Time, Location, Bewilderment


What barriers are there to enjoying live classical music?

What barriers are there to enjoying live classical music?


Time is perhaps our most precious and simultaneously wasted possession. (Click to Tweet)

Location, location, location. All cliches are born out of truth. (Click to Tweet)

Bewilderment drives our fears and prevents us from living life to the full. (Click to Tweet)


Over the past couple of weeks one of my projects has been soliciting from folk in various stages of life what interferes with their enjoyment of live classical music. On one level it has been a fascinating journey – mostly due to the participation of folks in the USA, UK and Australia – but is has also been a little satisfying due to its predictability.

There was one surprise:

Money is generally not an issue.

Yes, there were several comments about the cost of concerts, but interestingly many of those comments were from people who, upon further investigation via phone or Skype, frequently attend non-classical concerts at $100-$400 a ticket, and yet they were complaining about a $60 for a symphony orchestra? That, to me, just highlights the value some societies place on “live” music.

Interestingly, money was actually in LAST position of all five classical music concert attendance barriers that were identified.

Too much time

23% of global survey respondents identified time-related issues as interfering with their ability to attend classical music. As I have said before, I do not blame them! It can often require a commitment of 5.5 hours to attend a classical music concert, which is nigh impossible for a full-time worker with a family. There are other alternatives, though, and I am working with some individual performers to develop a program that rectifies that.

Too far

Another 23% of respondents indicated that classical music was literally our of their reach, some citing travel distances that take them four hours to see a concert. Indeed, one of my wife’s friends who operates an organic farm in Colorado is two miles from their neighbor’s house. Church is a day trip, and trekking the family to see a live classical music concert is not a high priority. On the other hand, she is a fan, so if there was something closer then her children would have a very different educational upbringing.

One idea is to host your own concerts. In the UK I used to watch a farming family host events of all sorts, including live music, and even in their remote location over a hundred people turned up. Why? Because there was nothing like it quite as accessible. to them. They all chipped in to pay the performers and had a great party to boot. Hosting a local concert also significantly reduces the time required to travel to a concert. (Lesson: Be a part of the solution!)

What should I expect?

Finally, another surprise was that there was a third equally-placed #1 barrier to enjoying live classical music events. I call it “Bewilderment.” This is when someone does not know enough to justify attendance. Whether it be as specific as the history and context of the repertoire being performed, or simply hearing stories about audience etiquette and not knowing what to expect, how to find classical music, or fear of how to behave.

Agreed: the classical music industry does a poor job at sharing information with those outside its club membership. What fascinates me between classical music concerts and the rest of the music industry is that the most popular acts make an album (or, these days, release a series of singles) and then perform that album, with perhaps one or two extras thrown in for fun. On the other hand, most classical music concerts present different repertoire that maybe they have never played and their audience has never heard before. Why are the same old classics played over and over again, and well attended? People know them. People like them. Humans like what they know, and are willing to explore new things once they trust the presenters of what they know.

Again, in the pop world a concert will mostly be familiar songs from the recent album, but the performer may introduce one or two new songs they have “just recently written.” It’s new, but the audience are behind them.

Not knowing what to expect at a classical concert is a cause for concern, and in the USA particularly the audience etiquette conventions are quite a deterrent to the general populace the classical music industry is trying to embrace.

Sorry: Not Interested.

For you fellow data nerds, the fourth most popular response was that there are no barriers to their enjoying live classical music. These folk tend to live in cities, a handful are in the industry full-time, and others were simply not interested.

Not so different, after all.

The issues identified in this survey on behalf of ListenUp.Ninja, with an almost completely different audience, are remarkably similar to the issues identified by my own readership during last year’s Annual Reader Survey: Time, Life Balance, Education. (My readers are also interested in Leadership and how to share their passion with others).

So, now I have two online programs in development:

One for performers (Overcoming Decline), and one for non-performers (ListenUp.Ninja).

Which one is for you?