12 July 2009

Old Folks

The classical music people have been on about the aging audience issue for years. They've identified formality as the enemy, and hence, the solution they've pursued has been to try to make the concert experience more casual. How curious, then, that the audience for jazz is aging even faster, so precipitously fast, in fact, as to suggest that there have been hardly any newcomers at all in the last 6 years.

To state the obvious, jazz concerts are typically far more casual than classical concerts. If the jazz audience is actually aging faster than the classical audience, is formality really the villain here? You could argue that, on average, jazz performances have, for a variety of reasons, almost certainly become more formal over the last couple of decades, but certainly not to the point where you can't find jazz in a casual setting. For better or worse, the bar gigs have always been there, and even in a place like the Twin Cities, you usually have several to choose from on any given night. I don't know what the solution is, or even if there is or ought to be one, but if liquor, dart boards, and pull-tabs haven't worked in jazz's favor, then I wouldn't expect popcorn and hula hoops to do much more for classical music.

Interestingly, this study also provides fodder for dispensing with the idea that participation equates directly to attendance, since the percentage of adults who reported performing classical music actually rose substantially from 2002 to 2008 while the rate of attendance at classical concerts continued to decline.

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