Orchestras need to get with the times if they are to attract a younger, broader demographic. Sam Weller looks at the challenges they face and some of the initiatives that are bearing fruit.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
A free Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Photo © Jayden Ostwald

The search for a new, younger audience has become a mantra and mission for symphony orchestras around the world – and many of them have a long way to go. Having struggled to adapt to the changing tastes of patrons and having failed to attract the next generation of concertgoers, box office takings are declining.

Scottish journalist Magnus Linklater argues that audiences today “are looking to the arts as a sensation rather than for sustenance”. So, what does this mean for orchestras?

I am primarily a conductor. While recently undertaking the two-year master’s degree offered jointly by the Conservatory of Amsterdam and the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, I wrote a thesis called Blow it Up, Start Again, which addressed ways in which orchestras can adapt their practice to resonate more closely with the changing...