty low down. The assumption that the performer can lift people up to their rarefied level starts from a position of considering the audience beneath them. You can’t uplift someone without first reaching down.

    Contrast that with a lot of popular music that can be done with equal virtuosity and complexity, but that also ennobles the experiences of the audience, singing songs from their point of view, celebrating their lives or at least acting as if what they are living is worth encapsulating in a piece of music.

    And even if the best of those performers are well beyond what most people can achieve, there is still an atmosphere of “this could be you” in it. Go to a classical concert and then go buy yourself a flute and try your hand at it, and you will be ridiculed for it. Go to a rock concert and then go buy yourself a guitar, and while you probably have as little chance of achieving that level of ability as the flute player, you at least won’t be laughed at for it.

    You can’t just encourage your audience to come listen to YOU make YOUR art. In the end, if your art doesn’t make some steps toward encouraging the audience to make art of their own, it hasn’t done its job. Art should prompt the creation of more art.

    And if your attitude is that the audience is too stupid or talentless to make any worthwhile art … then why do you want people you look down on to come hear you in the first place?

    1. Very wise words indeed. You are making a great point…
      But, where’s the solution for classical music concerts? How do you
      reach down? How do you make them feel like creating their own art
      or playing their own instruments?

      1. 1) People don’t always have to hear only Paganini and Liszt. Program some Grieg lyric pieces or a Mozart sonatat once in a while. Probably my favorite tier-1 violinist is Rachel Barton Pine. She’s currently touring around playing all 24 Paganini Caprices in one go, but she also released a CD of pretty, short lullabies, together with their sheet music. She states openly in her podcast that the pieces are well within reach for most students and good adult amateurs.

        2) I’m a huge fan of the Baltimore Symph’s Rusty Musician program. That literally DOES get the audience on stage sitting next to the pros, and not just a bunch of the best-and-brightest prodigy kids from the local conservatory. Accountants, teachers, stay-at-home-parents, folks from community bands and orchestras …

        3) Say it. Just up and say it to the audience. “I’m glad you’re here tonight listening to and enjoying my music, but don’t forget your own creative dreams. Get that trumpet out of the back of your closet. Take that interior design class. Go back and get that degree you wanted. Get those tubes of paint out of the trunk of your car and buy some canvases. Remember that novel you were working on that’s on the thumb drive in the pocket of the coat in the back of your closet? Go get it out and start work on it again. Buy that digital piano and take the lessons you always wanted, and if someone tells you you’ll never be any good, don’t listen to them. Listen to my art, but let it inspire you to make your own.” Just say it.

        1. Janis, I do get your point. We can’t be arrogant about our skills and look down upon our audience. On the other hand, isn’t it equally arrogant to believe that everyone should enjoy and approve of your work?

          If you are going to dig deep, and create work of real value, you have have to assume that your art stands on its own regardless of any public acclaim or lack thereof. My Veracini violin sonata performance may be definitive, but the average Oakland Raiders fan is not going to get that, any more than I would throw down $100 for an NFL game ticket. Concert music isn’t for everyone.

          Seth Godin said it best in his blog today:
          Our best work can’t possibly appeal to the average masses, only our average work can.
          Finding the humility to happily walk away from those that don’t get it unlocks our ability to do great work.

          And doing great work is the truest respect for your audience.

          Yes, we don’t want to look down our noses at our audiences. At some point though, you’ll need to decide on whether your work tilts the needle more toward art or toward commerce. IMHO, the most successful musicians stick to their guns and do the work for its own merit. Chasing the audience to fill some seats is ultimately a short trip down a dead end street.

        2. the average Oakland Raiders fan is not going to get that

          Seriously? You seriously believe that it is not possible to like football and classical music at the same time? That’s your shibboleth? You really think that, out of all 80,000 people in the stands at a sellout football game, none of them are mentally capable of “getting” your rarefied ideas?

          I’m not saying that everyone will get a good piece of work. I’m saying that if you think you can a priori flush an entire segment of society down the toilet right out of the gate, that’s pretty much a huge problem right there. And it’s not a huge problem with football.

