Monday, June 29, 2009

WSO: making the symphony cool

Attracting young people to the symphony isn’t as easy as attracting young people to, say, Guitar Hero. Or is it?

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra realizes that the key to appealing to new audiences is not in the packaging, it’s in the product.

For years, symphony orchestras worldwide have been dealing with the challenge of bringing in new audiences – not the easiest task, when you’re trying to attract young people to what they perceive as evenings of classical music with their grandparents. Do you bring classical music to the shopping malls and show kids how Mozart really is cool, after all? Do you give students free tickets to Handel’s Messiah and hope they’ll come?

Not if you’re the WSO and a number of other world-class orchestras. They’re taking the opposite approach, changing their product to appeal to a new audience, rather than trying to convince that audience to buy a product that really isn’t geared to their taste.

Next month, for the second consecutive year, the WSO is hosting Video Games Live, described on the WSO website as “a groundbreaking live event celebrating the music of video games, from Mario to Warcraft. Experience the WSO and choir, accompanied by synchronized video, lighting, special effects, audience participation segments and live action.”

And while last year’s event was a hit, they’re taking it a step further this summer, adding a Guitar Hero competition whose winner, according to the Winnipeg Free Press, will get to play Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” on stage with the WSO during the July 8th performance.

Talk about user-generated content.

This has all the ingredients for success:

- it changes the product to appeal to the audience’s tastes
- it encourages young people to dip a toe in the pool (once the new audience has enjoyed the symphony in this format, they may be more apt to try its more traditional format as well)
- it gives the audience an opportunity to get personally involved and be part of the performance, enhancing personal buy-in
- it has tremendous YouTube-ability, with the potential for the winning performance to go viral, bringing lots more attention to the event and the WSO

The YouTube generation loves to get involved, and loves “fame” – this event offers the potential for both.

Another thing an event like this offers is great opportunities for marketing through social media. I wasn’t able to find an “official” Facebook page for the Winnipeg event, but the creators/producers of Video Games Live have a page, as do a number of local fans who are using the site to encourage people to support the show. The Video Games Live promotional trailer is also on YouTube (and on the WSO website).

I don’t have any further info on how WSO is promoting Video Games Live 2009 to Winnipeg’s youth; if you do, please add a comment below and let me know!

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