We All Need To Go See A Psychologist

There is a great deal of talk in the industry about building a new audience, but all that I’ve read in newspapers and discussed with those in the industry tends to focus on "things" to help solve the problem.  But in a recent Reader Response letter from Emily in Toronto, she says "…orchestras haven’t meant to shut people out, but it would seem that some people have been alienated."  This is a very poignant statement that helps us begin to realize that it’s an atmosphere which surrounds the entire concert experience that is alienating many younger patrons.

The trouble is that you can’t really put your finger on any one "thing" because it’s not a "thing" that is to blame.   What needs to change is the fundamental feeling a person has when they walk into a concert hall. And even adding some friendly Starbucks kiosks won’t solve the problem (but speaking as a caffeine addict, it certainly isn’t a bad idea).  Here’s what should happen: orchestras need to hire a psychologist to help find a way to address this problem head on.

A good psychologist will be able to help identify the fundamental problem and find a way to make the atmosphere of an orchestra concert welcoming, friendly, and comfortable for everyone – an atmosphere that will make them want to return.  I don’t think anyone wants a "touchy-feely" environment, and that’s a pit fall that should be actively avoided given the vast amounts of trendy pop psychology today.  Sorry, Dr. Phil should not be on the top of the list to call.

What do you think, is there an atmosphere that alienates a large percentage of people from enjoying the orchestra experience?  Is psychology the answer?   

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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