Younger audiences don’t quite understand or jive with the old-fashioned concept of a night at the symphony. Usually, going to a symphony orchestra concert means silencing your electronic devices before the music begins, and not returning to them until after the finale. The Boston Symphony Orchestra is trying a different approach, in an attempt to draw in that younger audience.
The orchestra is rolling out customized iPads to patrons as part of its broader effort to attract larger, younger audiences to its underperforming Friday concerts. The tablets are only available to those seated in a designated area in the rear of the orchestra floor, under the balcony overhang, where the screen glow won’t interfere with other patrons’ enjoyment of the concert.
These iPads are preloaded with content about the concert series, such as in-depth information about the conductors and soloists, a scrollable score of the music being performed, and informative notes on the program. Since some of the concert materials loaded onto the devices include audio and video segments, the devices are set on a dim setting and patrons will be given headphones to tune into that material.
Kim Noltemy, chief operating and communications officer for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, told Associated Press, “We’d prefer people watch the iPad podcasts before the concert during the pre-concert reception. But, as you can imagine, we have no control over that.”
In addition to the iPad rollout, the Friday concerts encourage casual dress instead of the usual formal attire. After each Friday performance, a post-concert gathering is held with live music, snacks, and a cash bar. Ticket prices are also steeply discounted to draw in larger audiences.
Times are definitely changing, and it’s only natural that symphony orchestras would need to evolve. Younger audiences thrive on being connected and having access to more information on their devices, but I’m not sure I look forward to a day when the symphony orchestra is awash in the glow of tablet screens throughout the entire audience instead of just 110 seats under the balcony overhang.