        3. I’m still in shock at this attitude, dude. The violin virtuoso that I mentioned above names as one of her most fun experiences playing the national anthem at a Chicago Bulls game. (She’s a touring concert soloist. You’re not.)

          I simply cannot believe that ANYONE smart enough to play a musical instrument at any level of proficiency seriously thinks that everyone who likes A is incapable of liking B, only because in your brain, somehow they are occupying opposite poles and thus they must occupy opposite poles in the universe.

          That would come as a huge shock to my ex-violin-prodigy mother, student of Frank Costanzo, who I actually can’t call on Sunday evenings without checking whether the Eagles won or not because if I call after they lost, I will get chapter and verse on why the entire starting lineups’ parents were never married.

          I’m glad I don’t live in that world where people have to police their preferences so strictly because wearing the wrong shoes will make them look like they are don’t belong there.

          You have NO IDEA what a given person is capable of based on your prejudgements. None. Get over yourself.

        4. Sorry, Noa — I’ll stop after this:

          “Your average sports fan can’t appreciate this!” David Kim.

          “Your average cab driver can’t appreciate this!” Philip Glass.

          “Your average schoolteacher can’t appreciate this!” Jon Nakamatsu.

          “Your average housewife can’t appreciate this!” Any woman who has ever competed in the Van Cliburn competition.

          “Your average rock fan can’t appreciate this!” Rachel Barton Pine.

          You have no idea where truly great creativity will come from. None.

        5. Wow. Was I really that out of bounds? You’re totally missing my point. It’s not about being snooty.

          Ultimately the health of classical music’s future won’t be based on gimmicks, promotions, “audience friendly” programming, and overly glitzy marketing campaigns. All of these things are distractions which will in the long run kill any remaining audience for serious concerts.

          Quality counts. So does artistic integrity. I wouldn’t mind playing with an amateur next to me on the orchestra stage once in a while. But I hardly think that’s the kind of concert that will move anyone to tears. That’s what the original blog post was about, creating an emotional bond between performer and audience.

          Yes, their may be some football fans at a classical concert. But I hope they come for great music, to be moved, to be inspired. Not for the popcorn and beer.

        6. @Bil Alpert : “Quality counts. So does artistic integrity. I wouldn’t mind playing with an amateur next to me on the orchestra stage once in a while. But I hardly think that’s the kind of concert that will move anyone to tears. ”
          Yes you are out of bounds. Totally. If you think only great music, only good performers can provoke emotions,

          “Yes, their may be some football fans at a classical concert. But I hope they come for great music, to be moved, to be inspired.”
          Coming to be moved/inspired and coming for great music are two different things.

          What this blog post is trying to say, you really didn’t understand : emotion is FIRST. Not technique, not perfection, not difficulty or “greatness” of music.

          People are sick with great music. Most people have greater emotions listening to an amateur fighting with a piece a little too difficult for him, but that he really wanted to share, than to a pro playing perfectly but without emotion.

          Yes an amateur can move its audience. If this amateur shares emotions, not his stress but what is music tells him, or simply his enthousiasm.

          I am an amateur. I don’t play well. But I play a rare instrument that I’m really in love of, and I’m very enthusiastic to make people discover it, by playing small pieces with all my heart in every occasion I get.
          After that, people come to me and ask questions about my instrument and tell me how the sound touched them and I counsel them to listen to greater musicians to hear it in good conditions.

          But I know that even if they enjoy the good players’ quality of sound, they would never have known it if I had no given them an emotion with my “I-do-what-I-can-with-three-years-of-practice-and-all-my heart” playing. And that is something your arrogance can’t realize, it seems.

          Respecting your audience is not only accepting the idea that a heavy-metal fan can also love Monteverdi, it is also accepting the idea that this audience can be moved to tears not only by Yehudi Menuhin, but also by an enthusiastic amateur !

        7. Speaking of the BSO, I really enjoyed reading this reflection on their Summer Academy program:

          In much the same way that the NBA exists because there are lots of programs that allow kids and adults alike to enjoy playing basketball (which, aside from being fun, enhances one’s appreciation and enjoyment and awe of what the college and pro players do), I wonder if we are doing enough to help people at all levels experience how much of a thrill performing and playing with each other can be?

