The Los Angeles Times recently ran an article examining the assumption that arts audiences are old and getting older, and that this is necessarily a bad thing (not surprisingly, for instance, older audiences have the time and money to attend opera and symphonies). Leon Botstein, college professor and conductor, wrote a related column in the Wall Street Journal, arguing that classical music isn’t dying out, and one proof of this is that classical music has never been for the young. Botstein’s column prompted blogger Greg Sandow to mull at length whether classical audiences were always this old and whether this data (and other signs and portents) are bad for symphonies and operas.
Now, the blogger Soho the Dog has examined the demographic data and the cultural trends and argues that, in effect, 60 is indeed the new 40 — that is, the aging of all audiences has been tending upward, as have demographic sign posts like the first marriage, first child, etc.
The problem—if it even is a problem—would seem to be more a function of demographic evolution than a lack of cultural wherewithal on the part of classical music specifically. If you look at “young” and “old” not as absolute numbers, but relative places within the average life trajectory, the “aging” of the classical music audience starts to look a lot more equivocal. Think of it this way: if 30 is the new 20, and 60 is the new 40, that audience is right back where it started.
Or, as one commenter posted, “we start going to concerts about 30 years before we die. That should give me about another decade.”