“Diverse careers are available to musicians because people worldwide consume huge amounts of music-related products and services every day.”
–The Musician’s Way, p. 300
Supply and demand are the fundamental forces that determine prices.
So, for us classical musicians, whether we offer performances, lessons, recordings or whatever, the better we understand supply and demand, the better we’re able to design offerings for which the demand is high and the supply low.
Let’s consider classical concerts and recordings.
The Basics of Supply & Demand
When the supply of a particular product or service exceeds the demand, prices fall.
In the case of music recordings, the supply is now so abundant – especially via streaming services and the Web – that the cost of listening to recordings has plummeted, and few people buy CDs and other physical recordings anymore. Even digital downloads have been replaced by streaming.
A generation ago, people would spend sizable amounts to amass collections of physical recordings, and musicians could earn substantial royalties from sales. Nowadays, we pay small monthly fees to access colossal streaming libraries, and we listen to free music across the Internet. As a result, musician revenues from recordings have become a tiny fraction of what they were in the past.
When demand falls, prices also decline.
According to the National Endowment for the Arts, attendance at classical concerts in the U.S. has been dwindling for years. Hence, ticket prices have dropped, and orchestras and concert presenters offer numerous heavily discounted tickets – many have reduced the number of concerts they put on, and some have ceased operations.
Given the bountiful supply of free and almost-free recorded music along with the shrinking demand for classical concerts, musicians who want to sell concert tickets and recordings have to create demand.
How do we do that? Here are 4 key principles to create demand for performances:
- Gain deep understanding of your target audiences (see: Design Thinking for Audience Development).
- Recognize their motivations and barriers to attend concerts, and then trigger their motivations and remove barriers.
- Know your competition for their attention.
- Offer music and events they’ll recognize as compelling and not available elsewhere.
Even with the supply of classical music being abundant, artists who differentiate themselves by offering high-quality, relevant programs in appealing locations can attract interest. Here are few brief examples.
Examples of Performances that Create Demand
∙ If you aim to attract seasoned classical concertgoers to your performances, including reviewers and people who can afford tickets, create programs that break new ground. Start with a potent concept and title for your program, maybe commission and premiere a new work, and then identify dates when there’s a lull in other concert offerings in particular locations. In those ways, you offer something that’s distinctive and in lower supply.
∙ If your target audience includes young professionals, consider creating concert programs that fit their needs for date nights, and choose venues that offer bar service and opportunities to socialize. Tap low-cost, high-engagement promotional strategies, such as social media, and speak to your audience from the stage rather than mimicking the detached concert presentation that’s the norm in music colleges and conservatories.
∙ If you want to reach children, you might partner with a non-profit organization such as a children’s museum, seek funding from community foundations, and develop programs that merge fun with learning, as Baltimore’s Occasional Symphony did with their Dr. Seuss Birthday Concerts.
∙ To bring music to disadvantaged audiences and add artistic vibrancy to a community, you could devise one or a series of suitable programs, seek support from local funders whose missions align with yours so that you and your co-performers are fairly paid, and present numerous free or low-cost admission concerts in community locations such as at churches or libraries.
∙ If you’d like to connect with veterans and military families, you might compose or commission relevant pieces, arrange historic ones, and access funding sources that serve those populations. A companion recording could also make for a distinctive offering.
What about Recordings?
Speaking of recordings, given the profusion of free and almost-free recorded music, few classical musicians earn much income from sales of recordings.
Most of us use recordings, whether physical CDs or streaming and downloadable tracks, to build audiences, contribute to our fields, and promote our performances rather than to earn any significant profit.
We can sell CDs and flash drives at our concerts, of course, and many listeners enjoy buying signed CDs, but it can be cumbersome for us to transport discs, arrange for sales personnel, and deal with sales tax collection. Plus, unless we can attract large audiences, sales are likely to be meager.
Hence, if we’re going to self-produce recordings and physical CDs, we need to keep costs down.
“Given the profusion of free and almost-free recorded music, few classical musicians earn much income from sales of recordings.”
To create recordings at little to no cost to ourselves, we can tap funding sources such as crowdfunding, grants, and even public agencies, among them, arts councils that support local artists. College music faculty often access faculty development funds from the schools where they teach.
Rising Above the Crowd
“The classical music market may seem saturated with supply, but distinctive artists perpetually rise above the crowd and generate demand for their work.”
Moreover, performers who develop and communicate authentic artistic visions, perform alluring programs, and bring new music into the world not only stand out but also contribute to the advancement of their art forms and to the social bonds in diverse communities, making impacts that extend far and wide.
The Musician’s Way provides far-reaching guidelines to advance musical and professional skills.
3 Traits of Successful Concert Programs
5 Steps to Better Classical Concerts
Design Thinking for Audience Development
Don’t Be a White Egg
Orchestras Contract, Opportunities Expand
Self-Produce Concerts in 8 Steps
© 2018 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © B. Nolan, licensed from Shutterstock