  2. Very interesting and thought-provoking article… I
    couldn’t agree more that an audience needs to go away feeling as
    though they’re been moved by some (or hopefully all) of the
    performances they’re heard. I run a series of monthly classical
    music concerts, and I find attracting and maintaining a good
    audience to be the hardest part of the whole process. We’re really
    not very good at the former, but I think we’ve got a few things
    right for engaging the audience:- Seating: we
    don’t like rows of seating as it is creates a very formal
    atmosphere, so we sit the audience in ‘cabaret’ seating, i.e.
    chairs around lots of small tables. Programme:
    we try and keep the music accessible, and try to steer clear of
    serious ‘heavy’ music (this might not be appropriate for all
    audiences) Performers: we encourage all the
    performers to introduce their pieces, and to say something about
    them. At a simple level, this could be to explain the background to
    the piece, why it was written, what’s going on musically in the
    piece etc. But sometimes, performers will talk about why the piece
    is important to them (perhaps a parent played it to them as a
    child), and this can be a very powerful way of engaging the
    audience in the musical process. I’d be very interested in other
    people’s experiences…

    1. Interesting idea about seating…I get the sense from some of the folks who have run successful programs, that the social aspect of the concert experience is important too. That’s not something performers usually think about, but I do think that it’s a facet of the concert-going experience that can indeed make the evening more memorable.

  3. Thanks for sharing about the CMA conference and Eric Booth’s remarkable keynote address on how to provide an entry point for audiences to make them feel that deep connection to our art. The start is to understand who is in the audience and then create the entry point through passion and story: if you, the speaker, tap into what inflames your passion about a particular work of art and then you share that passion with the audience, you are speaking from a deeply authentic place that can transport the audience into your world. That’s the start of creating a meaningful connection between the audience and the music. I agree with Janis’ comments that we need to respect our audiences. In my experience, when artists authentically share their personal stories and passions, audiences see the artist as a fellow human and the connection is made.

    Presenters and musicians would do well to understand the need to change our traditional concert format so that artist can share their passions and stories with the audience, rather than perpetuating the “high altar of great music”. From my perch teaching young musicians about career entrepreneurship, I see the seeds of change and I hope that the seeds will sprout in order to keep our great music alive.

  4. Since I mainly like to play jazz most of my gigs are what can be called “background”. The music is not the primary reason people are there but to add to the ambience of the bar/restaurant. My job as the “band leader”/”performer” is to make sure that the music we play in not too complicated for the patrons; from an artistic point of view this might be a hard pill to swallow. However, at least I am not playing “Free Bird” or some other schlock like that.
    Playing my instrument, playing jazz, getting to improvise and, (hopefully) saying something meaningful musically is reward enough. It also helps that I get paid.
    For gigs where I don’t get paid and I have free reign on material it can be tough to get people to come out, no matter how much self promotion or, social media you do. The venues leave it up to you the performer to get people out; They have nothing to lose as they have no guarantee to pay you (these are door gigs). So, while on the one hand gigs such as this are more artistically and creatively fulfilling, they are not however, financially lucrative! The biggest turnout I have had might have been about 12 people. For a weeknight gig that is not bad(LOL).
    We as musicians -I would hope- never get into this line of work for money.
    While I don’t like places that take advantage of musicians by saying “we don’t have a budget for music but, you can play for free”. I can understand clubs that say “yes, we will book you but, you work for the door and are in charge of everything”. A place to play what you want to play is better than a place where you have to play a certain way (background music) – just don’t expect to make too much.
    Some of my best gigs like this have been where people have just walked in off the street because they were familiar with the club and heard music.
    I always make it a point now to say something to the audience in these types of situations. We as musicians are glad they are here, we should at least acknowledge them and thank them! The days of just playing in front of an audience, acting aloof and basically ignoring them are long gone.

