Imagine a visit to a philharmonic hall or an opera house. You’re about to enter the tiers, take your seat, and shortly thereafter a classical concert or a play begins. Look to your left and right – who is sitting with you in the gorgeous furnished hall and is tensely watching the spectacle on stage? Do you also think of well-dressed, cultured and culture-interested ladies and gentlemen? Why do we immediately associate culture with this target group? And isn’t it time to rethink the cultural offer? In the following blog post, you can read how you as an organizer can get closer to Generation Z and inspire them to attend your events.
It’s no secret that the target group of 20- to 30-year-olds is difficult to get excited about cultural offerings. Elisabeth Fuchs, chief conductor of the Salzburg Philharmonic Orchestra, described to us why visitors to cultural events are made up of certain age groups and what strategy she pursues in this context.
In addition to ballet productions, operas, composer portraits and Christmas concerts, it is important for Elisabeth Fuchs to create a music program for children. Since 2017, the Philharmonie has therefore organized the Children’s Festival, with numerous participatory activities and performances that introduce children to classical music in a playful way. Why start so early as a classical house? In this way, children and their families come into contact with the cultural brand at an early stage, perhaps taking home a souvenir that will stand the test of time and lead to an active visitor status again at a later date. According to the idea “I know this from my childhood or youth, I’ll go there with my children too”. A long-term strategy with vision and thus a good start. But what about the target group of young people in their 20s and 30s who are being lost? How can you go about retaining their interest?
Digitization – A step toward Generation Z
In 2022, the transition from print-only to digital, especially for distribution channels, is everywhere and yet important to emphasize. Internalizing the openness to change and reinterpreting it positively is just as important as choosing the right tools. The Philharmonie Salzburg decided on an online ticketing system that integrates with the existing web presence and digitizes ticket sales. On the side of the organizer, processes become clearer and the purchase of tickets can be better tracked and evaluated. On the visitor’s side, the expectation of purchasing tickets online is served and especially electronic and mobile tickets meet the behavioral patterns of Generation Z. They prefer to sit comfortably on their sofa. They would rather choose an event from the comfort of their sofa instead of having to drive to a ticket agency. At the same time, Elisabeth Fuchs emphasizes that the older target group must not be left behind by an online solution – ease of use is a prerequisite for this.
Digitization has a high priority, but it needs more. But what does this mean? Many cultural managers would certainly answer here, “We have a great concept for Genration Z to offer discounted tickets. This is to make sure that concerts remain affordable for young people.”. Unfortunately, this one-sided strategy, purely about pricing, is not very promising. In the following, we explain why extra-cheap tickets don’t work for a young target group. To do so, we address three questions:
1. Why do we think that extra-cheap tickets work, and why does everyone offer them?
2 Why doesn’t this strategy work?
3. What could work instead?
The true success factor
“Under-30” offers usually result in more tickets being sold. The belief quickly arises that this is due to the ticket price. Many event organizers are convinced these offers are the only way to place an incentive for Generation Z. The influence of additional factors, such as marketing campaigns, tends to be forgotten. Let’s take another look at the Salzburg Philharmonic Orchestra. It very actively accompanies its offer on social media and, in addition to visibility, also generates numerous touchpoints with the desired target group. Cooperation with advertising partners is also conceivable, whose reach also boosts ticket sales.
Supporting successful event marketing is also customer relationship management (CRM) as the basis for target group-specific communication. Elisabeth Fuchs recounts positive experiences with her own online ticketing system. E-mail campaigns turned out to be successful measures. These accompany events at all times and information can be shared quickly and easily. The Philharmonie also uses SMS marketing to highlight special offers or discounts. The implementation of these measures would hardly be conceivable without an automated and well-maintained CRM. Want to learn more about effective marketing measures? Then read our blog post on event marketing.
Successful marketing can therefore also be traced back to the accompanying communication and not only to the ticket price. This is also supported by the fact that with a one-sided price strategy, visitor numbers do not remain continuously high. As soon as prices return to normal, visitor numbers drop again and young people could not be tied to the company’s own cultural offerings in the long term. So why do extra-low ticket prices persist so strongly?
Why it doesn’t pay off for Generation Z
One of the main reasons why the entire industry relies on extra-low ticket prices is that they can be implemented quickly. Price adjustments can be made quickly, do not require any additional personnel and, at first glance, do not involve any budget. In contrast, an effective marketing campaign requires all of these resources. In addition, the price change conveys the feeling of having changed something or having done something to improve the situation. It is therefore always important to reflect on whether the price adjustment has really achieved the desired effect and whether the cost is really a limiting factor for Generation Z.
To illustrate this, here is a small comparison of what a young person in any city in Germany is offered in addition to culture:
10.00 € – concert with classical music
5.10 € – a large beer in a crowded bar
5.29 € – McDonalds medium meal
9.99 € – Cinema
13.50 € – mini golf
16.99 € – Dominos takeaway pizza
26.50 € – Zoo
80.00 € – Premier League soccer match
= 137.48 € for weekend activities
For a person with a regular income, that’s a nice Saturday with great activities. For students, trainees or pupils, though, that’s a full month’s wages. And those are just the options that don’t involve staying home to watch Netflix or spending 60€ on an Xbox game. Young people aren’t looking for value for money, they’re looking for value for time. Especially 16- to 35-year-olds want to get the most out of their time to maximize their experience.
As an approach, organizers should be clear about how Generation Z spends its time. About 57 percent of teens and young adults in the 2019 Shell Youth Study said they frequently listen to music in their free time. Around half of those surveyed enjoy surfing the internet, being on social media or meeting up with friends. (Source: statista)
Organizers are looking at the problem of “Why don’t young people go to classical concerts?” from the wrong angle. If they didn’t make tickets cheaper, but upgraded the experience, this would not only be more successful, but young people might even be willing to pay more. So what could work instead of extra-cheap ticket offers, and how could “added value” be created?
Entertainment beats price
There are no limits to your imagination here, but a rough breakdown will help classify your measures: Community, shareability on social media, products, services and entertainment.
The Philharmonie Salzburg shows that several areas can be served at the same time. The offer is aimed at different target groups starting with the youngest to build sustainable visitors. The children’s festival is accompanied by a talent contest in which children can implement and submit projects together. This strengthens the emotional bond with the event and the organizers and creates a sense of community. At the same time, the projects are presented on social media and encourage digital discourse. The idea of competition also encourages ambition and creates entertainment for the festival participants as well as for users, who can then follow the event digitally via various channels.
© Erika Mayer for the Children’s Festival with Show Your Talent
We have developed further suggestions:
- Special discount offers for the target group e.g. under 35s receive a free drink with their tickets
- Partnership with restaurants for dinner and concert offers e.g. by selling packages in the store: ticket and program booklet
- Networking with social media to stay in touch with customers after the event
- Offers for larger groups e.g. information from guests is transmitted via subscriptions or ticket purchase. This data can be evaluated accordingly in a CRM and used as a basis for marketing measures.
- Networking events for young professionals
- Speed dating before the event
Adding value to the cultural offering does not reduce the quality of the performance or take anything away from it. It does increase the importance of the event as a whole and has the potential to appeal to the Generation Z target group far away from extra-cheap ticket prices.
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