While the extinction of the dinosaurs may have had something to do with a meteor, it is likely that the decline of orchestras is down to just as many debatable factors. From financial climate change, to developments in technology and changes in personal taste, there are numerous elements of change that the industry has little control over.
In the article from today’s Times, Iván Fischer heralds the evolutionary approach for orchestras, as he claims they must ‘adapt or die’. With his own Budapest Festival Orchestra being open to innovation he believes that it is the only way to truly mitigate against the terminal decline of orchestras around the world.
The Budapest Festival Orchestra are trying to bring in different audiences in order to break the white, middle-class, middle-aged, well-educated norm. While this isn’t wholly true in concert halls today, as a lot has already been done to correct the imbalance, it is still a perceived barrier to many. The BFO perform in midnight concerts to appeal to younger audiences, seating them on beanbags and giving them discounts on ticket prices if they turn up on a bike. All are intriguing innovations that could work for many orchestras and concert venues to lure in the younger generations.
However, the question that will be asked is what does this give/take from orchestral concert going. Traditionalists will be harking that it is in fact this kind of innovation that kills orchestras, while the opposing corner will rebut with the same evolutionary, forward-thinking stance that Fischer proposes in this article.
What is clear though is that demands are being placed on orchestras and those who manage them to be more creative, whether it is with their funding or engagement methods. Today also saw the Guardian Culture Professionals Live Chat about crowd-funding, which is being cited as a revolutionary change to fundraising. James Hopkirk, Editor of IdeasTap suggested ‘As arts funding gets cut back further and further and artists have to become more self-sufficient and entrepreneurial I think it’s [crowd-funding] only going to become more prevalent…’. A similar call for change has been echoed by organisations such as Nesta in their report ‘The New Art of Finance – Making Money Work Harder for the Arts’.
Essentially what all of these changes are demanding is that we are more creative, which is surely what the arts do best. It’s a philosophy that WildKat have embraced fully, with enormous success. No one is saying that creative minded people have to go and play with the stock market, or perform brain science to see what attracts people to classical music- just that we are considerate of all demographics, what makes them want to get involved or why they might want to resist, and if this is something we can change.
Rising to the challenges that the arts face is one best met by creative people- luckily our industry is brimming with them.