A major American symphony orchestra created a new series designed to attract and engage new—especially young—audiences to its live programming. The series featured mixed-genre musical collaboration, an event-like atmosphere, and an array of features to bring a fresh, social energy to the event (such as food, drink, local bands playing in the lobby). The orchestra asked Slover Linett to design and conduct an audience research study to learn from and explore audience reactions to this experiment.  To identify the successes and opportunities of the series, we needed to understand how specific concert elements contributed to the overall experience, and whether there were any roadblocks along the way that might prevent attendees from positively relating to the experience—and the institution more broadly.  To do so, we designed a multi-step qualitative exploration in which we recruited non-attendees to attend a concert in this series and map their experience for us through interactive group conversations, focused on how they formed their impressions of the orchestra.  We also went out into the city on an ethnographic mission to explore the variety of energy and emotional connections emerging in live music interactions of all genres and venues—from avant garde performance art to improvisational jazz to small chamber ensembles.  Our research findings spanned the tactical to strategic, helping to inform both the refinement of this series as well as the marketing team’s positioning and communications for the series.  Ultimately, we helped the orchestra develop a deep understanding of the core audience for this series, their motivations, and the elements of the experience that they care most about. With time and cultivation, the institution hopes to extend this concert series into a platform for a long-term, ongoing relationship with new (especially younger) audiences.  The research has also inspired the staff to infuse more audience-centric elements into other concert formats and series.    

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