Can Classical Music Be Cool Again?

The audiences attending symphony performances and classical music concerts has been dwindling for years, and the solutions offered have been many.  From ensembles created more for their beauty and novelty then their talent, to orchestral rock music concerts like The Machine performing Pink Floyd in hugely successful shows with the San Diego and Pittsburgh Symphonies, purveyors of classical music are doing all that they can to attract new audiences.

image from www.zoekeating.com

The tide may finally be turning in their favor and two very different artists serve as examples of the shift.  D.I.Y. artist Zoe Keating is an avant garde cellist with no label and no agent.  But with the help of her 1,082,000 + Twitter followers and some YouTube vides, she obtained the number one spot on iTunes classical music list.

image from arrochadas.files.wordpress.com And this week youthful conductor Gustavo Dudamel received a rock star greeting as he took the helm of the prestigious L.A. Philharmonic. As the AP reported, "he arrived at his first rehearsal wearing trendy black sneakers and a persistent smile that showed the sheer fun he’s having directing one of the world’s premiere orchestras….As the 28-year-old conductor arrived at the gleaming Walt Disney Concert Hall …

Wednesday with his ballerina wife, Eloisa Maturen, he greeted onlookers with a fist bump and hugged musicians….Later he told reporters at a standing-room only press conference, “Classical music is cool,” and they seemed to believe him."

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  1. In the UK, last time I checked a few years back, the commercial radio station Classic FM was boasting to advertisers that they were one of the best ways to reach a teenage audience, and they had ratings stats to back the argument. The UK classical music business still supports three glossy magazines which make their way into USA bookstores (and provide most of the print coverage available in the USA).
    Many readers interested in this blog post may be interested in following Greg Sandow and his fascinating blog on the future of classical music.

  2. The fact that classical artists are winning new and sometimes young fans is a good indication of the diversity of music these days.
    I like some of the experiments of having classical artists playing in unconventional settings like bars.
    And some of the chamber pop and instrumental crossover music that has been coming out has been great.

  3. As a kid growing up, I was exposed to a lot of classical music because my uncle is a fan of classical music and it would play all the time when I was at his apartment, which was fairly often since the whole family lived in the same house. I didn’t care much about the music then.
    In the late 80s, I got into pop music via the radio and began building my CD collection. It was pop-classical-crossover artists (from direcrions as diverse as ProgRock, Chill Out and NewGrass) that sparked an interest in classical music and brought me back to the genre.
    Now, it’s just a flavour for my playlists like any other that I like.

  4. I don’t know if ‘cool’ is the right word (or aspiration!), but the internet is certainly opening up classical to a wider audience. A survey on the Dilettante classical site showed that the average age of our members is close to 20 years younger than the average classical listener. And I do think Suzanne (above) is right: it’s largely a reflection of widening musical tastes and boundaries being blurred, which is why gigs like Wordless Music in New York can comfortably program Jonny Greenwood alongside John Adams…

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