Group Speak

By: Troy Nottingham
February 16, 2016

Why People Don’t Go To The Symphony

Some years ago, my wife got a call from a research firm about the symphony.  During the interview, she was asked to rate a series of pre-determined reasons for not attending the symphony – two of which were parking and ticket prices.   She did acknowledge that parking was not great and that the tickets were relatively expensive.   At the close of the interview, my wife was pretty convinced that based on the questions asked that the symphony would think if it fixed the parking and adjusted ticket prices, she would attend.  However, that is not why she doesn’t go to the symphony.  You know how I know?  Because she was a season ticket holder to the theatre located next door to the symphony and they shared the same parking and had comparable ticket prices.

So, I interviewed her (couldn’t help myself).  Turns out, the reason she doesn’t go to the symphony is because it seems that it makes her feel … well … kind of stupid.  I’m not even sure she realized that and could not have articulated it in a brief phone survey.  It turns out that she is not knowledgeable about the composers, does not know how to pick which performance that she will enjoy, has no idea how to judge whether a symphony performance is good or not and isn’t even sure when she is supposed to clap.  Yet, she does enjoy classical music and has attended symphony performances in the park – a far less intimidating experience.

Sometimes people don’t know how to articulate the reasons for their decisions.  They give you rational excuses, e.g., parking, when it’s an emotional issue that’s driving the decision, e.g., feeling stupid.  Digging for the emotional drivers requires an in-depth conversation.

It would have been meaningful for the symphony to have a recommendation to educate people like my wife so they will know what to look for and how to enjoy the symphony.  For instance, a session conducted before the start of each series where patrons (as a part of their ticket or membership purchase) can come and have someone explain the performance they will be seeing and give them tips on what to look for and how to evaluate the performance.   Any action that moves people from darkness to light … or … that switches the symphony’s posture from “you should know” to “did you know.”  That would have been important for the symphony to hear.