Understanding Audiences: Takeaways from the Intrinsic Impact Audience Project

Kelsey Menehan, Chorus America.

(NOTE: Toronto Mendelssohn Choir was a participant in the research project and was interviewed for this article.)

This August, Chorus America released the results of the first-ever systematic look at what moves and motivates the people who attend choral music concerts. In partnership with leading research and consulting firm WolfBrown, the Intrinsic Impact Audience Project worked with 23 choruses across North America to survey their audiences.

The participating choruses represented various sectors of the choral field, such as volunteer and professional choruses, children and youth choruses, and LGBTQ choruses. Over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, 14,326 audience members at 136 difference concerts completed surveys about their experiences.

We spoke with researcher Alan Brown and a number of the participating choruses about what they learned from the study and the implications the findings have for the entire choral field. Here are their takeaways.

Who Are Our Audiences and Why Are They Coming?

People with experience singing in choruses attend choral concerts.   Current and former choral singers make up about two-thirds of all audiences surveyed, and they attend choral concerts in part “to keep the musical flame inside of them alive,” the study report states. “Many audience members read music and come to be reconnected with familiar works,” says Alan Brown, principal at WolfBrown.

Personal relationships fuel the audiences for choral concerts.  Choruses often lament that their audiences are all “friends and family,” but the study suggests that these relationships are powerful and a source of strength. Over one-third of audiences of adult choruses, on average, have some sort of relationship with a performer.

A number of choruses in the study are looking for ways to expand this circle of their audience by empowering singers and board members to invite their family and friends in a more intentional way. Seattle Pro Musica is instituting a discount for members’ friends and family for the first time this year. “It’s clear from the study how important it is to make that initial ask, to say, ‘I’m singing in a concert, will you come?’” says Katie Skovholt, executive director of Seattle Pro Musica. “We want to make it easier for our folks to do that.”

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir provides tools for its choristers and board members to promote their concerts, like pre-written emails to send out, Facebook posts, and Twitter messages. “But we want them to go beyond sharing information with their social networks,” says Anne Longmore, director of marketing.

The Club’s own data found that a personal invitation was most important for their much-desired 45-and-under age group. “We plan to share with our folks the research that says, ‘Look at how important your invitation is,’” says Longmore, “and help them understand how much they can help the organization they love and sing with.”

Read the full article on the Chorus America website. There is also a link to the full research report.