Build (a theme park) and They Will Come

Classical Spectacular used ordinary stage ligh...

Classical Spectacular used ordinary stage lighting plus special laser effects (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might remember the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams“Build it and they will come.” I’m learning that it is not quite as simple as all that, but still the idea is basically true.  The kick-ass entrepreneur, writer and general champion for unconventional living, Chris Guillebeau, says in his newest book (The $100 Start-uphow we must consider what our customers/audience want and or need. This had a profound effect on me as a performing artist, but especially because I have devoted most of my life to classical music.

There is a great divide between what an audience needs to have a great experience and the norm of what we are actually giving them in our concerts and recitals.  What an audience needed to experience in the 1700’s or 1800’s in order to be entertained was much, much different than it is today. That’s obvious right? Those people had no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no way to listen to music other than a live performance. For them, the sight of many people onstage, playing music together was an awe-inspiring experience. It was a great spectacle to see and hear.

But now, with technology at our fingertips, and the ability to record music and listen to it repeatedly for as much as the price of an iTunes download, the idea of paying to see 50 musicians on a stage together is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the general public.  This is a bitter pill to for  those of us who have devoted our lives to mastering the craft of music.  So my question is this: why don’t we champion any and every possible option to enrich our already amazing art form to bring in new audiences?  This is no longer just about creating stellar concerts, our industry is changing in to an industry that creates experiences.

People want experiences. They want to enjoy a process from the moment they pick up the phone or go online to buy a ticket to the time they walk through the door of their home after returning from the concert. They want to be made to feel valuable, like they are participating in the process of the concert. They long  to feel valued by the artists themselves. They want to be treated with respect and appreciation, after all their purchase of a ticket or donation helped to support the arts.  I think that we know these things already, but the way we respond to them is outmoded and not relevant.  The connection must be real and not forced, and this is all on the administrative side.

From the angle of the concert experience, patrons need to feel like they are contributing to something great and larger than themselves. They need to connect with the real musicians/performers. To meet them, to be acknowledged by them, to interact with them. The audience must be completely transported out of the concert hall and into a new place. This may mean more than just musicians sitting on the stage–in tuxedos.

More, more, more. Better, brighter, more intense. This is what the audience demands of us today, and as performers who serve our audiences, this is what we have to deliver.  Each experience has to be unique, each experience has to have a hand-crafted meaning and message.  No detail can go unnoticed.  For each experience for every patron we must strive for perfection, not only in our art, but also for the services we provide.

So the idea to build it and they will come is not exactly accurate when it comes to the Arts.  You can build a concert or a performance from the ground-up, but you have to ask yourself, are you building a playground or a theme park?

Until next time,


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