    1. Chris: sounds like you have been very adaptable in your gigging prowess: very excellent and I hope your career continues in a satisfactory way.
      However: Freebird is not schlock anymore that Yardbird Suite, Birdland, Bird’s Lullaby, or any other chestnut with the word “bird” in the title. In fact, in many ways it is a superior composition to any of those pieces. Just because it is the butt of a panoramic joke vis a vis performers/audience/encores–which has gone a bit far to be funny anymore–the song itself is quite moving and emotional when played with sincerity:

      Even within culture-wide jokes there is often a deep truth as the seed: this piece really does achieve (with no intro) what Eric Booth was demonstrating in his talk: people often feel a very strong personal connection to within the piece of art itself. Usually more so when the lyrics are part of the rendition, but, surprisingly, years of instrumental performances in commemoration of the tragic death of its original vocalist also ignited millions of audience members’ emotions as well, I would venture to guess.

  5. Two thoughts, with classical guitar in mind:
    1. Competition winners do an annual concert in our area when on a winner’s tour. The level of technical skill, and more recently artistic sensitivity, has come light years in the 40 or so years I’ve been personally involved (studies, teaching, publishing, conventions, etc.) My pet peeve with the concerts – and I’d suggest same for any instrument or group that wants to court a bigger audience – is the tendency toward THE most difficult pieces, & newer literature (some good, some of questionable enduring quality). Nothing wrong with these choices, but seldom is there a good old war-horse, chestnut, perhaps lighter one or 2 pieces included.
    I’m a staunch advocate of including “something for the spouse or friend who came somewhat reluctantly” and needs winning over. If they’re not “classical music” folks, give them something memorable, tuneful, common, popular, whatever, that speaks to that guy who gave up his TV sports for an afternoon or evening to keep the peace and go to a “once in awhile” concert. If they go away with something to remember, there’s a bigger chance that they’ll be back.
    This is not “playing down” to an audience, but shelving a bit of artist ego out of respect for EVERYONE who attended. Those who are comfortable, knowledgeable in the deeper riches of the repertoire have not lost out. Maybe they will hear a unique perception of one of those “war horses.” (To hear one such example, look up “Leyenda” performed by Aniello Desiderio._
    2. (This one is short). The person responsible for the guitar concerts mentioned has, over time, accumulated a massive email list. They all get MULTIPLE notices and reminders. Attendance has gone up hugely.

    1. Are email lists common practice nowadays for performers? I actually don’t know…just curious. Most folks in the online marketing space often talk about how hugely important it is to be able to talk to and connect with your audience. In this sense, it seems like having an email list would be a really important communication tool for artists too…

  6. Mozart: [of his great opera, “Figaro”] Nine performances! Nine, that’s all it’s had! And withdrawn!
    Salieri: I know, I know, it’s outrageous. Still, if the public doesn’t like one’s work, one has to accept the fact gracefully.
    Mozart: But what is it that they don’t like?
    Salieri: I can speak for the Emperor. You make too many demands on the royal ear. The poor man can’t concentrate for more than an hour… you gave him four.
    Mozart: What did you think of it yourself? Did you like it at all?
    Salieri: I thought it was marvelous.
    Mozart: Of course! It’s the best opera yet written, I know it… why didn’t they come?
    Salieri: I think you overestimate our dear Viennese, my friend. You know you didn’t even give them a good *bang* at the end of songs, to let them know when to clap?
    Mozart: I know, I know… maybe you should give me some lessons in that.

  7. Wow, a plethora of informed and insightful comments worthy of respect and serious reflection. In my humble opinion, ideally, a performer should not harbor the need to cultivate an audience. Your performance must, or should convey the degree of emotional and intellectual content common to essentially any audience. No doubt, all cannot be satisfied. Still, a spirited performance can result in a spirited response. Unfortunately the question of ‘marketing one’s self’ and musical integrity sometimes comes into question. Marketing in the sense of embellishing, to whatever degree, stylistic elements, in order to cater to a particular audience, or musical trend, resulting in the loss of some of the original integrity that evoked the emotions sought.

    Of course, I believe anyway, we must distinguish between a professional performer in a business setting, and an otherwise accomplished performer operating without the strictures that contracts and financial perspective impose. For some musical performers an audience is both physical and digital. Their respective performances may well reflect the expectations of the target audience. An otherwise accomplished performer can, for better or worse, adhere to their original intent, and musical purpose, cultivating, inadvertently, the audience they attract, or otherwise intrigue. Adhering to ones musical sensibility can be risky.

