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Risk and Reward in Classical Music Concert Attendance: Investigating the Engagement of ‘Art’ and ‘Entertainment’ Audiences with a Regional Symphony Orchestra in the UK

Price, Sarah M (2017) Risk and Reward in Classical Music Concert Attendance: Investigating the Engagement of ‘Art’ and ‘Entertainment’ Audiences with a Regional Symphony Orchestra in the UK. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

Classical music organisations across the UK are under increasing pressure to grow and diversify their audiences. ‘Populist’ concerts are designed to attract new audience members by being more accessible and informal than core classical concerts, with programmes structured around well-known short pieces within a broadly-defined classical repertoire. Populist programming has been criticised in mainstream press for ‘dumbing down’ classical music in favour of attracting larger audiences. This thesis investigates how the distinction between populist and core programming is perceived and negotiated by audiences for a regional symphony orchestra, in order to explore cultural hierarchies operating in classical music today. This thesis is the product of a three-year Collaborative Doctoral Award with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). It was intended to supplement the orchestra’s existing knowledge of their audiences, whilst reflecting on the value and challenges of conducting academic research within the arts industry. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 42 CBSO attenders from core and populist classical concerts, using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to investigate how participants evaluate and assimilate their experiences of live classical music. The interviews explored participants’ musical engagement over a lifetime, considering: routes into concert-going, the decision to attend, the value of concert-going to the individual, the live concert experience, and their views on the classical music industry. This qualitative study was complemented by quantitative analysis of the orchestra’s customer records and ticket sales data. This thesis questions the relevance of the inherited model of ‘barriers’ to concert-going in understanding non-attendance. Instead, the analysis reveals that the decision to attend can be understood through an effort-risk-reward framework; audience members assess the amount of effort needed to attend a concert against their confidence that it will be enjoyable. For all participants, enjoyment of a concert was comprised of a mixture of ‘aesthetic’ and ‘extrinsic’ forms of value, thus complicating traditional models of ‘art’ and ‘entertainment’ audiences. In highlighting the idiosyncratic nature of attendance, this analysis challenges the extent to which conclusions can be drawn about attenders’ motivations for concert-going from their ticket booking history alone. This study reveals that audience members believe there to be ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of listening, and suggests that making concerts more informal and less elitist, and providing attenders with support to engage with the music, may be beneficial to attracting new audiences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Music (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.707116
Depositing User: Sarah M Price
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2017 14:46
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:37
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/16628

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