Head of Music Education and Outreach, House of Music Hungary – Artemis Severinghaus

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Head of Music Education and Outreach, House of Music Hungary – Artemis Severinghaus

For me too, the first word that popped into my head was digitisation, and the second word that we heard afterwards – that the key thing is what is the grip we can give someone to make a music programme understandable. And I would perhaps take a step back: I come from the House of Hungarian Music, we are in a slightly different situation, we are an institution where people come in. So, in our case, audience management is divided into two parts: there is the first step: how do we get people to buy tickets? So what’s the first step, that when they look at a programme title, what makes them say, I want to come to this? And the second step is, once they’re with us, what are the steps, the ways in which this programme will be understandable, enjoyable and an experience?

I’m the professional leader of the music education team, so I’ll be able to talk mainly about those second parts and the practicalities, but before I came I did a little bit of consultation with our sales and communications manager, just to get a little bit of the bigger picture. And what we see as a primary challenge in terms of audience building is that since the covid people have started buying tickets very last minute. And that it’s a very strong trend, which is why we’ve very, very often been sitting in the house with a pretty high pulse on the day before an event – until suddenly on the day of the concert, a lot of customers come in. And that we’re experiencing that as a very strong change right now at the beginning. We started, let’s say, after Covid as an institution, but obviously my colleagues were working in this field before that, so they say it’s a big change anyway. And the other one is, which is a communication issue, how a programme title captures the segment of the audience that will like it, so how can we actually name that programme. And what’s interesting is that we’re balancing what you mentioned in terms of trying to offer as many crossovers and thrills as possible – but at the same time we’re also seeing a tendency that when we offer very straightforward programmes, like a piano recital, we find that tickets sell more quickly and more securely for that than they would for, say, a crossover programme. Perhaps I should also say a little bit here that our programmes have different areas: we have an adult education programme, we have an adult concert programme, we have a museum in the house, and we also have family programmes and school groups visiting us. So you also need to know that and in addition to all these groups, we want to give them knowledge and experience of all kinds of music and – this is a very important part of our mission. We have to think a lot about how we can communicate the house to the audience in a way that if they come to a concert of electronic music, they are not scared by our workshop on baroque opera gestures and we can say that they are all exciting.

What I know, as a professional music education leader, what I do most in the house is to link educational content to the music programmes. I’m in very close contact with my museum manager colleague, my program editor colleagues, and there’s a very intense collaborative effort to try to tap into that audience that comes to visit us. As my colleagues have mentioned: what information they need to make that musical experience a well-rounded whole for them. When Terry Riley’s In See, which is a minimalist piece, was performed at our venue, we told them beforehand what the musical segments would be here. But we didn’t go too deeply into what made it special, because we were trying to find the point where what we were doing was interesting. For example, we invented the idea that the audience could walk around and walk between the instruments, because if all the instruments play the same, sliding around, and they can look at the music all the time, they can see that the music is different, and that way the educational experience and the concert experience could be put together.

We are now preparing a summary of these events, because in November we will have an event specifically to communicate and promote these programmes, a showcase festival, where we will have a showcase of programmes specifically involving music education or music education. With the specific aim – and I would like to open up a third niche here – of how performers communicate with their audiences. We work a lot with the artists who have applied for this programme to help them find the audience to whom their art, their music, is most likely to speak. What information, what are the questions, the ideas that are worth asking, asking the audience, how can they relate to their real-life experiences?