    Besides, what is an audience, ultimately? Is it your current and highly competent musical instructor attending your performances? Is it your parents, friends, or professional associates in attendances physically, or electronically? Is it the informed and interested public paying to see and hear your performances? Of course it is all of these, with respect to the acknowledgement the performer may consciously link to the performance. Fundamentally, the audience is actually perceived within the performer, and is therefore a function of perception. We are our best and only audience. Not at every stage of our development, but ultimately. What does this have to do with cultivating an audience; nothing and everything? I offer this for your consideration.


    Brain Study Suggests Classical Musicians Should Improvise

    18 NOVEMBER 2013
    Joint study between researchers at the Guildhall School and Imperial College London found that listeners engage with classical music more when musicians improvise.

    A collaboration of researchers from the Guildhall School, including Professor John Sloboda and David Dolan, and Imperial College London examined the electrical signals in the brains of musicians and listeners.

    Although improvisation is not commonly associated with classical music, the new study suggests that introducing elements of improvisation into classical concerts could increase audience engagement.

    The team created a live concert, with a chamber music trio playing the same piece of music twice, once in an improvised fashion and once without improvising.

    The three musicians, along with two audience members were wired up to a machine known as an electroencephalograph. This machine measures and records the tiny electrical signals sent between brain cells.

    By comparing the brain signals produced during both the improvised and non-improvised versions of the performance the researches were able to show a clear difference in brain activity during each piece.

    An area of the brain known to be involved in sustained attention, working memory and the inhibition of responses, known as the Brodmann 9 area was much more active in both musicians and listeners during the improvised performances. This indicates that the audience were much more engaged when listening to classical music containing improvised elements.

    The team hope that this work will go some way to helping classical music fight against declining audiences. They suggest that by incorporating improvisation into classical musical concerts, musicians will create a unique event that will be both engaging and captivating.

    The results will be published in the online journal Music Performance Research later this month.

    You can watch a video featuring Guildhall School staff David Dolan and John Sloboda here.

    For further information on Guildhall School research in this area, please see our Research webpages here.

    Reference: ‘The improvisatory approach to classical music performance: an empirical investigation into its characteristics and impact’, David Dolan, John Sloboda, Henrik Jeldtoft Jensen, Björn Crüts and Eugene Feygelson, Music Performance Research, Vol. 6, Nov/Dec 2013

    Original story obtained from Imperial College London here.

  9. I too am very inspired by Eric Booth and first became aware
    of his Weill Institute videos two years ago, soon after meeting
    him. I also bought and read the David Wallace book Reaching Out he
    recommended at CMA and share this inspiration with musicians
    looking to do just that. I believe that each will find an
    individual approach which is genuine to them. Two years before that
    however, I realized that we can and need to do alot more to give
    audiences, veteran or new, an experience in the CENTER of the
    music-making; a place the musicians take for granted. Veterans will
    not need as much, while new listeners will take all we can give. I
    believe it starts by realizing that once we’ve mastered the
    music-making, we’re no longer in the music business: we are in the
    INSPIRATION business THRU music. We are not playing our instruments
    (or singing) but playing our audiences THRU our instruments. We may
    be art-centric but we must become audience-centric at some point
    and imagine ourselves in their shoes and seats. What do they want
    to know and feel about what we have to offer? Curiosity is the
    hook. We must ask the right questions. How can we make classical
    REAL for “real people”? If the average person is fine with average
    music-making, then how can we add OVERWHELMING value which makes
    them talk positively to family and friends about this? I’ve come up
    with a number of techniques, many of which are found at my website.
    They include explanations, analogies, activities, spontaneous
    interviews and new compositions which form a smooth on-ramp for new
    listeners and deeper insights for veterans. I use and develop many
    of these as part of the two Classical Revolution chapters I
    started, but also in concerts with my touring CutTime ensembles.
    The time is NOW to humbly share the love that is music with a wider
    community… because everyone deserves beauty.

