The mid-agers: what has audience research has to say about the 30 to 49 year olds? “I can’t” really means “I don’t want to”. What are reasons for non-attending classical music? Classy and fresh: how to tempt the 30 to 49 year-olds into theatres and concerts? The key: applied audience research. How important are strategic long-term target audience analyses?
Outreach programmes, usually aimed at children and teenagers, but increasingly also at the “generation 50+”, have become standard activities for most orchestras and concert halls. Demographic change and the lack of a once taken-for-granted cultural socialisation will make it necessary to address also the cohort of 30 to 49 year-olds, if cultural organisations want to maintain their audiences. “Mid-agers” represent a potentially promising target group for classical music – well educated and with disposable income; yet restrictions such as the pressures of career development and childcare also mean that this segment requires a marketing approach that will recognize and meet their specific demands.
Being unable and being unwilling to spend precious leisure time in a concert overlap in subtle ways: studies show that classical music is generally regarded as worthwhile, even by those not listening (much) to it. Helping potential audiences to step over that small gap requires pragmatic solutions and programmes as well as artists that invite identification. Case studies show how different orchestras and opera houses try to reach this highly selective audience segment: from laid-back “opera lounges” aiming to overcome aversions against “proper” (and supposedly demanding and stuffy) high culture to new show formats, from quirky advertising campaigns to baby concerts that (not) accidentally also draw in the parents.
Fundamental for all these activities, however, are strategic target audience analyses. This should include research on attendance as much as non- and no-longer attendance. As important as time restrictions are for 30 to 49 year-olds (which institutions can address through flexible timing and direct information, such as text alerts) – it will be just as important to learn more about typical incentives and interests and to create programmes based on these data.