In recent years, businesses have embraced so-called influencer marketing, courting Instagrammers and others with a prominent social-media presence to spread the word about their products.
Now, the New York Philharmonic is doing the same with the hope of giving classical music a larger cultural footprint in the city.
The orchestra, which kicks off its subscription season on Wednesday with a program of works by
led by Music Director Jaap van Zweden, is planning on continuing an initiative it started last year and holding a series of gatherings for influencers in the coming months. The invitation-only events bring the individuals together at a Philharmonic rehearsal and give them a look at how a symphonic program is planned and prepared.
The expectation is that the influencers, who are mostly in their 20s and 30s, will share the experience with their similarly aged followers. The Philharmonic is especially courting influencers from outside the classical scene, including individuals connected to the fashion and lifestyle realm.
Ultimately, the goal is to woo a social media-obsessed millennial market that has been a difficult draw for classical-music groups, who tend to appeal to a graying demographic.
At the Philharmonic, attendees who are 34 years or younger constitute just 19% of the orchestra’s ticket buyers, officials said.
“To create buzz, you need to go to nontraditional audiences,” said Deborah Borda, the orchestra’s president and chief executive.
Other efforts to reach younger audiences include discounted ticketing and inventive Nightcap concerts that start as late as 10:30 p.m. The orchestra is also featuring work by the Icelandic pop sensation Björk on one of its programs this season.
But Ms. Borda said the social-media and influencer component is key to the strategy.
“For an orchestra to be in the 21st Century, we have to expand our digital footprint,” she said.
The arts community has lagged behind much of the consumer world, including dining establishments, in reaching out to influencers, said
CEO of the Sway Group, an influencer marketing agency based in the San Francisco area. Still, Ms. Wiley said it is better late than never for an orchestra to go this route, especially with insider opportunities that influencers covet, such as a closed-door rehearsal.
“It makes a ton of sense,” she said.
The Philharmonic builds on that behind-the-scenes idea by often giving the influencers a chance to meet with musicians or other individuals connected to a program. The orchestra also makes sure to invite influencers who are known outside the classical realm in an effort to further broaden the orchestra’s reach.
A case in point: Last season, the Philharmonic welcomed
a musician-turned-fashion stylist, creative director and designer who has nearly 150,000 followers on Instagram.
Ms. Angelo said one of the best parts of her visit to the orchestra during a rehearsal of Handel’s “Messiah” was the chance to see the Philharmonic’s library and even one of the batons of
its celebrated former music director.
“It was the coolest thing,” she said, adding that she readily shared the experience on social media.
The Philharmonic isn’t necessarily the first orchestra to go the influencer route.
president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, an industry trade group, said he is aware of a few others across the country. Most notably, the Cleveland Orchestra regularly invites influencers to concerts.
Mr. Rosen also expects more to follow. “It’s acknowledging that the channels we have to reach people have changed,” he said.
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