As classical music enters 2024, it faces some challenges and opportunities. The impact of a recession paired with high inflation looms ominously over the industry, casting doubt on the financial stability of musicians and the affordability of concert attendance. Despite these hurdles, the classical music world is poised for transformation.
Here are our predictions for what will happen in the world of classical music in 2024.
Have and have nots
The 2023 year was a particularly difficult one for arts organizations struggling to recover their audiences after the pandemic. With extra COVID-19 funding drying up, some arts groups (New York City Opera, Kitchener Waterloo Symphony, and Maryland Lyric Opera) simply could no longer hang on.
In contrast, many more established arts groups are reporting rosy outlooks and annual surpluses. Examples include the Toronto Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Canadian Opera Company, and Regina Symphony Orchestra.
We predict a further consolidation of philanthropy towards classical music mainstays in 2024, especially as they shift resources over to more donor funding to make up for the increasing shortfalls in ticket sales.
V.R. is coming, but not yet
With the immersive live performance on the decline (Immersive Van Gogh), we predict arts organizations will start to see the potential of V.R. and formulate ways that Classical Music might be represented there. Not only does this technology make presenting live music more scalable, but it also aligns with the readiness of consumer V.R. headsets currently attracting new users to the technology.
While 2023 sales have been slow, Apple’s new Vision Pro headset set for its 2024 U.S. release might change people’s minds.
Musician incomes and standard of living
Classical musicians have long been underpaid for their exceptional talents, but the recession-induced inflation makes their plight even more dire in 2024.
Looking at an artist survey from the 2008 recession in the U.S., the primary concern for artists was a reduction in income, with 77% expressing worry about it. This is closely followed by concerns about declining sales, with 70% being worried or very worried. Other significant concerns include the challenge of securing funding for upcoming projects (67%), accumulating higher levels of debt (61%), facing a decrease in exhibition or presentation opportunities and grant availability (59% each), as well as experiencing low morale among themselves and their peers (59%).
In 2024, we hope the industry, along with governments and patrons, take tangible steps to ensure musicians have the funding they need.
The biggest concern with A.I. isn’t the deluge of fake Beethoven symphonies, but the use of A.I. to flood streaming platforms with AI-generated songs to game the system, which ultimately forced Spotify to purge the fake streams.
This trend challenges the traditional music industry, as A.I. can potentially dilute the market with clones of successful music formulas, which also calls into question possible copyright infringement.
With nearly 25% of all U.S. venture funding going to A.I. start-ups last year, including plenty for music companies, we predict 2024 will see the bubble start to deflate.
Concert ticket price drops
The rising cost of living has made attending concerts a luxury for many. Ticket prices have surged by 60% since 2011. The increasing ticket prices are driven by high demand post-COVID-19, with Live Nation reporting a 24% increase in attendance since 2019 and expecting a further 20% rise in 2023.
Ticketmaster’s anti-competitive practices and the rising cost of organizing concerts also contribute to higher prices. Furthermore, Canadians are spending more on entertainment despite economic challenges, possibly financed by credit card debt, with credit card spending up 21.5% since the pandemic began, leading to higher debt levels, averaging $20,906 per person.
In 2024, we predict concert organizations will prioritize affordability, offering more accessible ticket options. Increasing attendance levels while cutting ticket prices is not just a pipe dream; it’s a necessity for classical music to thrive.
Emphasis on local music plus more Gen Z
Amidst these challenges, we are seeing more local music initiatives from Gen Z emerging. So far, they tend to be focused on chamber music with an earnest, non-apologetic mix of popular music arrangements from Drake to Taylor Swift and straight-up traditional fare from Bach to Boccherini.
Examples include Toronto’s Strings of Paris, a string collective that has gained millions of online followers, showcasing classical music’s appeal to young audiences. Candlelight concerts, heavily promoted on social media, have become a nationwide sensation, transforming city streets and cozy corners into magical candle-lit settings.
As we look towards 2024, the classical music world is poised to strike a balance between tradition and innovation. Despite economic pressures, 2024 looks to be an important year of change.
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