    1. Considering that American society is dominated by song forms, rap and spoken word, it is worth noting Eric’s methods for inspiration in his keynote address at CMA. He is an actor, sure. But aren’t we ALL in the inspiration business? He dressed humbly with sneakers and no jacket. He talked with his hands a lot and moved constantly, both on as well as in front of the stage. He probed the audience earnestly for suggestions with provocative questions. He made eye contact repeatedly with all 400 people in the room. He ad libbed occasionally, which made his remarks seem genuine, friendly and fresh. This is a performance he has given repeatedly, yet it is never the same twice because he enlists the participation of his audience. And then he mirrors us back, to make sure we feel heard.
      I would PAY $75 to be a part of this audience again. Wouldn’t you? This is his message to us… that treating our audience like family and friends we truly love (merge, empathy) is the key to building new loyal audiences for classical. There are no strangers when our mission is based on love.

      1. Consider also (sorry. lot of ideas) how MUSEUMS (which is how youth often think if concerts anyway) have made the museum experience more social, informative and comfortable. Ours added coffee lounges, concerts and bands in the exhibit spaces, they still have guided tours but you can take self-guided tours, the cafeteria features quality food, there’s a weekly art film series, there’s Family Friday evenings with hands-on arts and crafts for EVERYONE who wants to try.
        All of this is meant to make the museum the people’s house, not just to wander and learn about art but a great and FREE place to meet up with friends, buy a good meal, listen and move around to music, or bump into friends. Most significantly to me is the fact that guided and self-guided tours offer INTERPRETATION. Many of us feel that Interpretive Arts offer the introductory experience new listeners really want; a guide thru instrumental music.
        Without getting too expensive (like staying open 18-hours a day), what are some of the immediate takeaways you can implement to make your concert venue more like THIS kind of museum? What is a game-changer?

        1. Interesting analogy, Rick. Indeed, the old model of museums, where things are pretty passive, and there isn’t much engagement and social/community development, doesn’t seem to work so well anymore…

  10. In many (most?) cultures, the same word means both “music” and “dance”. When people are emotionally engaged in music, they naturally want to move their bodies. But this tends to be discouraged in classical performances. When I played in an amateur orchestra, during one rehearsal the conductor publicly rebuked me for tapping my foot! One reason Bernstein was such a popular conductor is that his body demonstrated how emotionally engaged he was in the music.

    Similarly, for audiences: Classical audiences are generally “frozen” in place, as if they were watching a movie or hearing a sermon. Non-classical audiences are generally moving their bodies, as the picture at the top of this blog illustrates, At a recent classical concert, I sat near the front for the first half, and felt self-conscious about moving at all. For the second half, I sat alone in the back row (where the sound was much better), and felt free to let my body “groove” to the beat, and I felt much more emotionally turned on to the music.

    Encouraging both performers and audiences to respond physically to the music would help a lot.

  11. A very important topic and one that is being talked about a lot (especially when I was at NWS). You are so correct: the most important thing is for an audience to have some sort of meaningful (and often emotional) connection with the music being played. I remember being surprised at how helpful it seems to be to simply share what a particular piece means to me personally, and what things about it that I like. Audience members have told me so many times that sharing my personal feelings, interpretations, and stories about a piece really helps them feel more connected to it.

  12. Obviously, this is a good question –how to get people to come — but you won’t find explicitely in the answers how to actually get the poeple to come.
    Here’s a question generating more creative answers : what could I do (and leave to the people) so that they don’t get bored at my funerals (to which they come because they have to).

    This is the equivalent of “my life is a message” and “live as if you were to die tomorrow”. Today, prepare a little something for the people at your funerals tomorrow, even if these people who come to your funerals don’t necessarily like you. After all, you will be in the coffin, so don’t miss the occasion to impress them.

    My tip : prepare absolutely everything single detail, put the effort so that people get comfortable and do your best.

  13. The photo is an audience of pop music. When you play pop music, you don’t sell only the recording andthe sound, you sell the images, the dance and the role models, and “constructions” that the audience can interact with.
    I don’t know what this means exactly–I repeat what I read — but youth, who listen to music, need leaders, and the pop music is their way to find some.

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