Minding the Gap: Targeting Millennials to Ensure the Future of Opera
My thesis explores supplemental operatic programming that is catered to the interests and needs of the Millennial demographic—a population that I argue is key to the survival of opera. As opera’s current audience ages out of attendance, a replacement audience is called for—and programming that encourages Millennials to engage with opera on their terms is a vital ingredient to this process of replacement.
As an opera lover myself, I am deeply invested in the future of the art form—yet rarely see my peers represented in the audience when I attend performances. I have also attended supplemental operatic programming catered to the Millennial demographic, and have not only enjoyed these experiences myself, but have watched as people my age begin to engage with opera. This is something that I want to support and encourage, as I feel that the more that we do to introduce Millennials such as myself to these programs, the larger our numbers in future audiences will be.
My thesis is meant to act as a sort of best practices document for opera companies looking to further engage the Millennial demographic. The hope is that the research and interviews that I have compiled would serve as a resource for such efforts, and will help to shed light on the relationship between opera and young audiences.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people above and beyond the administrators that fit your requirements! I talked with someone who had been involved in the implementation of a Millennial-focused grant outside of the operatic world, and that conversation was very helpful in framing my thoughts. Cross-disciplinary discussion can be so useful, and is a nexus where we can learn a great deal about best practices. Additionally, I personally think it is important to focus on programs/organizations that are somewhat different from one another. Obviously, choosing programs that are entirely unrelated isn’t helpful, but it is in those points of difference that you can really make some headway in determining successful and unsuccessful models.
Millennials don’t always want something crazy and new! Often, they are looking for that classic, grand operatic experience—because that, in fact, is new to them. In other words, I learned not to assume that a certain demographic holds a particular interest. It is so very important to survey potential participants and audience members to determine their actual interests and needs, rather than projecting your assumptions onto them.
Opera is currently under threat—in the form of dwindling and increasingly aging audiences. Enticing a younger demographic—specifically Millennials—to become the next generation of operagoers is thus vital to the sustainability of opera as an art form. To achieve this, opera companies must look to the interests and needs of this demographic and craft their supplemental programming accordingly. Ensuring that such programming increases awareness, encourages relatability, and promotes accessibility will be key to transforming opera from a form that is often perceived as outdated to one that speaks directly to the Millennial demographic. With this in mind, what programs are opera companies implementing to attract Millennial audiences? What are the greatest challenges that administrators of these programs face? How do the administrators of these programs evaluate success? And finally, how are these programs integrated into the larger audience development initiatives of their respective companies? The answers to these questions will help to demystify opera’s current relationship with Millennial audiences and to determine where this relationship could be improved for the benefit of both Millennial operagoers and opera administrators alike.