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Royal Philharmonic Survey Shows Audiences Want Change

By Michael Vincent on September 18, 2023

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s (RPO) recent survey shows that 76% of respondents favour a more modernized orchestral concert experience.  Key findings suggest preferences for shorter concerts, pre-concert digital programs, and a more relaxed dress code.

Survey highlights: 

  • Shorter Concerts: 27% of participants would like briefer, more concise performances.
  • Pre-concert Digital Programs: 27% hope for informational material accessible before the concert to deepen their understanding.
  • Matinee Shows: 24% expressed an inclination for daytime performances.
  • Casual Dress Code: 24% of respondents feel more comfortable without the pressure of dressing up.
  • Conductor Interaction: A notable 20% appreciate when the conductor engages with the audience pre-performance.

The survey indicates a promising rise in the number of people wanting to experience orchestral concerts. Compared to the 2018 data, where 79% showed interest, the figure now stands at an encouraging 84%.

The 2023 BBC Proms was notably successful, registering ticket sales surpassing pre-Covid times with 350,000 attendees across its eight-week duration.

Breakdown by Audience Type:

  • Veteran Fans: A significant 91% of this group expressed their desire for more openness and accessibility. They favoured daytime concerts (34%) and opportunities to engage with soloists or orchestra members (27%).
  • Music Students: This younger demographic exhibits a strong inclination towards technological integration. 28% are keen on engaging on social media during concerts. They also expressed interest in photographing (21%) and applauding at unconventional times (19%).
  • Orchestral Newcomers: This group valued having access to digital programs (37%) before concerts and also showed a penchant for relaxed dress codes (37%) and one-hour concerts (31%).
  • Traditions: Interestingly, only 6% thought about modifying the formal dress code for performers.

RPO’s Take: Huw Davies, RPO’s deputy managing director, provided insight into the motivation behind the survey. He articulated the organization’s intent to gauge audience perceptions to enhance the concert-going experience. “The feedback underscores the diverse needs and preferences of the audience based on their journey with orchestral music. At RPO, we’re progressing in many of these directions, striving to make orchestral music accessible to a wider audience.”

Why this matters: The classical music realm is on the brink of transformation, with indications towards a broader, more inclusive, and diverse audience. As orchestras like the RPO aim to adapt and cater to these shifting paradigms, the evolution promises a more accessible and rich concert experience for all aficionados.

Michael Vincent
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