Alarm bells in France as true extent of the rapidly ageing classical audience is revealed

14 November 2014, 15:00

In 1981, the average age of a classical concertgoer was 36. Today, it's 61. Researchers say France must look to America to defuse the demographic timebomb.

A new report suggests the average age of classical ticket-holders has risen by 25 years since the early 1980s, indicating that there are only a few years remaining to reverse the trend of greying patrons.

Sociologist and professor at the University of Limoges, Stéphane Dorin surveyed 5,000 audience members over 110 classical concerts in the country. The research concluded the median age of a classical concert-goer is now 61 years, compared with 36 years in 1981. 

The study also found a large part of the classical audience consists of fellow musicians. More than half of the audience members have had some form of musical education - a quarter having attended a conservatoire.

Dorin suggests it's important for arts organisations to attract new, younger audience groups from different demographics. 

"American orchestras, which are more dependent on private funding, were the first to sound the alarm about the ageing and shrinking of the audience," he says. 

Across America and in other parts of Europe, late-night concerts, performances in new venues and programmes tailored for a more general audience have been shown to engage a younger audience. Dorin says such approaches are "currently in their infancy" in France.