STUDY OF NEW WORLD SYMPHONY WALLCAST™ CONCERTS
REVEALS YOUNGER, ETHNICALLY DIVERSE AUDIENCE
NEW YORK, NY (July 21, 2016)—The WALLCAST™ Concert Experience, a yearlong independent study about the New World Symphony’s WALLCAST™ concerts, is now available to the public. The study reveals that audiences for the format are far more diverse than audiences for traditional classical music concerts. This diversity is reflected across multiple indicators—primarily the age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic backgrounds of attendees.
WALLCAST™ concerts are free outdoor simulcasts of live concerts performed on stage inside the New World Center. Live video from the hall is projected onto the Center’s 7,000-square-foot eastern façade and viewed from adjacent SoundScape Park, which was designed as an extension of the Center. Audio from the performance is transmitted through the Park’s virtual-acoustic sound system by Meyer Sound of Berkeley, California. Noting that other orchestras and presenting organizations across the country are experimenting with similar formats, the study suggests that they may be interested in breaking down barriers related to “cost and negative perceptions of classical music as intimidating and inaccessible.”
The study was commissioned by the Miami-based New World Symphony (NWS), America’s Orchestral Academy, to assess the impact and role of its WALLCAST™ concerts in the community. Funded in part by The Miami Foundation and led by consulting firm WolfBrown, the study investigates the WALLCAST™ format’s effectiveness in attracting and engaging new audiences for classical music, reflecting not just NWS’s commitment to audience development, but its mission to educate the next generation of musicians in these new approaches.
The findings of the report confirm the positive impact of the WALLCAST™ format in furthering NWS’s broader effort to bring in new listeners, while also shedding light on the effectiveness of the simulcast format. “Digital programming has an important role to play in building demand, and WALLCAST™ raises the bar for digital concert experiences,” says Alan Brown, who led the study. “For too many years, arts organizations have looked down upon digital programming because it’s not live. The WALLCAST™ experience—which is live, but digital—is both impactful and deeply valued by audiences.”
In conducting the study, WolfBrown researchers used a mixed-method approach incorporating surveys, short- and long-form interviews, and focus groups over the course of the 2014–15 season. Among the most significant discoveries in the report is the fact that “three-quarters [of the WALLCAST™ concert audience] had never before purchased a ticket to a NWS program,” while “one-quarter … had not attended any classical music concerts in the past year.”
The study also provides a demographic profile of the WALLCAST™ concert audience, revealing that attendees are both younger and more ethnically diverse than those who attend traditional concerts. While 81% of the audience for NWS’s traditional concerts is over age 65, WALLCAST™ concerts are reaching nearly the opposite age demographic, with 70% of the audience under age 65. Moreover, 34% of WALLCAST™ attendees self-identify as people of color, compared to just 12% of traditional concert attendees.
In analyzing the audience’s motivations for attending, the researchers found that for most respondents, the opportunity to interact with other concert-goers is an attractive part of the WALLCAST™ experience. The top three motivations cited were “to experience music in a relaxed and social environment” (50%), “to spend quality time with family” or “friends” (44%), and to “enjoy SoundScape Park and being outside, in general” (42%). The research team further identified three general points of attraction to the WALLCAST™ experience, namely “Social Fulfillment and Sense of Belonging,” “Setting and Casual Atmosphere,” and “Music and Affirmation.”
The research shows that audience members develop a deep affinity for WALLCAST™ concerts and, in turn, for NWS, over time and with repeat exposure. Several interviewees noted that they come to every WALLCAST™ that they can—it is just a “habit,” a part of their regular routine, and that they would be heart-stricken if they were to go away. One interviewee called WALLCAST™ “one great landmark,” another lamented that she would lose her “bragging rights” if they went away, and another stated “it becomes an instant community.” Focus group participants described similar habits and sentiments, referring to their “usual” way of preparing for a WALLCAST™, demonstrating how it has become a regular and valued part of their life. Their responses provide additional evidence of the tremendous sense of ownership that many have for WALLCAST™ programs, in particular those who have been attending for a long time.
Many attendees of WALLCAST™ concerts become ambassadors for the experience, telling family members, friends, people in their office, apartment building, and on social media about WALLCAST™ concerts. One woman recounted how she invited a friend, who now attends regularly and has in turn invited her friends, who have invited others, and so on. Interviewees and focus group participants described how they communicate about upcoming concerts widely across their social networks, through email or text messaging, and are excited to run into friends and neighbors who start to come independent of their invitations.
While the study focuses on the new faces in the NWS crowd, NWS President and CEO Howard Herring has been quick to emphasize that the WALLCAST™ concerts are but one component of a broader effort to expand—rather than replace—its existing audience. Quoted recently in a Musical America special report on WALLCAST™ concerts, he remarked: “We have a strong audience for [our traditional concerts]. They love it, we love them. But the future is a progression toward multiple audiences. If you have four or five formats, each with its own audience, you are way better off. More formats, more people, more penetration into the community, more donors. That’s how we see the future.”
NWS Co-Founder and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas adds: “The New World Symphony’s WALLCAST™ concerts have become a social phenomenon surpassing all our expectations. Week after week it’s amazing to see thousands of people gathering to hear sophisticated programs of classical music that explore the full range of the repertoire. In attendance are people of all ages—families, young singles, retirees, and people of every ethnic background and gender. They listen with complete attention. Their enthusiasm for the performances is huge and they eagerly gather to meet members of the orchestra after the performances. For the audience and for us it has been a transformative experience.”
WolfBrown’s The WALLCAST™ Concert Experience is available for download via the New World Symphony web site (click here). The firm, which consults for funders, nonprofit institutions, and public agencies, has conducted research for some of the nation’s leading performing arts institutions, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. WolfBrown has been a key partner in NWS’s efforts to apply rigorous analysis to the range of NWS programming experiments, having produced two earlier studies analyzing NWS initiatives—both in comparison with other orchestras and with emphasis on NWS in particular.
New World Symphony’s upcoming 2016–17 season will feature ten WALLCAST™ concerts, all of which are presented by Citi. See below for information about the first concert. Details on the rest of the WALLCAST™ season will be announced at a later date.
Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 7:30 PM
SEASON OPENER WITH MTT AND EMANUEL AX
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Emanuel Ax, piano
Brahms: Variations on a Theme of Haydn
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 14
Schoenberg: Piano Concerto
R. Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks