Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oh Where, Oh Where Has The Audience Gone?

It's no secret that audiences for live music performances are dwindling.  At one UConn Jazz Ensemble concert last semester, there were 30 people in the 300 seat hall, despite an extensive advertising campaign which included postering, placing an ad on Craig's List, multiple Facebook listings and a YouTube video.  Around the same time period the Hartford Jazz Society had to cancel a major concert due to low ticket sales. So, what's the answer?  How do we generate interest, fill seats, and successfully continue the tradition of presenting concerts?  Any and all ideas are welcome.

I recently started a new initiative for all UConn Jazz concerts: inviting high school or middle school jazz bands to serve as "opening acts".  Its a win-win situation.  I offer their band an on-campus clinic, they get to play on our concert stage, and the younger students benefit from hearing more experienced, university student musicians playing sophisticated repertoire.  From my vantage point, my audience grows, because they bring their parents and grandparents.  I further develop relationships with band directors (who play a significant role in a student's decision of where to go to study music) and I meet and hear prospective students.

This past week our guests were the Mystic Middle School Jazz Ensemble, directed by James Hilbie, and the E.O. Smith High School Jazz Ensemble, directed by Aaron Burgess.

Having the visiting band director give a presentation to our music education students on how to run a successful jazz band program was another huge plus. In my next blog post I will share notes from the presentation given by Jim Hilbie, the Band Director at Mystic Middle School.

So... that's my big idea.  What's yours?


  1. I agree this is an issue. But hasn't it always been an issue? When I was in college I probably went to 200 concerts/recitals per year. When I was a young/single band director probably 100 per year. Now with kids I find my self going to maybe a dozen per year that I'm not working at. Its so hard to pull away. I wish I would do more. I certainly enjoy it.

    I certainly agree with the opening act idea. At Derby we were your opening act several times and it doubled our attendance.

    But students should be your main audience, right? What percentage of your gate are students? Perhaps you're marketing to the wrong audience.

    I remember when I was in school the jazz ensemble played a fair amount of student parties. Maybe returning to a role of a dance band might bring some people around to your other concerts.

  2. These are good thoughts Brandt and I absolutely can relate to your point about having to cut back at this stage in life. Certainly students should make up the core of our audience. Even though music students are targeted, with over a hundred music department concerts presented annually, I realistically can't expect them to attend everything.

    Maybe I'm dreaming, but I think there must be ways to attract new, different groups of people. Our "Yule Be Swingin'" Xmas show was targeted towards young families, and is an example of something that worked well.

    Here's something you may find interesting: At this year's music department audition days, we polled the auditioning students, asking how many of them had attended our concerts. Very few had. I find this unbelievable! These days an education is much more expensive than a car, yet one wouldn't think of buying a car without test driving it. This is another reason why I am trying to bring the schools to us.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting.


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