Dr Graham Strahle, a leading Australian musicologist, gives his own original answer to this question.
After the big drop in attendance at classical concerts at the turn of the millennium, classical music industry was forced to significantly enhance its marketing efforts to sustain the previous levels of consumption.
Thus, the era of the excessive marketing in classical music begun.
But Millennials, according to Dr Strahle, are those who are the most allergic to said marketing on the whole. They are initially inclined to take any sort of marketing as a lie.
This means that in Millennials’ eyes, classical music promotion is a lie. And this is the reason why they refuse to attend.
In this manner, Dr Strahle is far from blaming Millennials of being morons. Quite the contrary, he considers them clever enough for not being caught by the false marketing tricks and other fake attractions .
He also considers them honest for refusing to deal with the music which is boring to them. In this regard, Millennials compare favourably to their parents and grandparents who used to attend classical concert hall for the reasons of tradition, prestige, meeting with friends, etc., regardless of the music performed.
In some sense, Millennials are more open and more authentic than the previous generations. They seek authenticity in everything they deal with, whether it is computer game, or music. Classical music in particular.
Since the music sounds boring, no sophisticated trick is able to make Millennial to enter the concert hall. With past years of intensive marketing, this fact could be considered proven.
Dr Graham Strahle describes the situation in his article “What’s Turning Young People Off Classical Music Concerts”
“Children and young adults are conspicuous by their absence (at the classical concert), and this is despite the strenuous efforts of the creative and marketing teams behind our orchestras to acquire new audiences.”
“The logic goes like this: by making classical concerts shorter, cheaper, more informal and visually engaging with elements such as lighting, projections and movement on stage, this could entice more young people to come along. The problem with this kind of thinking, though, is that it underestimates the intelligence and acumen of the people to whom it is directed. They’re not so easily swayed. Millennials, who have grown up in a jungle of marketing, know repackaging when they see it, and they don’t necessarily find truth in it. As one commentator put it: “they’re not moved by flashy ads, big promises, and “wow” factor. They want authentic messages, authentic brands, and authentic interactions”.
Classical music, the way it is performed today, fails to provide the interaction of such kind. Generous concert innovations as well as the cutting-edge marketing science still haven't significantly changed the situation for the better. And knowing the nature of Millennials, it could hardly be expected that the situation will improve in the future, believes the author.
Boring music remains boring, even wrapped in any type of attractive cover. One may once, or twice, entice a new listener into the concert hall for such music, but it won't make this listener a music lover over a long term. There should be no illusion about it.
That means, the real problem with Millennials and classical music is not how to sell this music better, but how to play it better.
Measures such as marketing tricks, clowning around classical music (increasingly popular today), or shifting from classical to the pop repertoire at the symphony, are not capable to achieve the only thing that matters – to decode the authentic message of the classical composition and to deliver it.
It’s exactly the only factor sought by Millennials in music.
Photo: Collage of music marketing books